Stories

WHAT IS MASCULINITY?

Sultan*, 24, wasn’t the best version of himself so he sought to find it, even if his journey was more difficult than he ever thought possible.

I was never a good partner.

I was hurtful, inconsiderate and insensitive in my relationship, like a stone brick wall.

She was loving, caring and wanted the best for me. She would show me love and positivity, and I’d shut down all her attempts. I created barriers to protect myself, even though she wasn’t harming me.

After our relationship fell apart and I broke up with her, I regretted it and that hit me hard. It made me reflect on why I broke up with her. What was I feeling? What allowed me to hurt a person who showed me nothing but love and care?

I started questioning a deeper part of myself, and realized I didn’t know how to handle and process my emotions. I realized it was part of the way I was raised, in this system of toxic masculinity. It was a rude awakening, it was tormenting. But I realized that the downfall of my life during this time was one of the greatest things that happened to me in a lot of ways.

It was through deep, deep self-reflection that made me want to be a better man.

My friend approached me on a project he’s working on — a Muslim men’s empowerment group. He presented to me a curriculum where essentially created space for men to approach and discuss more topics on masculinity. We need to have a conversation with men about how their words and actions have consequences, in light of the #MeToo movement. The goal is ultimately to create better relationship with women.

We don’t talk about Islam much, but a Muslim-male dominated space helps keep it a safe space, where we all have something in common.

One of topics we discussed is men’s inability to express thoughts or feelings into words, which I struggled with during my relationship. I think that concept alone impacts a lot of men.

I think I was especially open to the project because of my poor relationship with my dad as a result of my parents’ divorce. As men, we have more responsibility to provide for our families and treat our wives respectfully and treat our children well. But, my father failed at that and so I just realized that’s not who I want to be growing up. I want to treat my wife well, respect my kids’ space. I want to enrich and provide to my family and not take away from them.

The underlying assumption is that men don’t want to have these conversations, where they’re addressing their depression, problems in the bedroom, relationship issues, insecurities. We discuss things that are hard for men to open up about.

The first couple of meetings helped me reach answers I sought after my relationship failed. It’s given me the perspective of self-love and self-care in such a deep way that I never experienced before, but want to share with others. I want to impact men, and give them this space to awaken other men to the consequences of their own actions.

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