Thursday, July 25, 2013

Evolving Masculinity?

A few nights ago my dad was taken to the emergency room because he was having trouble walking. Thankfully he is fine (turns out it was an infection, which he is on antibiotics for) but I had an interesting thought after I took him back home today (which is 200 miles round trip for me).

While he is doing better he's still not 100%. So as a result when I got him home I had to do some housework for him (namely opening windows), going out for groceries, and otherwise getting him settled in.

Now to clear up some history my dad and I don't have the greatest or most open of relationships and there have been times when I've become visibly bothered with his requests. Since having a gastric bypass in 2009 he hasn't been able to go more than 10-12 months without having some medical emergency. In my defense it wasn't the times when he was having these emergencies that led to my becoming visibly bothered, however his requests during this times did trigger the response.

So as a result he spent most of the day asking me to be patient, saying he knows I don't want to be there, and so forth. At one time he would have been right but after a while was I just finding myself to be so closed off that I don't even care. I just do what needs to be done and move on.

But today something crossed my mind.

As we all know when it comes to acknowledging weakness men are taught, as a defining part of manhood, that doing so is not just undesirable (among other men or among women) but can actually have a man's manhood status questioned or revoked.

I'm pretty much convinced that men are taught this in order to fulfill their roles in The System. You know the whole routine where a man is supposed to give up family for career, work outrageous hours (and under outrageous conditions), ignore one's one health, etc... That routine causes men to build up a wall over time where they don't allow themselves to be....well themselves. And its not like The System is going to just start changing because it realizes that its doing harm to men.

And I am of the firm belief that building this wall is taught by the father to the son so that one day he can take his part in fulfilling his role in The System.

My dad being 64 years old grew up this way. I can see it in the way that he avoids difficult subjects, will ignore his own health issues until it becomes an emergency, and the way he plays the tough guy to keep up appearances. But I think that in his older age those bricks are starting to come down and the vulnerabilities couldn't remain hidden anymore.

I'm getting the feeling that my indifference may be a step in the direction of breaking down the very idea that such a wall is needed in order to be considered a man. While I didn't have much of an emotional response to him being in pain and asking for help and hearing the weakness in his voice at the same time I also wasn't thinking that he was somehow less of a man. He is just a man in pain that needs help.

Who knows. If I weren't so cold and empty I may actually make the leap to having an emotional response to someone's vulnerabilities but its highly unlikely at this point in my life. However I think I still have something useful to contribute.

If I were to have a son I would have to work to make sure that he knows that ignoring his own well being under the premise that that is what he needs to do in order to be considered a man is not healthy manhood. Maybe by the time this hypothetical son is helping me in my time of need when I get old the farthest thing from his mind would be holding my weakness and vulnerabilities against me.

So am I experiencing a change in the state of masculinity, a change that would contribute to freeing it from its oppressive bonds?

Or maybe I'm reading too much into this?

What do you think?