Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The "Overly Male Syndrome"

Reading of the actions of various Male politicians and other Men and Boys leads me readily into the slippery slopes of what I will call The Overly Male Syndrome.

There are at least several themes of how many of us Men are raised as boys which certainly might help lead us to be "different" from women in some pretty bad ways. I don't see a single, clear path as our experiences certainly vary. What doesn't differ is the propensity for certain characteristics which harm many others as well as often ourselves.

Some of these experiences we may face from babyhood on may include:

1. It's a tough world - so you've got to stand up for yourself and be independent and strong.

2. You've got to "be a man" - and be independent of and reject anything that is "feminine" - including your mother.

3. You are special because you are Male (and not Female).

As boys we have biological differences which affect us developmentally. Often we are slower than girls at developmental areas such as toilet training. Our play behavior from an early age is often very different from girls focused more on manipulating objects and less on cooperative play. While some of this may be related to our socialization, it also is affected by our biology as males. We have higher rates of things like autism, attention-deficit disorder and other areas which make learning in school problematic.

How we are treated by our parents, caregivers and others greatly affects how we end up as adults.

"It's a tough world..." type experiences may help us be independent as adults. They also help teach us to "defend our honor" and often to defy authority.

Rejecting the feminine - has various affects upon us including pressuring us to a narrow view of what is acceptable for ourselves as well as other men. Homophobia and violence directed at men because they aren't "real men" or women because they aren't male can come naturally out of this.

Our being "special" because we are Male and not Female affects us in many ways as adults. We can do things to women that we'd not imagine could or should be done to men and not see how inappropriate we are. These may go from not really listening to women to enslaving - buying women and even killing them.

The horrific things that we do to women - as men through rape, domestic violence, much childhood sexual abuse, stalking as well as verbally abusing partners, former partners, classmates/workmates and women and girls we don't even know are a "crime" or "continuing holocaust" in the best use of such words.

We also take what we learn out on other boys and men as children and later as adults. Many boys are brought up physically and psychologically abused by fathers, mothers and others who are feeding into the myths of what "being male" should be or is. While girls and women often internalize the hurt (and abuse themselves), we often lash out at others. We are the bullies or just the "rude men" (or worse).

We fight with other boys and men for "respect".

Many of us learn various dysfunctional ways of coping with our fears and anger. Many men live isolated lives emotionally in various ways.

My old friend Ed was a respectable math professor. He eventually married and had two beautiful daughters who are successful adults. Ed's life - looked sad to me over the many years that I knew him. I don't think that he had any "real friends", though he was certainly friendly to me and others.

Others superficially like Ed live often on the fringes of society, whether they are either "respectable" outwardly or "bums" or worse.

It is strange how the "newsmakers" in so many areas of catastrophic tragedies are male. The college and high school killers with their many guns are one example. The athlete or other celebrity who crashes their car at a high speed. The politicians like: NY's recent governor, Senator Craig, David Vitter - they're almost always male.

One thing that's sad about this is how unhappy so many of us men are with our lives. One would think with our privilege as men, we'd live long, happy lives. Often this doesn't seem to be the case.

Perhaps - eventually many more of us men will recognize that we have issues - that relate to how we are as men. If we realize this we may find it important first to develop meaningful relationships with other men that go beyond the "sports, women, booze" types of superficiality. When we begin to relate to other men, we may start learning to relate better to our children, parents and particularly with our significant others, whether female or male.


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