A Thought Adventure

Thursday, January 21, 2016

34. Male Timidity

The question to ask is this: why after thousands of  years of male supremacy does misogyny remain alive all over the world today? It seems to indicate that, for all their efforts at counterbalancing it, men continue to suffer from an inferiority complex vis-à-vis women. And the reason they can't get rid of it is, as I suggested in the beginning of this blog, that they have buried the memories of what caused it so deep in their collective unconscious that they have no memory of it. And how can you get rid of what you don't even know exists?

What irks men?
What then is it about women that men continue to resent and make women continue to pay for? Now that we know since long that man is as necessary for propagation as woman? Now that we neither worship goddesses nor practice male sacrifice anymore? Well, there are indeed other areas in life where the weight is lighter on the male than on the female plate of the sex balance. 

One remarkable example of the disparity between the sexes comes from Gilmore's study about cultural concepts of masculinity. There we learned that almost nowhere in the world is manhood seen as innate in a man the way womanhood is in a woman. Before a man can count on being considered 'a man' he must go through tests and proofs laid down by his culture.  

As I see it, this shocking discrimination against the male sex is an almost laughable relic from the matriarchal era. And I find it strange that men don't protest against it, How can modern, rational men accept that their masculinity is conditional--something they must earn, win, kill for? Instead of proclaiming, loud and clear, and as a matter of course, that Being Born Male equals Being A Man. Basta! 

To understand this passivity in men I think we need to look at another result of the male inferiority complex, a state of mind that's diametrically opposed to exaggerated aggressiveness--namely timidity. (Webster: timid = lacking in courage or self-confidence; lacking in boldness or determination). 

First let's realize that power has a negative side also for those who wield it. Fromm puts it this way in Love, Sexuality and Matriarchy: About Gender: while domination of one sex (or social class or nation) “leads to subliminal rebelliousness, rage, hatred and desire for revenge in those who are oppressed and exploited,“ it also leads “to fear and insecurity in those who do the oppressing and exploiting.” 

The Male Predicament
Then let's take a good look at men’s situation in our male-dominated society. Though invested with a sense of privilege, a man must still follow directions imposed on him from outside. Because obliged to prove worthy of his rank above women he is put under constant pressure to keep up pretenses. A pressure that's especially exasperating as most men no doubt know--from their life experience alone--that women are just as clever, brave, able (or the opposite for that matter) as men. They also know that women have power and that it threatens them. But since the prevalent male ideology can’t admit any of this, they must deny it.

Now, if on some level of consciousness men do know that their superiority is no more than a pipe dream in the male mind, we must ask how it affects them to have to pretend otherwise. I suggest it takes a toll that manifests, when not in explosive anger, in various forms of timidity--apprehension, procrastination, inactivity. Furthermore, doesn't it create considerable anxiety in men to have to routinely navigate between their socially determined roles and their own inner selves? Doesn't it make them unsure of who they are both as males and as human beings.

I therefore propose that an urge to flee from anxiety into mind-numbing insensitivity is what lies behind the negative qualities often attributed to men--arrogance, overconfidence, emotional withdrawal. And I even suspect that this is also why men die younger than women. Because, if it's both deep enough and not openly acknowledged, this kind of existential anxiety is bound to kindle a fear that won't stop smoldering.

Can we wonder then if many men lose track of their own authentic selves and become consummate actors? If, instead of the well-rounded human beings they could be--given a chance to grow from inside out--they end up as hollow men whose inner life is a wasteland?

For another pressure on men, the rigid and unforgiving male role model, see next post.

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