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  • feedwordpress 19:00:24 on 2017/06/30 Permalink
    Tags: aggression, aggressive, androgynous, assertive, , , , feminine, , Gender Roles, , , , roles   

    A Man’s Dilemma: Assertiveness vs. Aggression 

    “How do I assert myself as a man without coming across as too forceful?” – Carl, Washington DC

    In evolutionary terms, men had to be decisive and fearless because they were hunters. Aggression was key to masculinity. Men were expected to protect themselves from others who attempted to put them down or push them around. However, in our western urbanized lives, masculinity is being redefined.

    Breaking down Carl’s question, I think what he is asking is: how can I be assertive without being aggressive?

    Asserting yourself without aggression is particularly key in a relationship. Frequently men worry about how to listen to the smart, accomplished women in their life without feeling like they’re being walked over or they’re not holding their ground.

    I would like to tell you, Carl, that the ground is moving constantly when it comes to modern masculinity. The good news is that you have opportunities to be a man in ways that are more expansive than your father and grandfather. You have the opportunity for self expression, emotional openness and self reflection that would have been considered “weak” and “feminine” in the past.

    Of course, weakness has long been seen as the repudiation of the masculine. Manhood has traditionally been predicated on a sense of autonomy, on self reliance and not depending on others. But to negotiate with another person, without defaulting to an aggressive stance, you have to be willing to NOT know the answer.

    So instead of using aggression to get what he wants, how does Carl assert himself? How can Carl express confidence that isn’t arrogance? Firstly, let’s define our terms.

    What is Assertiveness?

    Assertiveness is confidence. It is knowing what you want. But it is also a dialogue that allows for input from the other person. Assertiveness is power.

    What is Aggression?

    Aggression is power in order to protect myself. It creates an unyielding barrier between myself and the other person. It is a battle, which must be won.

    So… What Now?

    The answer is not either/or. I encourage Carl to allow himself to be influenced while maintaining groundedness, connected to others without losing himself. In psychological speak, we call this a healthy sense of differentiation.

    Also, rid yourself of the burden that you have to know everything to be a leader. Asserting yourself with confidence will come from being open to others.

    Carl, engage in a conversation. A conversation that allows for negotiation and doesn’t need to end with winning. Battle is about dominance. Make a decision where two people are heard and recognized. You’d be surprised how much power dialogue allows.

    How have you found ways to assert yourself as a man and allow for other’s input? I would love to hear your thoughts. 

    The post A Man’s Dilemma: Assertiveness vs. Aggression appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:32 on 2017/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , family, Gender Roles, , , , , Relationship dynamics,   

    What Does it Mean to be a Man? 

    “I had to quit my job because of a health issue, and now I’m home taking care of our kids. My wife has become the breadwinner. I know I should be happy that we could make it all work, but I feel like a loser.” – Zach, San Francisco, California

    Zach’s dilemma is the dichotomy of the modern male; emotionally evolved and willing able to care give, but pulled toward gender norms ingrained in us all.

    The construction of gender identity for men is more fragile than for women. In many cultures, one is born a woman — and one becomes a man. Chip Brown explores wide-ranging rites of passage into manhood from around the world in this National Geographic article.

    Often, masculinity is defined as the disavowal of the feminine inside of us. This is complicated for both women and men as we redefine modern gender roles.

    Zach, I have worked with many men in your position — lead dads shunned by moms on the playground. Men who feel inadequate because they’re not financially providing for their family (even though they are raising children). For some, pent up frustration even causes angry lash-outs at their children.

    While you cannot control what happened to your health, you can control the outcome. To paraphrase Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning, you cannot always control the conditions you find yourself in, but you have the freedom to choose your reaction to them.

    You need to feel worthy, useful and socially connected. Seek out other men who are parenting. Look into the possibility of part-time work. Speak to your partner about how you’re feeling, so you can help one another find a balance. When you’re in the eye of the storm, it seems impossible to find a way out. But know that you are not the first to encounter the shifting sands of gender. As you wrestle with this new world, know that you are not alone.

    How do gender roles play out in your household? Let me know in the comments below.

    The post What Does it Mean to be a Man? appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:28 on 2017/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Female, , Gender Expectations, Gender Norms, , Gender Roles, , Language, , , Understanding   

    Breaking Free from Gender Expectations 

    “Why does gender still play such a defining role in our society?” – Nicolas, Copenhagen, Denmark 

    One of the oldest origin stories in our culture lays the ground for our binary system of gender: Adam and Eve. The Old Testament set up this duality of man and woman. And old stories are deeply rooted in us.

    From the very moment a woman is pregnant, we ask: is it a boy or a girl? We create two categories with very little room for anything outside of these prescribed definitions.

    My colleague Jean Malpas who studies transgender children, and will speak about his work on the TED stage in May, explains that gender is one of the fundamental ways we humanize each other. By assigning gender we turn something abstract (a fetus) into a concrete concept that will accompany us throughout our entire life. Gender is story. The story that culture has bestowed upon us – a legacy that comes laden with expectations. Expectations of how a man and a woman must be, must think, must act.

    You and I know these stories well. For instance: men are described as rabid biological creatures always looking for a sexual outlet. But for women, it is expected that sexuality is more subjective, that desire is complicated and conditional. These are just a few of the narratives we have learnt. But if you look closely at yourself and the people you know, you will find these narratives are riddled with contradictions and that individuals are far more nuanced.

    So what happens if you don’t meet the cultural narrative of your gender? If you are a woman who doesn’t like clothes shopping, for instance, or don’t use “feminine” gestures. What if you are a man who hates sports? You may feel in conflict. You may feel deficient, insufficient and incomplete.

    So how do we approach gender today? One of the greatest challenges is that we have seen gender as being consistent with the body and the sex that we were assigned as a baby. But we are finally beginning to understand that gender is not an assignation, that biology is not destiny. Or as transgender man Sawyer DeVuyst aptly describes it: “Gender is who you go to bed as and sexuality is who you go to bed with.”

    As I talked about in my Language of Gender piece, the gender revolution has arrived. We have a whole new lexicon to choose from. And with it, freedom for self-expression. So, let’s turn the page and create a new story for ourselves.

    What stories about gender have you learnt that have accompanied you throughout life? In what ways have they shaped, helped or hindered you? I would love to know your thoughts. Please comment below.

    The post Breaking Free from Gender Expectations appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
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