A rage in the male heart

With a reported rise in domestic violence and bullying at every level of society, with road rage, brutal street assaults

With a reported rise in domestic violence and bullying at every level of society, with road rage, brutal street assaults and gang activity, we need to recognise the rage in the male heart. It’s not enough to demand an end. We cannot suppress it with punishment and declaring war on it will only start one more war.

If a man does not recognise or understand forces driving his attitude, he won’t act to contain them or use them for good. He’ll keep lashing out, using his strength in the home, the workplace, on the street, in the pub and on the sporting field.

I am neither the quietest nor gentlest of men. I’m known for loud opinions, I can be persistent and I’ve done my share of sticking my nose where it’s not wanted or invited. As a television journalist I was good at getting people to speak. I can be very pushy and recognise it. I’d like to think of myself as assertive rather than aggressive.

But I am also someone who would never emerge victorious from any brawl.

I’ve never done martial arts training but admire those who have. Put me in a brawl and I’d most likely walk into the first punch headed my way.

There’s a rage in me and it is in every man on the planet.

We can use that rage to improve our world or we can let it loose to destroy everything and everyone around us.  I’m at the wheel of my car and you cut me off and there’s every chance I’ll have a few choice things to say. But those angry and offensive words will be at you and not to you. I recognise I’ve been raised to believe I am entitled to control, that it is my birthright as a male. When I’m losing that control I feel rage. Question my knowledge, my judgement, my place in the world and my ego will need to take you on.

I was raised the way we nurture most boys. We are told: ‘You’re a man’; and to ‘act like a man’. Our traditionally meaning is to grab it and fix it and build it and to go to war over it. And all these things can be good and worthy. But they can also destroy our lives and our sense of self and turn us into bullies and violent men.

Why is it that the strongest offence you can give any man is to tell him he’s acting like a girl; that he’s a bit of a sheila?  Is it because he’s then a reject from the men’s room, he’s not one of the boys?  It implies a superiority over and contempt for women; a chasm between men and women. It eats into our willingness to be gentle and show compassion, to show tolerance and be inclusive. It suggests a loss of gender identity, it says that violence is strength and compassion is weakness.

It is why we’ve sneered at effeminate men and long been intolerant of any sexuality other than strictly hetero or any man attracted to same sex. When those desires exist inside us we struggle to repress them and drench them in guilt and fear and shame. We’ve been raised to do so with extreme prejudice and its made life hell for our gay brothers and sisters.

Raise our sons to believe they are entitled to control and do not need to earn or even deserve it and here is what will happen: The moment control is absent in a relationship there’s a strong chance a man will use physical strength to regain it; make him the boss and he could demand control as a bully; put him on the sport field and he could resort to violent tactics, to win at any and every cost.

And there’s an equal chance we’ll cheer him on from the sidelines.

We need to overthrow the bully in our souls, the bully who demands control at any cost. Two of my favourite movies are BRAVEHEART and GLADIATOR. They are about the man who takes on the dominant and bullying force with great personal sacrifice to change his culture and society.

It is about THE CHAMPION we would all like to become. It is also why the theme of vengeance and heroic characters with superior strength have always sold more cinema tickets than any other story.

Would any of us do the same in those circumstances?

We’d like to think so. But it would take plenty of courage.

Share your thoughts below.

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  1. Barbara Chapman  

    What a wonderful thoughtful article David. Good on you for sharing this. Lets hope a lot of our male friends will sit up and take notice of it and look at the champion within themselves

  2. Pamela  

    Additional rage in the male heart (and many female hearts) is the fact that men are automatically blamed for 99.9% of Domestic Violence (DV) cases when 52% of DV is against women and 48% is against men.

    Also many women falsely claim DV against a man where it never happened!

    As a woman, I have seen this more than once and have rage in my heart for the male victims – most of whom do not get a say or receive justice!

    • Frank  

      yes – my first and only experience of domestic violence was being physically attacked by my female partner (I’m a guy)

      she was an Australian champion sportswoman so equaled me in strength – she’d grab my family jewels and twist – and it would take all my strength to retain them – she had been bashed up by her father and brother – when we separated she thanked me for showing her that men could be good.

    • Thank you for pointing this out. I was abused in my marriage. I felt unable to do anything about it and blamed myself. It was only after a very dear (female) friend pointed out what she had observed for years that I came to understand. Oh, my wife left me, it seems I wasn’t enough of a man for her.

      I do not believe I have rage in my heart, only compassion. I’m frankly tired of sexual stereotyping of people.

    • Micheal  

      Opinions attempting to account for data can vary. Statistics and evidence based research is the staring point. An assessment of the data with out filtering the data through pre-existing prejudices and biases is essential if we are to attempt to deal with the social problem of DV. Sadly, most modern polices have reduced DV to an issue of gender. The facts show that while women are more likely to be victims of violence, that alcohol abuse is associated with 75% of instances, and that drug use, poverty and welfare dependency are disproportionate factors in DV. Unless this complexity is recognised, it will be very hard to make inroads into the problem. Using “gender” as the sole explanatory construct may help angry women feel better, but it doesn’t address the issue adequately.

  3. Micheal  

    It takes all kinds, as they say. The writer seems to have found his social male peers among like minded people – as do we all. But to generalise his own psychological idiosyncrasies and that of his peers to half of our species is, well, absurd. I don’t recognise myself at all in this portrait. Well – that’s not quite true – I am competitive, I have always fought hard in sports. But I have effeminate (mostly openly gay) friends. Have had since childhood. Doesn’t bother me. And I don’t feel contempt for women – except for those whose behaviour gives rise to feelings of contempt. Same as I feel for men. Nearly all of my male friends share these same attributes. But I won’t say that they represent “all men” – just a sizeable proportion.
    I also object to the implication that DV is somehow about “male rage”. In fact, most males DON’T engage in DV. Which, following the writer’s logic, means that they don’t experience “male rage”, which totally undermines his whole argument.
    Another objection to the logic of his argument is not only males engage in DV. Evidence shows about 1 in 3 victims of DV are males, and that the perps are often females. And if “male rage” lies behind DV, how do you explain the fact that DV in lesbian couples is much higher than for the heterosexual community?
    I just can’t relate to this writer, nor accept his arguments, based as they are in flawed generalisations. Nonetheless, I wish him well on his journey to deal with his inner demons.

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