Definitely oversimplified and maybe obvious but maybe the lack of man’s understanding what love is is the root cause of violence and war

Expand full comment

Didn't really think about it like that, but definitely rings true to myself. The past weeks there were some conflicts whose root was in the fear to tell my truth. Now that I think about it, ever since I decided to wear my truth openly, I've been slowly feeling more whole and secure on myself. Not that I've become flawless at that, but progress is made.

Expand full comment

Some truth here, but I never equated the provider myth with love. The provider has self worth and power in that formulation. And this is as true for women, via second wave feminism, as it has been for men. The mother is conventionally associated with unconditional and unlimited love--a myth that nearly every mom memoir busts. The devaluation of motherhood (or childcare by fathers) is part of the larger equation. But these are complex issues, and I’m wary of sweeping claims about them.

Expand full comment

Wow, I’m so glad I stumbled on this gem! You’ve basically written the piece on masculinity I’ve had in my head for a while. Also, as I was reading, I kept thinking “man bell hooks really speaks to this”; and then you quoted bell hooks! Again with Richard Rohr.

It’s very true: men need to learn to love, and love can gain much from men. The false promises of wealth and power have led us away from our humanity. I also agree that men need to address this problem directly ourselves; we can’t wait for women to save us, nor should we foist our issues on them.

In my writing I hope to hammer out some ways we can reimagine masculinity as loving and life-giving. I think the gays have a head start: our whole deal is loving men as men. But I also think homosexuality has been hoodwinked by the same false promises of normalcy, acceptance, status, etc that got straight men into this mess in the first place.

Expand full comment

I arrived on the tail end of the Baby Boomers but in many ways my family's emotional history was a precursor to what so many young men are suffering today. The issue for me was never a lack of connection with my father, who took me camping, taught me wilderness skills, built models with me, etc. It was with a mother who was emotionally incapable of relating to her son. Without going into too many personal details I will say that this broken maternal bond sent me on a lifelong quest for love with women that most often ended in disaster. Perversely, we often seek the very malady that made us ill, so I often ended up with other women just as incapable of expressing love or forming a bond. We constantly hear how awful men are thanks to third wave feminists propagating the "toxic masculinity" crap, as if this kind of blaming polarization will in any way help the situation. (When all else fails, just blame the man.) But my experience, and I suspect the experience of younger men today, is that women too can be just as inept at forming emotional attachments. We have to question gender stereotypes even—or especially—when they come from feminists.

Expand full comment

Wow. I love this in-depth analysis. A lot of material here.

“By my early teens, I stopped trusting them. My mother’s empty sighs emptied out my insides, and I was left feeling the same way. I felt hollow. As for my father, we talked of the many things he loved to do—climbing and sailing and backpacking—but we had no language for ourselves. Once I reached puberty, I began to feel more and more angry with him for avoiding so much, and before long, we stopped speaking almost entirely.”

This was me almost exactly as a kid and teen. Nailed my experience.

It’s funny, thinking of my recent Note/post about women bashing men: Something occurred to me while reading your essay: As shitty as men can sometimes be, where would society--and women--be without men? There are physical, external realities in the world which have always had to be dealt with, to survive. Women have historically needed men for basic reasons such as physical strength, hunting, gathering, etc. And yet simultaneously men have historically caused women great harm over the millennia. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and. Your point about men being disconnected from love/emotional truth due in part to being providers and being forcefully thrust out into the world feels generally correct.

There’s the history of nations at war/in conflict but: Would that really be any different if women were running society? Do we genuinely think a matriarchy would be some Utopia? Do women not thrill to power in the same way? This reminds of the absurd idea that, had Africans led the globe as the west had, no war would have occurred, that war is a uniquely white western phenomenon. But look at the history of Africa: inter-tribal warfare and slavery were/are rampant before, during and after the west fought major wars and started/ended slavery. In the same way: Why do we think women would be different were they in power? Women are human beings are they not? Women have done horrible things just like men, both personally and nationally/politically have they not? I just think this idea that white western man is ‘the problem’ is silly. The problem is human beings exist. It happened to be white western man who rose to the top geopolitically. Had it been any other group I think the outcome would have been basically the same.

Michael Mohr

‘Sincere American Writing’


Expand full comment