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Gender Role Conflict: Exploring Gender Roles and Overcoming Gender Role Conflict

Gender Role Conflict
Gender Role Conflict

I have spent a majority of my clinical career conducting group therapy with men. I was the Director of In-patient Care at Yokosuka, Naval Hospital. Addictions Counselor and Trauma Specialist at 29 Palms, Marine Corp Base, and Regional Critical Incident Trauma Manager, Japan, for the Navy. So, I’ve come to a few conclusions after countless observations of male behavior, especially with men under severe stress. Men are sensitive. Most men have a high moral fiber and a willingness to do the right thing, to be fair, and help their fellow human beings. Men are kind and caring.

Changes in gender roles have occurred in the workforce and in the home. Men have less full-time work, and women have more full-time work. The new jobs are about tapping keyboards and dealing with people. Today, men need to acquire the skills that are now essential for success in a modern economy; then adjust to the male and female roles withing society and the family. Unfortunately, this can lead to relationship problems and ultimately male gender conflict, a condition that affects most men at some level. For men, supporting your family, raising children, planning for the children’s future is a challenge, especially if you have a son that will one day become a man, under your fatherly guidance. But for some of us, we repeat the mistakes of our fathers. We perpetuate some of the old myths of manhood.

The male role requires a man to appear tough, objective, striving, achieving, unsentimental and emotionally unexpressive. Since childhood, boys fight a lifetime of powerful messages: Be a man. Big boys don’t cry. Men dominate. Men yell at people. Be an alpha male. Be number one. Don’t take guff from anyone. Compete. But not all men compete very well. Competition means losing. Some men don’t like losing. Yet, for some men, these male messages are related to internal conflicts and become troublesome. Fighting these messages or not strictly following the traditional masculine rules of the gender role, leads to emotional distress or masculine gender role-stress, including depression, hostility, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and in some cases suicide. This can also lead to elbow-therapy aka excessive drinking.

With self-disclosure men typically reveal less personal information about themselves, instead tell you about their future work goals. The big male taboos of don’t cry, result in men worrying about failing their masculinity. Yet living the male role, men hide much of their real selves. They fear rejection and don’t want to risk vulnerability or transparency and fear being labeled. So, men hide their spontaneous inner experience from themselves and others and act like a turtle: just pull in, pull back, and hide under a shell. This results in masculine anxiety due to the distress men feel when they think they are not living up to society’s rigid standards of masculinity. But the strong silent types who choke back their feelings, die earlier and experience depression, anger, and substance abuse.

Over generations, the old symbols of manliness has shifted and don’t fit the new millennium. What was true twenty-years ago is not so true today. What is true today, won’t be so true twenty-years from today. But today, changes in male and female roles is inevitable, but for men, it’s awkward. As a husband, some guys struggle to maintain a harmonious relationship with his wife. Single guys are coping with the social challenges of work and society and the singles dance. Married or single, it’s a lot for some guys to successfully balance political correctness and accommodating the needs of modern women. Male gender role conflict is a psychological state in which socialized gender roles have negative consequences on the person. Gender conflict occurs when rigid, sexist, or rigid gender roles result in personal restrictions that result in a man or person not achieving their full potential. While men who touch other men, make some guys nervous. Men who have a high degree of gender role conflict lack self-esteem, have more anxiety, intimacy issues, higher degrees of personal stress, suffer from hyper-tension and marital discord.

Men’s gender role conflict limit men’s well-being and human potential. But gender role conflict doesn’t just harm boys and men, but also girls and women, transgendered people, and society. Men fight a life-time of worn-out conditioned reflexes of being a man. I wasn’t always sure of the best way to raise my son. My father never hugged me or said I love you. But I didn’t want to pass that along to my son. I had to up-root old thinking. Yet telling a kid to be a man is absurd. I’m sure I stifled my son from achieving his full emotional potential. However, as father’s we only get one chance at being a healthy role model to our sons and daughters. This is called emotional leadership.

About the Author:

Hilary Valdez is a freelance Writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle.

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