The Price of Wounded Masculinity
In light of recent high-profile revelations of sexual abuse and misconduct, the phrase “men hate women” has been cropping up in conversations across the land. Although this phrase would appear to tell the whole story, I would argue that when men hate or denigrate or dismiss women it is because they despise or deny the feminine energy within themselves. In patriarchal society many men avoid expressing this naturally occurring energy because they have seen that it is beneficial and sometimes necessary for their acceptance and survival to do so. As a result, the feminine traits of softness, receptivity, intuition, and compromise are feared, despised, and relegated to the underworld of the Shadow.
(Before I go any further, let me just clarify that I’m not talking about male and female genders. I am examining the naturally present and complementary masculine and feminine energies that make up an emotionally balanced human being.)
The Shadow, as outlined by Carl Jung, is everything about ourselves that we detest and cannot accept and thus banish to the subconscious. The problem with banishing certain traits from our conscious mind is that as whole beings we are meant to express all of who we are and that each individual, regardless of gender, is an amalgam of both masculine and feminine energies. Denying aspects of our inherent wholeness results in dysfunction and ill-health. Ideally, each of us should be able to access both the masculine energies associated with competitive, goal-seeking assertiveness and the feminine energies of intuition, kindness, and nurturing as needed.
However, in our patriarchal culture feminine energy is equated with “weakness” and is viewed as an undesirable trait, one to be downplayed and even eliminated. Within the dog-eat-dog world of the public domain feminine energy is minimally valued, if at all. It is slightly more acceptable to express feminine energy within the domestic realm. But the work that running a household, caregiving, and childcare entails garners little respect or appropriate monetary compensation. This leaves those working in areas that embody and express feminine energy devoid of social standing and vulnerable to inequity and injustice.
Young boys learn all of this early on. They see that feminine energy equals less power, less pay, less respect, less freedom, and less safety. They quickly come to understand that there are very clear and harsh reprisals for expressing their natural feminine attributes. They know that being physically weak, expressing emotions other than anger or aggression, and engaging in any activity that doesn’t demonstrate their physical or intellectual prowess will potentially invite ridicule, bullying, ostracism, or even violence. Once young boys learn that expressing feminine energy invites reprisals they will work to actively deny its expression, thereby relegating it to the Shadow.
By late adolescence most boys have denied their feminine selves to such a degree that they have lost access to the full range of their emotional expression. Thus, they reject anything or anyone that makes them feel as though this energy will arise within them once again. Evidence of this is an adolescent man’s rejection of the feminine aspects of his mother. Because many young men continue to actively (albeit subconsciously) try to suppress their feminine energy they are often drawn to activities and forms of expression that help them do just this; for instance, hyper-masculine team sports, regressive aspects of frat culture, misogynistic music, and violent porn. By adulthood, many men are so well practiced at dismissing their feminine aspects that it has become second nature to do so.
In a culture where the denial of feminine energy is pervasive, there are institutions and systems that actively work to support its denigration and destruction. Many men seek to destroy the feminine energy that they see in women in order to eradicate it within themselves. When this happens aspects of the wounded masculine become prevalent: abuse of power, aggression, control, competition, and violence. Men who avoid overtly expressing these negative traits are often beset by such ills as depression, alcoholism, suicide, and an inability to express tenderness, vulnerability, and grief. They have lost access to their wholeness and the innate balance of masculine and feminine energies within themselves.
It is evident that the denigration of feminine energy doesn’t serve anyone regardless of gender identity. It results in men living half-lives, destined to have a truncated and one-sided existence in which feminine energy has no place. When men aren’t allowed access to all their inherent traits they become ghosts at best and abusers at worst. It is every individual’s birthright to be able to access both of these energies in whatever way serves each person in any given moment. When men are allowed (or take ownership of) the feminine aspects of their nature a natural balance of energies will result, thereby creating better psychic health and a more holistic society that is safe and supportive of all of its people.