Masculinity in America: Biden, Trump, Partnership and Domination
As the US election draws nearer and the coronavirus continues to kill more than 50,000 Americans a day, the question we must ask ourselves is: Which man will really protect and serve us? Faced with complex social problems that are difficult to understand and solve, it is human nature to hold on to our group. Most people have already decided whether they are in the red or blue group. But an even older question needs to be answered. What kind of masculinity do we want for our men and boys in the years to come?
In a recent Washington Post article, writer Matt Viser says of Trump, Biden, and masculinity in the age of the coronavirus:
The president’s emergence from his battle with the novel coronavirus is hailed by many allies as a sign of his physical strength – the latest chapter in Trump and his followers’ efforts to call himself the manliest man who combines masculinity and strength engaged with Joe Biden on the importance of machismo.
Voters not only decide who will be our next president, but what kind of masculinity we want to support in our world. In the article, Viser quotes Jackson Katz, the creator of a documentary entitled “The Man Card: The President’s Masculinity from Nixon to Trump”. Katz says:
Trump is a more caricatured version of masculinity – aggressive, physically tough, physically strong, never going back.
One of Biden’s political calling cards is an expression of empathy towards voters, and unlike Trump, he’s not afraid of showing vulnerability in public. He often tears up when he talks about his son Beau, who died in 2015. He talks about his childhood stuttering and how he worked to overcome it. He has spoken in the past about thinking about suicide after a family tragedy. He is referring to the grief he felt when his first wife and daughter died in a car accident.
The back and forth between Trump and Biden has long resembled a testosterone-filled mano-a-mano frenzy between the high school jocks they used to be. They evoke different brands of masculinity – an old-fashioned machismo for Trump, a male bur-caring boy next door for Biden.
I think there is an even more important contrast between the two men who would lead our country – one between rule and partnership – a contrast that cultural historian and systems scientist Riane Eisler has been studying for more than thirty years.
I met Riane Eisler for the first time in 1987 shortly after the publication of her book The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, and I remember discussing our views on the future of humanity and the healing that occurs between men and women is required . In the extensive research of The Chalice & the Blade, Eisler stated that “War and the war of the sexes are neither divine nor biologically ordained”. She continues: “The great surface diversity of human culture is based on two basic models of society,” which she described as follows:
“The first, which I call the Dominator model, is popularly known as either patriarchy or matriarchy – the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second, where social relationships are primarily based on the principle of linkage rather than ranking, can best be described as the partnership model. In this model – starting with the most fundamental difference in our species between men and women – diversity is not equated with inferiority or superiority. “
Most of the people I know, including myself, grew up with a view of masculinity that is heavily influenced by the values of the Dominators. In my first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, I described it as “The Male 10 Commandments”.
- You shall not be weak or have weak gods before you.
- You shouldn’t fail to be successful no matter who you hurt in the process.
- You shouldn’t express strong feelings other than anger.
- You shouldn’t cry, complain, or ask for help.
- You are not supposed to be gentle and kind or people will think you are a sissy.
- You shouldn’t be insecure or ambivalent.
- You shouldn’t be dependent on others.
- You shouldn’t recognize your limits.
- You should show women that they are there to serve your needs.
- You should compete, dominate, and harm other people before they harm you.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t live up to these male commandments. It took me much longer to realize that they represented a type of masculinity that was self-destructive, harmful to others, and had the following characteristics:
- Those who take it seem strong but feel very weak and vulnerable
- Most common among men growing up with fathers who are physically, emotionally, or both absent.
- Caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), where boys are abused, neglected, or abandoned in their growing up families.
- Later in life, these boys are often disregarded, bullied, and shamed.
- You are hungry for love but forever looking for love in the wrong places.
- Women confuse and frighten them and reach for what they fear is not given free.
- Anger and anger are easily triggered.
- They lack empathy for others because they don’t love and respect themselves.
- They act like starving children who can’t think of anything but me, me, me and more, more, more.
- They are hollow men with a facade of invulnerability.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden represent two aspects of masculinity. In Trump we have the aggressive macho man who doesn’t take prisoners. In Biden we have a caring, gentle Mr. Nice-Guy. The truth is that neither man offers any real guidance for the future. Trump represents the man who thrived in the Dominator role. Biden represents the opposite.
What is needed is a masculinity model based on a new partnership model. This type of man can say “hell yes” to three key questions:
- Do I live a completely authentic life? Am i the best man i can be
- Do I love deeply and well?
- Am I making a positive difference in the world?
This type of man is strong and just as vulnerable, gentle as he is tough, confident and open to others. He really protects and really serves. In my book The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing People, Healing the Planet, I described him as a new breed of warrior with roots in ancient traditions of manhood.
Meditation master Chögyam Trungpa says:
We must separate the warrior’s life from the destruction of war. Warriorship here does not refer to waging war against others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word “warrior” comes from the Tibetan Pawo, which literally means “one who is brave”. Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship isn’t afraid of who you are.
In my book, 12 Rules for Good Men, I offer the following guides for men who want to follow the new path of warrior partnership.
Rule 1: Join a men’s group.
Rule 2: Free yourself from the man box.
Rule 3: Accept the gift of manhood.
Rule 4: Embrace your billion-year male history.
Rule No. 5: Recognize your anger and fear of women.
Rule 6: Learn the secrets of real, lasting love.
Rule No. 7: Do meaningful rites of passage.
Rule No. 8: Celebrate your true warrior spirit and find out why men and women duet.
Rule 9: Understand and heal your negative childhood experiences.
Rule No. 10: Heal your father’s wound and become the father you should be.
Rule No. 11: Treat Male Type Irritation Syndrome and Depression.
Rule No. 12: Find your mission in life and do your part to save humanity.
The book was inspired by my wife, Carlin, who told me, “Both men and women need a book that talks about what is good about men and how to break the armor that society demands of so many men these days. ” The book is dedicated to her, our five children, sixteen grandchildren, one great-granddaughter and all future generations of men and women who want to come together for a real future in partnership.
If you found this article helpful, you can learn more on my blog.
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