From movie moguls to presidents, it’s never been more obvious that masculinity as we know it is in a state of crisis. We have been handed a history of patriarchy and misogyny, cultural norms that have caused great pain and dysfunction for everyone. This crisis is being brought out into the open for serious public dialogue, and it is about time.
We are given plenty of information about the behaviour of Harvey Weinstein and those like him, and analysis of why it’s harmful. There is even some recognition that men like him are obvious and particularly toxic examples of an issue that runs right through society, affecting us all, rather than individual moral failures.
What is missing from the discussion, however, is a deeper understanding of why we are facing this failure of the masculine in the present world and of what we can proactively do to heal and move forward.
We urgently need a new masculinity, one based on collaboration and intimacy rather than disconnection and abuse, and we need practical means to make this a reality rather than a nice idea.
Underlying toxic forms of masculinity is a systemic denial and abuse of the feminine — which doesn’t just mean women, but the whole open, receptive, wild, embodied, creative force of life.
To avoid a “men versus women” debate, consider the yogic understanding that masculine and feminine are just words to describe two forces that exist everywhere in mutual polarity, like the positive and negative forces within every atom. We all have both within us. We all come from mother and father, and all of us contain the male-female equation of life in perfect union, strength and receptivity, no matter our sex or gender identity.
So discussion of toxic masculinity is not just pointing to an attitude problem in men. It’s about humanity’s habit of associating masculinity with men and femininity with women and then privileging the masculine over the feminine, resulting in a big mess for all.
Humanity has had no idea what to do with the power and vulnerability of the wild feminine. Scared of this uncontrollable world of change, our predecessors attempted to control and escape the feminine — the body, the world, feeling, and reality itself. Rather than participating peacefully in the great mystery of life and death, they created myths of eternity, hopes of transcendence, and castles of power and control. Religious and political institutions have furthered this fearful search for dominance over the living world, in the process raping the Earth and controlling women. Their doctrines have sunk deep into our collective psyche, dissociating us from the sublime regenerative force of life that is our birthright to feel. Fear of death has resulted in fear of life — disconnection and numbness.
But power without receptivity is not really strong at all. Strength divorced from feeling-sensitivity to all life is destructive and brittle. Real strength, real masculinity in balance, is able to receive and support life, rather than control or dominate it.
Young men are taught that emotion is weak and receptivity is unmanly, that the correct approach to life is one of hard aggression, and that intimacy can only be gained through manipulation, ownership, and control of the feminine. Masculinity as it has been defined and enforced is just a dysfunctional social idea that deprives men of feminine power and real intimacy.
Sexual assault and other forms of dysfunctional sexual behaviour all stem from this denial of the feminine. When a person is not given the means to feel the power of their own life, which is already given and one hundred percent constant, all kinds of warped attitudes to sex are created, including the struggle to control it and get it. All along it has been freely given as our own very nature.
To heal humanity from the pain that has been created, we must go beyond guilt, blame, and anger. We must grieve for the whole stupidity of the circumstance and have some compassion for ourselves and others. It takes courage to acknowledge just how numb and dissociative from ourselves, each other, and reality our modern culture has made us, whether or not this withdrawal has led to obvious abuse.
Once men have the courage to tangibly see how they have participated in the misogynist culture that’s been handed to them, they require the practical means to move in an entirely different direction. They need the tools to be free of the unconstructive anguish of guilt and the dissatisfaction felt at having been denied fulfilling intimacy.
This of course is yoga: the simple means whereby every person can learn to feel more and be receptive to the great wild power of life in themselves and everywhere. The Great Tradition of yoga offers us so much more than a physical workout or conceptual “spiritual” game. Authentic yoga is strength receiving, participation in the union of opposites, male-female collaboration, and the power, intelligence and beauty of life itself. Men learn that receptivity is more powerful than mere strength, and it is yoga that makes this visceral change.
It’s not about getting somewhere, but a remedial practice to remind us what is already here, obscured by centuries of patriarchal dissociation. It is the birthright of every man and woman to feel all that there is to feel; and when a person is able to receive life through fully feeling, sexuality will be real, true, honest, lawful, and the expression of love — the heart’s activity.
From this practical means comes the new feminism (and masculinism): male-female collaboration as equals and opposites in endless mutual exchange, one empowering the other. This is the generative, nurturing power of life itself, the very dynamic that’s already in every body, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity.
This is not a disparagement of earlier feminisms, whose valid anger was a necessary survival mechanism, one that has paved the way for all women and men to be free. We can now observe, understand, and move quickly through all the necessary stages of emotion: fear, anger, the pain beneath the anger, and finally grief for the unnecessary circumstance imposed on all humanity.
The pain has become undeniable. We have inherited a big mess, but we now have the knowledge and tools to tangibly participate in our lives, cut through the heavy layers of dysfunction, and restore sexual intimacy to its rightful place as a function of the heart. Through feeling and relatedness, we can return back to Earth, finally end humanity’s violent struggle against the feminine, and restore the masculine to real dignity and genuine peaceful strength. Only then will we stop producing Trumps and Weinsteins.