Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, was recently accused and applauded for crying during an interview. Musk decided to clear the air on the crying episode by tweeting-“For the record, my voice cracked once during the New York Times Interview. That’s it. There were no tears.”
No tears. I did not cry.
What is it about crying that terrifies both men and women in today’s world? It seems almost as if the simple act of shedding tears is seen as fragile, weak, emotional, vulnerable – attributes that are out of place in the world we live in today.
This is the world where we revere strong leaders, the macho muscle man who can deliver the goods. All the politically correct denials pale before the evidence. Let us not fool ourselves. Both men and women want the strong and powerful man who will protect us from the turbulence and chaos around us. We may denounce him as arrogant and brash, but secretly we yearn to be sheltered in his large protective shadow. We want the hyper-masculine MAN.
This man has a 56 inch chest which he often thumps in a display of raw power. He can get away with grabbing women without their consent and boasting about it. He will reassure his people by showing pictures of him hunting, shooting and grappling with animals to tell them that he does manly things – always. He allows little dissent, he will brook no threat to his position. He is the hero, the saviour, the Great Leader.
Today, 189 countries out of 200 are led by men.
The few women leaders who are successful have been described as ‘strong’,’ tough’, ‘decisive’ and ‘ bold’. They need to don the pantsuit to be taken seriously. They need to be of a certain age where their femininity can gracefully recede into the background allowing them to appear, at least, androgynous if not masculine
When there is an outlier, a female leader who gets pregnant in office, we don’t know what to do about it. It creates an uneasy flutter in our depths, a sense of imbalance as though things are not in their rightful place. This is a like a comet, we whisper to ourselves. It will pass and not appear in the world again for a hundred years.
This world is our creation. We have chosen this hyper masculine world. Whether it is in the political arena, the corporate sector or our own homes, we, both men and women continue to endorse this world. Both genders collude to build this world and search for strategies to thrive in it. What we unconsciously promote prevails over what we may consciously protest against.
Notice the signs, the judgements and deep coding that drives both genders to perpetuate this notion that the masculine energy is superior and the feminine needs to be subdued.
Notice how the working woman says’ I don’t want to be just a housewife.’
Notice how she gets up early in the morning to cook the meal before leaving for work.
Notice how the housewife will not allow her husband to enter the kitchen and make a cup of tea.
Notice how the mother will rush to put away her son’s plates after a meal.
Notice how the mother tells her son not to cry and daughter not to shout.
Notice how leaders lament that women are not ambitious, assertive or career focused and can’t be promoted.
Notice how the same leaders lament that men are not empathetic or collaborative but promote them just the same.
Notice how the woman is ‘allowed’ to leave work at 6 pm but a man has to put in long hours to validate his provider status.
Notice how we snigger at the father who turns up for the PTA meeting without his wife.
Notice how the woman does not want to earn more than the husband.
Notice how the man is scared to take a sabbatical lest his role becomes redundant.
Notice how the man cannot talk about the stress and his helplessness at home lest he becomes less of a man. Crying is out of the question!
The only way to survive in this world to become a part of it. If you can’t beat them, join them. The women need to become more like men. Let us get out of our homes and take on work in this masculine world and imitate successful men. Of course, we cannot give up our traditional roles
Men can’t give birth, so obviously they cannot manage the home and children. We are so amazing at multitasking that we must do everything- perfectly. We may become exhausted, confused and conflicted but that is the price to pay for being included in the world.
Meanwhile, the men are feeling threatened and frustrated. Some of them would love to stay at home, nurture the children and even cook but the rest of the world, including their own mother and wife will ridicule them. Who would a man be if not the provider and protector. Now, the women are encroaching their space, trying to become the providers, trying to protect themselves. So, they have to man up, become even more masculine to protect the fragile male identity. They have to beat their chests and roar loudly, pretending to ignore the heavy crushing load they carry on their backs.
Welcome to the hyper masculine world!
The hyper-masculine world does not serve the male or female. There is no way out except through honest open dialogues between the genders. The Other that we reject or rebel against is a part of ourselves. We need to confront our deepest fears and accept our limitations as well as strengths. While there is no definite solution right now, a step could be to create and allow for these crucial conversations, to notice our own biases and pick up the courage to cross traditional boundaries. Then we can have a more fluid, accepting, multifaceted world that allows both men and women ease, freedom and authentic self-expression.
Nirupama Subramanian is an author, leadership development facilitator, certified coach and co-founder of GLOW-Growing Leadership of Women. The views expressed are author’s own.