Shawn Fredericks | Correspondent
Black men are a powerful group of people, and a huge part of our identity is our masculinity. The way we dress, the way we carry ourselves and the way we approach the world all fall under an idea of what it is to be a man.
However, we frequently take our idea of masculinity to the extreme and enter the very risky space of hypermasculinity.
According to Elijah J. Ward in his study report, “Homophobia, Hypermasculinity, and the US Black Church,” hypermasculinity has been “viewed… as a trait associated with the assertion of power and dominance often through physically and sexually aggressive behaviours.”
This kind of masculinity is unhealthy because it distorts what it means to be a man. It also leaves no room for the feminine influence that goes into the making of masculinity.
Men frequently ignore the very feminine aspect to their being, and this often comes from a historical precedent that was set before we were born. However in today’s climate, there is a call for healthy masculinity.
Black men, we need to answer this call and finally do something most of our fathers did not train us to do: listen and expose ourselves in healthy dialogue with our better halves, women.
In Jay-Z’s album, 4:44, one of the most gangster rappers in the game finally becomes vulnerable and it is within this opportune moment that men should finally let down their guard. Black men often carry our burdens by our lonesome selves. We carry the weight of kings and uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
We get so entrenched in the struggle in our lives that we forget we are not alone in it, that there are strong, capable and beautiful people ready to not just support us but stand with us.
Black women are our unrecognized equals and it is our responsibility as men to rectify this for their sake as well as ours. Women are a foundation of healthy masculinity, not its opposition.
Women have a huge role in shaping our masculinity but it is not the woman’s responsibility to inform men of this power. The responsibility is on men to recognize it and pass it on.
Women often shape the masculinity of men just as much as, if not more than men. It’s our mother figures that provide the template for healthy behaviors such as acknowledging emotions, communicative problem-solving, and vulnerability.
Guys, we do ourselves an injustice when we forget the impact that women have over our lives, especially black women. We need to embrace the very real, and dare I say feminine, foundation that our masculinity is built on.
Men, especially black men, plain and simple need to treat our women better because masculinity is not about accolades but relationships. There is no other more fulfilling relationship to have than with black women and this notion is not bound by romantic pretense.
Women hold a spectrum of roles in our lives, including mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and cousins. As men, our masculinity should build bridges, not fences for these women to jump over. We should not think of women, and by extension femininity, as an opposing force, but as the missing piece in the puzzle that makes us whole.
I would be remiss if I did not reaffirm why it is also very important that as young black men we are conscious of stereotypes and make greater strides of setting the example for healthy masculinity.
Masculinity of the black man is often looked upon with trepidation and presented with having inherently aggressive, promiscuous, and rebellious qualities. This presentation usually takes form today in hip hop music, where rappers take these qualities into overdrive. However, hypermasculinity has been in black culture long before hip hop and it also not exclusive to hip hop.
As the next generation of leaders of the world, we as young black males have the ability to correct the standards and precedents that have barricaded us from better relationships with women and society as a whole.
Moving forward, men have to humble ourselves before the queens in our lives and recognize how much their input is both necessary and desired. We need to take heed of the mistakes of the men who came before us and do better than them.
Black women deserve our recognition and we are better men for recognizing the sway they have over our perspectives in life. Guys, you’re not worse men for being vulnerable and accessible; actually you’re better for it, and when we foster an environment of healthy masculinity the next generation will be better for it.
Source: Elijah G. Ward, “Homophobia, Hypermasculinity, and the US Black Church,” Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 7, No. 5