The Soft Male

Why is it such a trend to try to make men connect with their emotions at all cost? Some people are just not particularly excited to delve into self-analysis and get to know their feelings. It is called emotional literacy, and – like with verbal fluency acquired through reading – not everybody is keen on cultivating this quality. Some people simply enjoy lifting weights and want to live their lives avoiding the realm of emotions instead. Why the need to fix that?

There are tons of patients who spend years in therapy and still cannot get their morals right. People who seek therapy are by no means morally superior to or smarter than the average Joe. Neither are they necessarily emotionally healthy. It’s just that they place higher value on thoroughly understanding their inner life and/or generally experience themselves as more vulnerable and turbulent and therefore feel the need for help. Men, being temperamentally inclined to rather avoid emotional introspection, don’t typically go for therapy. Some of them break the stigma. Neither is good or bad. Please let people be.

Why is there so much contempt for the strong man stereotype and the men who adhere to traditional roles of masculinity? Why are powerful men automatically depicted as all-toxic? Ascribing an attribute like “toxic” to one gender – isn’t that a vast generalisation? Isn’t that … *sexism*? I don’t buy into this narrative. Men are not toxic, neither is patriarchy. Toxic people are toxic. Individuals. Be it males, females … or whatever genderfluid whack kind of self-concept people want to claim because binary genders are obviously not enough. Not enough to satisfy their entitled need to be treated like those unique, special snow flakes that they are.

I’m ranting … it just fills me with disgust to witness how our culture tries to strip men off their toughness. The false premise being that power is what makes a whole sex, representing roughly 50% of the population, morally corrupt and toxic. It makes sense to take away the power these bad men have so often abused, waging wars, oppressing women, destroying nature, and so on and so forth. Right? No.

There has definitely been abuse of power by men (just like women have forever been manipulating men to get what they wanted out of them); this I will not deny. Wars happen when male energy, which is all about conquest and dominance, becomes ungrounded in a collective, so it’s left to blow up in warfare. Nonetheless, male energy is also about providing and protecting, it honors borders and brings order. Men have risked their lives countless times, took bullets and died cruel deaths, only for women and children to be safe. There is so much nobility in men, yet we tell them to disregard all attributes that make them essentially male. In times of crisis, if I felt I were in need of protection, I would by all means seek out a tough-minded, purpose-driven, aggressive person to guard and guide me. I would definitely not seek out a spiritual man who “has done the work”, who is in tune with his emotions, who denies his very own edges in order to not offend. I would not feel safe like that.

I feel like culture would rather approve a washed-down ghost of what could have been a man, but instead turned into a self-renouncing androgynous being which respects powerful women oh-so-much (and probably listens to Beyoncé) but is actually just covertly resentful. He doesn’t get to feel like a man next to these women, which is something that’d feel damn good to his inherently male biology. Women naturally want to be protected and taken care of, this need for safety is in their DNA like providing and protecting is in men’s DNA. By men stepping back from aggression, becoming more like women, the latter cannot let themselves sink into their feminine energy, which is preoccupied with nurturance, community building and simply being, but instead have to step into their doing mode and by that become dyfunctionally masculine in order to compensate for the lack of yang energy coming from men. Being in this masculine state for prolonged periods tires out a woman, and vice versa a man will feel unwell and out-of-balance by resting in his feminine for too long. It simply goes against each of their biological setups.

I might add a quote from John Bly’s “Iron John: A Book about Men”, a book I dearly love. It was published in 1990 but still holds true, possibly more so than ever.

The male in the past twenty years has become more thoughtful, more gentle. But by this process he has not become more free. He’s a nice boy who pleases not only his mother but also the young woman he is living with. In the seventies I began to see all over the country a phenomenon that we might call the “soft male.” Sometimes even today when I look out at an audience, perhaps half the young males are what I’d call soft. They’re lovely, valuable people—I like them—they’re not interested in harming the earth or starting wars. There’s a gentle attitude toward life in their whole being and style of living.

But many of these men are not happy. You quickly notice the lack of energy in them. They are life-preserving but not exactly life-giving. Ironically, you often see these men with strong women who positively radiate energy. Here we have a finely tuned young man, ecologically superior to his father, sympathetic to the whole harmony of the universe, yet he himself has little vitality to offer. The strong or life-giving women who graduated from the sixties, so to speak, or who have inherited an older spirit, played an important part in producing this life-preserving, but not life-giving, man.

I remember a bumper sticker during the sixties that read “WOMEN SAY YES TO MEN WHO SAY NO.” We recognize that it took a lot of courage to resist the draft, go to jail, or move to Canada, just as it took courage to accept the draft and go to Vietnam. But the women of twenty years ago were definitely saying that they preferred the softer receptive male. So the development of men was affected a little in this preference. Nonreceptive maleness was equated with violence, and receptive maleness was rewarded.

Some energetic women, at that time and now in the nineties, chose and still choose soft men to be their lovers and, in a way, perhaps, to be their sons. The new distribution of “yang” energy among couples didn’t happen by accident. Young men for various reasons wanted their harder women, and women began to desire softer men. It seemed like a nice arrangement for a while, but we’ve lived with it long enough now to see that it isn’t working out. […]

Part of their grief rose out of remoteness from their fathers, which they felt keenly, but partly, too, grief flowed from trouble in their marriages or relationships. They had learned to be receptive, but receptivity wasn’t enough to carry their marriages through troubled times. In every relationship something fierce is needed once in a while: both the man and the woman need to have it. But at the point when it was needed, often the young man came up short. He was nurturing, but something else was required—for his relationship, and for his life.

The “soft” male was able to say, “I can feel your pain, and I consider your life as important as mine, and I will take care of you and comfort you.” But he could not say what he wanted, and stick by it. Resolve of that kind was a different matter.

A little observation ad hominem: having checked the original poster’s account I feel baffled to see a person I consider pre-diabetic telling men to look after their mental health. Imagine if this person took one sixth of the energy they spend combatting patriarchy and turned it towards taking care of their own body. Imagine.

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