Want Fewer Shootings? Please Take Off Your Mind-Forged Masks
Don’t be such a Pussy, Time’s Up to refuse gender and sexual stereotypes
Young males, like the troubled boys who have gone on shooting sprees, or participate in suicidal tragedy, frequently mask their vulnerable emotions. With women, the honesty that is pouring out in the #MeToo and #Times Up movements, is serving to unmask, sometimes after decades, hidden injury. These occurrences are related.
Obviously, most males are not overly aggressive, and not all females are submissive. Still, each of us wears a mask of some kind. That’s normal. To examine emotional intelligence, we must learn to value self-honesty. Mental, emotional, and even physical health depends upon it. A cooperative society, and indeed, the fate of our injured planet does as well.
Ecopsychology can help us take off our masks. We owe it to one another to do so in order to protect our own tribe, but the communal tribe called Earth that supports us all.
Nature works with reciprocity. That is, without agency or intelligence — as we as homo sapiens can comprehend it — nature creates interactive symbiosis. We human beings do not act immediately upon the reactions that almost all other organisms act upon, given our abstracting brains. We can learn from all other organisms.
This is not an article to claim there is only “an opposite sex” but instead to note that no matter how many genders you personally identify in self and others, our strictest binary roles of masculine and feminine are destructive. Males often wear a mask to hide sadness or shame. Females mask constantly to say sorry, and say “yes” more out of discomfort than honesty.
We have all done what we felt we must do to survive behind our masks. This is changing. Homophobia and misogyny, and other xenophobias, are beginning to be exposed as harmful.
The results of masking vulnerability give us what has been termed “toxic masculinity.” This is not my favorite term. Calling gushing girlish expressions, in make-up, sexiness, clothing; or designating “prissy girls” is equally insulting. We should all be free to be masculine and feminine as we wish. To add the dimension of mask-free living does not call for anyone to give up anything masculine or feminine, but to live wholly and freely. Without our masks, the brooding silence of teen years, the inability to cry when it’s an honest and human reaction to emotional hurt, or the ability to be bookish, or athletic, to become a dancer, a nurse or a nerd, or whatever one may choose, is respected.
Nature works in this way: If I am a tree or chimp competing for resources, I express myself in a variety of ways. As a plant, I send chemical cues, produce pollen, give off fragrance. If I am a chimp, I whoop, posture, raise my body up, groom others, and more. As an ape, I may have many more expressions, visual, scent, sound and touch than plants have, but in this way, the world turns and thrives with biodiversity, because very little is hidden, or masked. The world expresses. Humanity hides.
We learn not to express our authentic selves at very young ages. We can do better. Do not look at life as binary. Life very often comes into being in many flavors, colors and design. When you limit yourself to a “Man box” or a “girl gaggle” you limit others as well.
There are certain facts. There is objective truth. But there are also true ranges of presenting, expressing and sharing, and these can be valuable. The new feminine and new masculine are not toxic roles. They are honest, and this makes a better life. Gender is just one way we wear our masks, but of course there are many.
Nature, it is said is red in tooth and claw. Fair enough. Competition for survival exists. For over a hundred years people ascribed survival of the fittest to evolution, but survival is more about sharing all of our cultural, gender and sexual differences. Yes, some chimps even kill, but far more often, they cooperate and express emotions as openly as human toddlers do.
Our human posturing is different. When we tell boys to “Man up” or when we tell girls to “Be a pretty good girl, don’t muddy your dress,” We limit their masculine or feminine range. A wider range allows all of us to not stuff one another into boxes, and to free ourselves of the very limiting biases we unconsciously take on to pattern out the world.
Nature doesn’t use tight boxes or roles. Nature has laws but also displays almost limitless variety. Both entropy and creation co-exist.
We give dolls to our girls, and war toys to our boys. This is to encourage their societally recognized roles. We infrequently address their private and hidden emotions that may not conform to binary roles. Nature, however acts differently, with many species, the nurturing parents are often both parents, or even non-parents. The aggressive, angry parent, such as a mother grizzly, is not necessarily male. The loving marmoset may be a male.
All organisms need nurturing. All children, if they are to take the lead to reduce hate and violence (think of Florida this week) need to also have the freedom to be ferocious in pursuit of wholeness.
The world has woken up to the sins of strict domination principles. Science and biology have recognized that any limiting roles wreak havoc on eco-systems and cultural divides. We cannot conquer or dominate nature and expect a happy outcome.
Human eco-systems share this trait. Follow the endlessly brilliant and beautiful examples set forth by nature, and we will have far more voice and choice. We will have more honest means to address our emotional intelligence. And, as the ever hopeful among us strive for; we will see fewer violently expressive school and church shootings.
We will have fewer sissies, wimps, and pussies, because over time we will learn to cherish and protect the fierce and the feminine, as well as the un-masked and masculine. At the same time, we can connect across other cultural limiting societal “norms.” But that is a whole other story, and nature’s honesty can show us how.