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    6 MIN READ

    The masculinity files: detoxifying masculinity 

    Challenging masculinity norms through dialogue.

    To me, it doesn’t really matter if I’m masculine affirming. If you’re an open person, you’re willing to learn, you’re willing to grow but you’re also willing to talk about your feelings with someone else, then you’re just a strong and powerful person. And I feel like that’s more important than any kind of symbolism of masculinity or femininity. – J (20)

    The art of listening for me, has looked like forcing myself to mentally stay with a conversation when it feels difficult, resisting the feeling of hurt when my co-workers tell me my words don’t make sense yet, and asking myself if I really need that extra piece of pizza at 10 o’clock at night. When it comes to conversations about masculinity, it’s accepting that a lot of men don’t feel like they know how to be a ‘good’ man, understanding that they’re confused about where to step in a world full of cancel culture, and hearing that they are still afraid to unpack their thoughts and feelings with their closest friends.

    What I’m coming to understand as a feminist is that I don’t want to rely on language that the gender binary has given to me. I don’t want to let “men are shit” become any more normalised than it has. And I want to be able to look at my own shitness in the broad daylight and be unafraid, knowing I am not my ideas, my behaviours, or even my work. I want to be sensitive to the needs of others as a fellow human, regardless of the gender they are. In fact, I’d love to throw gender in the bin at this point. I’d love for people to decide on their own, what happiness feels like in terms of how they express their masculinity and femininity. But that kind of self-authorship according to definitions of masculinity and femininity can’t occur just yet. Mainly because it seems no-one can agree on what true masculinity is. Only toxic masculinity, and even that still divides us.

    With so many voices able to be heard in the digital age, there’s an aggressive competition that ensues. We are led to believe our worth is based on what we can perform or provide, so we don’t prioritise spending time appreciating the value of our inner worlds. And when we talk masculinity, it’s this kind of appreciation for inner worlds we need to channel. This week’s instalment of The masculinity files is about supporting each-other to build the kind of masculinity culture we want to see more of.


    J: Being a man in this world isn’t easy because you feel very alone in a sense. I feel like my gender definitely limits my ability to show emotions to an extent, to be able to communicate openly and freely whenever I want to, or to people willing to listen at least. The more open I’ve become with myself, the more I’m attracting open people, which is really nice. I feel like I have to push myself to come to terms with how I’m feeling and accept that sometimes I do feel shit and do need support.

    Angus: Have a baby. That’s probably one. Apart from the physical things that I can’t do, there isn’t actually much I can’t do. There’s stuff I don’t want to do like go to the shops wearing a dress, but that’s because I have a set style that I like and a set wardrobe. I think society might also be like “What the fuck?”, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, I just wouldn’t choose that for myself.

    Tobey: I don’t feel like I’m in a position where I feel like I can’t do anything, really. That’s merely because I’ve always just wanted to be content with what I do. I’m not in a position where I feel like I’m limited by other people’s agendas, particularly because of my skin colour and gender. I’m a 20 year old white guy living in a coastal town, so I’m pretty privileged in that way and I would love to help people like me understand that they have the same privilege and can use it in a positive way.

    Juna: I feel I’m really lucky with that. I’m probably one of the most privileged people on this planet because I’m perceived as a white male. That outer identity gives me more privilege than most people, so I can get away with anything in a positive (or negative) sense. It makes me want to make an impact on other white males and help them acknowledge their privilege and how much they can do. The things I’m going to struggle with the most once I become more cemented with my gender fluidity is how I bring that into society with the use of language and pronouns. There are some things I can’t do because they’re perceived as toxic, but I think that it’s just in my self consciousness of my actions that my intentions are always geared towards the comfortability of another person and to not cross their boundaries. I’ve struggled so much to not sexualise women, especially within, as it’s been so ingrained how I should view women. Sometimes I have to stop myself when I look at a woman and acknowledge them as a real human, not this sexually romanticised and glamorised image that we’ve been taught to want to consume and touch. It’s such a sexualised and objectified gaze we are taught. I’m reading this amazing book called Ways of Seeing by John Burger that has really helped me understand it. 


    J: It depends – I’m a very sensitive person. I feel like there’s huge misrepresentations of “masculinity” being synonymous with being tough and acting closed off to emotions. You know, at some points in my day-to-day life I do feel like I can’t really open up to the point that I want to. I can feel like I’ll be judged and I’ll be made fun of or whatever, especially in front of the boys. But, I also feel like whilst I have masculine qualities, they make up just a small fraction out of so many qualities, so I can’t really define myself as masculine or feminine.

    Angus: I wouldn’t say I’m super masculine, no. Depends on what your definition is. I would say I’m average. People are people.

    Tobey: Define masculine, in what sense of masculine? Like toxic masculinity? Or being a guy? I have been thinking about the idea of toxic masculinity a lot lately. I’m masculine, yes, but I’m also content with myself. I just feel like I don’t need to push masculinity as an agenda like some people do when they talk about being the big guy, needing people to see them as being strong and masculine. I feel like growing up I’ve constantly seen people trying to one up each other by bringing each other down, trying to prove to eachother that they were something more than what they are.

