The culture still tells us that to be a real man, one must project an image of strength, toughness and implacability. To exhibit weakness, vulnerability or even tenderness can feel uncomfortable and shameful. Too often, men transmute these emotions into competitiveness, one-upmanship and aggression.
The greater the sense of inner emptiness and impotence men feel, the more likely they are to lash out. Sometimes, and sometimes without even realizing it, they belittle, underestimate, discredit, objectify, silence, ignore and gaslight women. At their most extreme, men can become violent sexual predators, as the #MeToo movement has made so painfully clear in recent months.
“Too often the wounded boy grows up to be a wounding man, inflicting upon those closest to him the very distress he refuses to acknowledge within himself,” writes Terry Real, author of “I Don’t Want to Talk About It: The Secret Legacy of Male Depression.” “We raise boys to live in a world in which they are either winners or losers, grandiose or shame filled, perpetrators or victims. A common defense against the painful experience of deflated value is inflated value.”