My friend (fellow blogger/writer/we went to grad school together) Lauren wrote this really amazing post on Healthy Masculinity. You should read her post, but to give mine some context I’ll give you a snap shot.
Lauren discusses what Toxic Masculinity is and how this concept is fairly common in our culture. What toxic masculinity is is all those negative manly qualities we try to foster in men and the flip side of also discouraging “feminine” traits in men. So – it’s the violent, sexually aggressive, more powerful male figure who DOESN’T show emotion (because that’s a sign of weakness), ask for help (again – not strong), and liking “girly” drinks. This site (which Lauren links to in her post as well) really breaks it down.
And Lauren’s goal – as a writer – is to incorporate the Healthy Masculinity into her male characters. She lists all these potential ways to do that. Really – just read her post all ready.
And it made me a bit embarrassed. Lauren is also my critique partner and read my novel. One of my concerns that I explicitly asked her about was one of my male characters. I said (and this is DIRECTLY from the notes I sent her) “He needs to be stronger emotionally and physically – he’s supposed to be this bad-ass but cries in the shower (lame).” Lauren even pointed out in her comments that she liked that he cried in the shower.
…Well, now I feel like a huge ass. It’s not that I think that men who cry are weak. The men I respect most in life are the ones who I have seen cry and breakdown (my father and Husband). When I’m in trouble, they are my heroes. They are the ones who I go to. So – in no way, shape, or form am I against men who cry.
And yet… yet that’s not the character I’m writing. Yes, there is another male character in the story who is one of my FAVORITES and is a more sensitive male character. Just wanted to put that out there.
But – I was having a hard time (and maybe still am) of figuring out how to make THIS male character a “bad-ass” and enforce this concept of Healthy Masculinity. So – my struggle is to make this knight-in-shinning-armor (well, his armor doesn’t SHINE but yes – he’s a knight) fit into this role.
He isn’t the hero of the story. I want to point that out. But he’s used to being the hero.
Mostly, I think my struggle comes down to not knowing him as a character well enough. I think my next post might be some character development exercises.