False stuff over here

False Masculinity is the Problem

The mission of The Determined is to focus our skills of design, strategy, and idea-wrangling towards solving problems that matter. When asked to define what problems matter to me, it’s hard to figure out where to start.

If your mission is promoting a culture of empathy, we’d love to help.

As a middle-class kid growing up in a world of white privilege, I somehow believed government and scientists had everything under control. We were taught about climate change and feminism and civil rights, so obviously it was all a known issue. Understood. In the textbooks. In tiny grade school classrooms in obscure white American small towns.

So it came as a surprise to me when the blinders of my life of privilege came off in recent years and my eyes were opened to the ongoing crises of these issues.

If I’d spent more time in less liberal areas than Seattle and San Francisco, it wouldn’t have been such a surprise when Ferguson hit the national news and we all became aware of the ongoing issues of racism and bigotry that live on in this country.

Now we’re hit with stories every day, and it’s not just the shootings, the stories of rape, the horrors of what people do to one another all over this country that shock and sadden us, but the lack of our system to recognize these horrors and assign fair and just sentences to the people performing these awful crimes.

I believe there’s a connection between police shooting innocent people (and being acquitted), college boys in sexual assault cases getting off with a sentence of a few months jail time, and even the surprising and terrifying rise of the white supremacist sentiments from Donald Trump, and it’s this:

From childhood, boys in our culture are taught to ignore, repress, and hide any strong emotions but anger or aggression.

If you’re teaching boys to talk about their feelings, we’d love to collaborate with you!

Any feelings of fear, sadness, or even love are met with jeers like “man up” or “be a man!”

The over masculinization of our society rewards aggressive, macho behavior and shames any expression of feelings deemed “too feminine.”

So what happens when things get tough, and men do feel fear, or love, or desires that don’t match with cultural norms? All too often these feelings are repressed, bottled up, until they are converted into anger and released violently.

“Some cultural critics link such mounting emotional vulnerability to the erosion of male privilege and all that it entails. This perceived threat of diminishing power is exposing ugly, at times menacing fault lines in the male psyche. Experts point to sexual assaults on campus and even mass murders like those at a community college in Oregon and a movie theater in Colorado. These gunmen were believed to share two hypermasculine traits: feelings of profound isolation and a compulsion for viral notoriety.” — Andrew Reiner, Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest, The New York Times

Right now, people everywhere are afraid of what is going on in the world. Many have no idea how to handle their fear. They cling to the first rhetoric that helps them feel calm, even if it makes completely no sense, like “build a wall!” or “ban muslims” in a country built by immigrants from everywhere and on a foundation of religious freedom.

When I look at all these seemingly unrelated problems we’re looking at in this country right now, and I dig to find the root, beneath gun control or police training or sex ed or immigration reform, I find a common thread, and it’s around teaching emotional maturity and empathy skills to children, especially boys and men.

“To completely transform this culture of misogyny, then, men must do more than ‘not assault.’ We must call on masculinity to become whole and nurturing of self and others, to recognize that attachment needs are healthy and normal and not ‘female,’ and thus to expect of men to heal themselves and others the same way we expect women to ‘be nurturers.’ It is time men recognize and nurture their own healing gifts.” — Nora Samaran, The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

I believe if Omar Mateen had been raised by a father with an open mind about exploring feelings and sexuality, rather than outdated religious beliefs and machismo, Omar’s turbulent emotions could have been explored and released rather than taken out on his domestic partners and eventually on innocent nightclub-goers.

I believe if Brock Turner’s father taught him to respect women and have empathy for others, rather than to get any “action” you could get away with, he would probably have attracted a nice girlfriend and wouldn’t have been pushing himself on girls at swim meets and finally at that party where he ended up assaulting an unconscious woman.

And I believe if police training included emotional maturity techniques like mindfulness, empathy, and impulse control, we’d have fewer incidents of police officers making ludicrous split-second and irreversible tragic decisions.

“We as a profession cannot be tactically sound, operationally savvy, guard people, and put our life on the line for people we may not ever meet if we can’t see or handle the tragedy and heartache that’s part of our every day job,” says Sylvia Moir, formerly El Cerrito’s chief of police. — How Mindfulness is Changing Law Enforcement

The fact that many of these instances are met with light punishment highlights that our society values machismo over empathy, aggression over emotional maturity, and oppression over impulse control.

It’s terrible that these tragedies have to happen to make us aware of what our culture runs on, but it’s apparent that we all have to look outside of our bubble and listen to what underrepresented groups have been saying for decades.

So if I were to choose where to spend my effort and energy, it would be helping any organizations committed to devaluing macho culture and increasing diversity in communities.

Any organizations that help boys and men learn to talk about their feelings, like this small business in Detroit, The Cave of Adullum, whose mission is, simply, “saving boys.”

“The Cave of Adullam is compassionately engaged in teaching, training and transforming boys and young men before the world does.”

Any organizations empowering women and minorities to thrive alongside their white male peers, like pretty much anything Cindy Gallop does. Are you building a business that boosts women or minorities? Do you need help with your website, apps, or marketing strategy?

Any organizations promoting a culture of empathy and expression of our full range of human emotions. How can I help get the word out with you?

I want to collaborate with you. I want to help entrepreneurs in these areas focus their passion into strategic action. I want to help create resonant communications that will help these organizations spread their message and make their voice heard far and wide.

The Determined are designers who can not only help with branding, website design, or pitch deck design, but also add a strategic point of view to better position your social change initiative. Let’s chat.