The Obama/Buttigieg Difference: On the Refreshing Appeal of a Post-Patriarchal Man

Why so many Americans like what we see…and need it.

Pete Buttigieg by Gage Skidmore

The “Last Gasp of Patriarchy”

Shortly after Trump’s election, when heads were reeling trying to make sense of what just happened, articles came out describing his bombastic, caricature of masculinity as a ‘last gasp of patriarchy’. That phrase haunted me for the white-knuckling months that followed until he took office. It begged two insistent questions: What was going on in our country that this patriarchal back-lash had such traction? And secondly, if Trump was the caricature of that kind of man, then does that mean we know what a post-patriarchal man looks like?

Try not to become a man of success. Rather, become a man of value. — Albert Einstein

It’s shocking how little the topic of masculinity and men is being talked about today given the current crisis of (white)masculinity in our country. We hear about the resurgence of white supremacy — a real(and related) concern — but less so about the riveting insecurity at the base of white male identity, less about what’s actually going on in the psychology of Trump’s male base, and even less about the relative silence of progressive men in the #MeToo era. Something is brewing in today’s heightened gender wars and in the backlash against them — a man-shaped hole hiding out behind the “braggadocious” cardboard cutout in The White House.

The Irony of Men’s Double Bind

So, what about my second question? When Trump is referred to as the “last gasp of patriarchy,” does this then mean we can name what a post-patriarchal man might look like? This question has lived in me for the last three years and I’ve come to believe it is critically important that we ask it of ourselves for several reasons.

Men Who Change (And Don’t)

In the last 100 years, a lot of ink has been well spent articulating the new-found voices of women, LGBTQI’s and people of color, all voices emerging with greater authenticity on the other side of their oppression. This drive towards greater authenticity and freedom has been deeply liberating, yet while there’s ample evidence of a crisis of masculinity, why is their such a relative dearth of voices from men forging their post-patriarchal masculinity, their values, their new real-ness.

The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose, he is destroying himself — emotionally, psychologically and physically — Herb Goldberg

Ok, to my fellow feminists out there, this is not a pity party, but it is an invitation to be curious about the “man box” of patriarchy and the way, on top of this man box, those of us on the progressive front lines challenging male power may have created yet another box. Men are told not to tell their story — their REAL story — through their patriarchal upbringing. They are then told by those of us in the progressive movement that we don’t want to hear their story because we’ve heard enough of it. We want them to sit down and listen. If we want something different, though, shouldn’t we make a point of making sure we name it when we see it?

What, then, is a ‘Post-Patriarchal Man’?

Post Patriarchal Masculinity. It’s a mouthful of a word that admittedly sounds far too dusty and ‘academic’. But here’s my manual. We’ve gotta start somewhere!

My journey as a feminist has had many chapters — all of them have involved seeing through something I was raised with and coming more fully into who I am. Men can do this too, and they need to be doing it more — for all of us. We also need to be recognizing the men who are doing it. Men who are changing.

These men have found their way towards questioning the masculine identity they were raised to assume, they’ve wondered if all they are is the salary they bring in, if they’re more than their hipster cache, if their life purpose really lives in “success” and standing out as exceptional and above the rest, or simply in the muscle they wield or the number of women they’ve sexually conquered. They’ve wondered if the self-reliant, transactional approach to life they were raised to engage really reflects who they are or want to be. They’ve done this self-reflection — often, usefully, with other men — in much the same way many women and POC’s have done the inner work to transcend self-images internalized from the mainstream culture of their childhood.

Beyond “Post-Trump”: The Task of Creating a Post-Patriarchal Future.

In a recent interview, “Mayor Pete” shared that in this day and age, any platform that aims to “Make America Great Again” inherently includes a false promise. He understands that the world is changing, changing a lot, (one wildfire, hurricane and arctic blast at a time). Part of that change, also, is that patriarchy’s offer today of an identity for men is itself a false promise.

We sense that ‘normal’ isn’t coming back, that we are being born into a new normal: a new kind of society, a new relationship to the earth, a new experience of being human — Charles Eisenstein

Among the many challenges we face, then, is the one that demands we don’t throw in the towel on the value of a good man. I believe many of us know a man like this when we see him — somehow something in us says “yes!” I think it’s why Buttigieg is leading in the Iowa polls.

Writer/student of the truth. Lives at the intersection of philosophy, the gender (r)evolution, politics, psychology and art of parenting.

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