I created this blackout poem painting a few years ago when I was still bleeding. I decided to mount it on canvas as a monument to the long stretch of biological fertility I had. To honor the passing of time and my journey of finding my voice as a womxn. Womxn are magical. Menstrual blood is magical. This piece, though, is about men. It’s an exploration of masculinity culture in this world that is so fraught with suffering. The poem reads:
| a poet |
suffering from the drain
in the village
Masculinity culture is an effect not a cause.
There are so many men hurting right now. And they hurting others. I watched the film Starred Up with my kids last week. It’s the story of a violent teenager who is sent from a juvenile facility to a high security adult prison. It’s based on real experiences that screenwriter Jonathan Asser witnessed during his time as a prison therapist. The story is heartbreaking and brutal but a beautiful piece of art that shows how violence is perpetuated and what it does to men. In media, we often see an exploration of masculinity culture but with more criticism than solutions. The words “toxic masculinity” get thrown around often on the internet and, I think, often get mistaken for “toxic men”. I don’t believe that men are inherently toxic. The system we’re in has many toxic elements that disrespect life. Dominance and aggression get rewarded and suffering becomes exponential.
But there is hope. I won’t give anything away about the film because I want you to watch it but I will say that it was interesting to watch what happens when people are given a voice and a chance to relate to each other in a way other than brutality.
I know that the film The Joker, which we also saw recently was criticized by some Feminists–some before they even saw it–but I don’t understand this. Most of my attention goes to womxn these days because I am a champion of what will connect and heal us and that is mostly coming from womxn right now. That said, men are still around 50% of the population. Their stories still matter. Their real stories, not the endless stream of nonsense that Hollywood tends to pump out but stories that help us understand. I have no idea what it’s like to be a man in this world. Art, at it’s best, can help us see what is happening so it can be addressed. We can’t heal what we won’t acknowledge. I sincerely want to be part of the healing.
I know this blog post is an incomplete exploration of masculinity culture. I do know that I need to write about it and create about it. As I watch my son go through puberty and endeavor to be the best midwife for his soul I can possibly be, I see how important it is to focus on bringing forth the Conscious, positive aspect of the Masculine. When I saw this art that I made and when I look around the world right now, I realized how much the focus needs to shift away from the pain and towards restoring and honoring the indwelling magic inside of everyone. The question is how?
Playfulness is an antidote to masculinity culture.
A surefire way to heal and restore magic is through playfulness. I was once at a poetry slam when someone in the audience became very aggressive and verbally abusive and left. The MC said, “Okay, everyone let’s shake off the Patriarchy!” after which we proceeded to get up and shake for about a minute. It worked! We all started laughing and breathing more gently. I’ve used this technique many times since then with my kids and myself. It was a wonderfully embodied experience and certainly more effective than going online and saying “men are trash!”. In fact, let’s rewrite that:
Men humans are trash complicated.
Its’ the system we need to change. Love the people. Change the system. Playfully. Respectfully. Joyfully. I’m working on an online class right now that will be exploring just that. Click here if you want to learn more.
After all of this writing about playfulness, I’m going to go play now. Join me!
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