    Juna: In high-school I was surrounded by a lot of masculinity and I don’t think it was the healthiest form of masculinity to be influenced by, so I felt very alienated from “being a man” so to say. Slowly, overtime, I began disassociating with my body because my ideas of masculinity were out of touch and I guess I got confused with myself. Through that experience, I learnt to get in touch with my feminine side and express myself in more nurturing and sensitive ways, letting myself feel things. That sort of drew me to more creative groups of friends, and more of a liking to being surrounded by females. That journey also led me to struggling to be comfortable and proud of my masculine traits so I’ve been working towards having a good balance between the two.


    J: Honestly, I could not tell you what masculinity really is. Like, if I’m being 100% honest, I don’t know the actual definition for what makes a person masculine. Obviously, I know men are meant to be strong or whatever, but that’s just what I’ve been taught. And I don’t even know if that’s right.

    Angus: What I view as being a “man” or masculine is just protecting others, being courteous, being gentlemanly and being a good person. I think anyone that thinks they need to be masculine is limiting themselves. I think the goal should be to be the best person you can- the kindest, nicest, most generous person.

    Juna: It’s hard for me to pinpoint exact masculine traits unless they’re toxic. I will say I feel in balance when I have a healthy amount of masculinity. That feels like high energy or needing to exert a large amount of physical energy. It’s moreso a release of anger, a release of emotion through my masculine side that brings me to my feminine self. Playing music is a big thing for me. My feminine self loves jazz and soppy love music. But my masculine self thrives more in a high energy punk environment. My creative expression allows me to explore my masculine side in different ways.


    J: To me, it doesn’t really matter if I’m masculine affirming. If you’re an open person, you’re willing to learn, you’re willing to grow but you’re also willing to talk about your feelings with someone else, then you’re just a strong and powerful person. And I feel like that’s more important than any kind of symbolism of masculinity or femininity.

    Juna: Yes, I do. Because I know it’s not coming from a bad place. It’s a part of me and we have to learn how to be there for ourselves and love ourselves.


    J: I am typically a jealous person. I’ve come to terms with that, and it’s something that I’m working on, something that I’m not proud of and it’s something that I don’t want for my future self. I think it comes from me being an only child or something – I can’t really name one specific reason, but that’s a big thing when it comes to my relationships.

    Angus: How people think of me from time to time can impact me. Quite often I wonder what people are thinking of me. It tends to trigger negative thought patterns that spiral through other negative thought paths until I enter a rabbit-hole.

    Tobey: People belittling me or others. I’m very content with who I am, but when I get a sense of someone acting in a way that’s trying to put someone down, I’ll pull them up on it. Because of my past experiences, I don’t want to take that the “right” way, even if it’s playful banter. I get so angry because I feel like people who try to bring others down are making people feel in ways they shouldn’t have to. I try not to dish that sort of behaviour out on others either. It definitely lessens my respect for those people.

    Juna: One thing I’ve found with cis males is that it’s really hard to open up conversation around certain things. It’s really hard to have conversations about “being a man” or the toxic aspects of masculinity. When you open these conversations they seem to shut down, and they get defensive at something that’s not meant to be an attack. It seems to be an attack on their sense of self when in actuality it’s just addressing things that we all need to work on. I tend to feel most uncomfortable in spaces where I don’t feel like I can have those conversations or if I feel like I’m not going to be listened to properly. The other thing is that I don’t mind wearing a face of makeup or wearing a dress or presenting myself with more feminism mannerisms. Because of that though, people in general tend to assume that I’m gay or homosexual without asking me. I guess that’s a really big thing for me in struggling to understand who’s attracted me. Most hetero women seem to pre-conceive my sexuality before getting to know me which really blocks off a lot of intimacy in my life. I’m an affectionate person and I thrive when I feel comfortable to be intimate with others, even in a non-sexual way. I actually think we should be connecting in a non-sexual way first so we can connect more often and deeply, anyway.

    How do you combat these sorts of feelings?

    J: I’m getting more into reading self-improvement books, listening to talks and I’ve been doing Qigong (martial arts) for the last couple of weeks — breathing and stretching. I’m feeling a lot more in tune with my emotions and my mental ability to realise where I am and what I need.

    Angus: Practicing gratitude. I think lots about learning to choose my battles and stopping to think about who’s important to you. I do get caught blowing up about things that don’t really matter, but I’m definitely getting there.

    Tobey: Well I’m not saying that I know everything, but when someone tries to act in a toxically masculine way I just try to naturally reverse the concept on them and make them see that there’s another perspective. I stop to see the bigger picture. I’m just happy that I’ve realised that this whole masculine thing is just big fucking bullshit. It’s like tricking yourself into believing that something isn’t true. I try to remember that everyone is insecure about something, and that is reflected in people’s actions.

    Juna: One way I combat it is by having more conversations and provoking the discussion. Starting the conversation is one of the most important things we can do. I don’t get offended by what anyone says. I don’t shame them, because they’re on their own learning plane and all I can do is give them a helping hand or encouragement to see outside of their box.

    In the third and final Part of The masculinity files coming next week, we ask our four brave interviewees what they think feminism means, and set our sights on a world less separated by gender.