I recently finished reading Jack Meyer’s book The Future of Men, which has completely changed the way I see men. It’s a fascinating collection of stats, stories, and analysis on how we got to the current definition of masculinity, and what we expect(and hope)men to be in the years to come.
This month, I’m going to take a few of my favorite passages from the book and share some of my thoughts about them. Here’s the first, focusing on the culture of lying and denying among men:
“Deny, deny, deny” as a male mantra is on a path toward retirement along with so many of the lies and destructive myths that have been learned and passed down by generation after generation. Denial is no longer a viable option. Men need to explain who, when, where, and why, and once that first denial comes in, it’s game over. In the age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Periscope, falsehoods and contradictions are far too easily and quickly discovered. Lying, though, is woven in the male self-image, and although not all men lie(and many women do!), any study of the history of civilization uncovers the reality that men operate on being untruthful. Women, conversely, operate on the truth, and the now have the power to demand the same from their men. In a 2012 blog post published at MariaShriver.com, dating expert and auther Ken Solin argued, “Where there’s no trust, there’s no love….The purpose of men being emotionally honest isn’t just to satisfy women, but to live in integrity as men….There’s an enormous difference between a man being emotional, and a man being emotionally honest….A woman may not like hearing how her guy feels about her or their relationship, but she’ll know the truth, and she can work with that….The walls in relationships can be broken down when both partners trust each other to speak their emotional truths.”
A lot of this seems like common sense. Why would men still lie in a time where much of your identity is easily accessible online? But as Myers suggests, there is strong evidence that men can be successful while lying. When I think about it, there’s not many incentives to be truthful as a man. I thought about the stereotypical men in high places—people like politicians, wall street bankers, and CEOs of large companies. Even in media—whether it’s movies, music, and literature. The culture of those circles has always seemed to be based in denial. And when truthful voices come out in those circles, there tends to be a backlash by men to defend their denial. Lying creates alternate realities for people, and if those alternate realities become threatened—it’s obvious why men would go to unthinkable lengths to make sure they don’t go away.
Looking at it this way, we’re basically saying that men are much more resistant to change when it involves their self-image. When it comes to women, they’re much less afraid to speak the truth—and work through the consequences. Myers suggests later in the book that this is a major reason why women are trending upwards in everything that involves leadership, businessness, and education. And I’m not surprised why. As long as men hold on to their culture of denial, the sadder their efforts will be once truths are uncovered. I think it’s really only a matter of time until we see a larger shift towards women making the ‘big decisions’ once coveted by men.
When I was just about to finish this book, Brexit happened. There were tons of deep cultural and political issues at stake in that referendum, which will take lots of time to sort out. But through all the noise of the implications of leaving or staying in the EU, I was seeing some of these denial/truth issues with men and women being played out in reality. The prominent UK politicians focused on at the beginning of the Brexit issues were men—the most responsible being David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, and Jeremy Corbyn. And from I read, there was constant denial in different directions from all of them. There was denial about them having real responsibility in the decision, and there was denial about whether the decision was fairly conducted or not. There was a sea of denial, and then some of those men started stepping away from the issue—as if it were not in their responsibilities to work through it. Cameron resigned as PM, Johnson refused to step in as Prime Minister, and Farage resigned as director of his party.
Then incredibly quickly, a woman stepped up to the challenge of taking the UK through the Brexit mess as Prime Minister—Theresa May. To me, it was a perfect example of how women aren’t afraid to dive into the mess of a situation swamped in denial like this. As things unfold in the future, it’s not clear whether she’ll be an amazing Prime Minister. But the fact that she was a woman, willing to step in and lead at a time where so many people in the country seemed to be confused— shouldn’t go unnoticed . It’s a signal that men who can’t deal with the consequences of their denial will have a tough time in the future, where it’s not easy to hide lies. I’m just hoping something similar happens in the USA elections!
It’s clear that men need to step out of the culture of denial and build bridges to a truthful culture. There should be more examples of successful men that use truth as a means to well-being. But it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to just happen. Women aren’t going to drag men out of it—men need to do it themsleves.