WDMT #2: Maximillian Ryck
Max has contributed a great deal to me over the last year. We have talked for hours about topics ranging from perfectionism and mental health to the state of the world we live in. I am extremely grateful for his willingness to share his life experience and speak openly about mental health, as well as a variety of other topics. This is something that many men struggle to do, so we hope that these posts will help other men to speak openly with someone. It’s all about breaking down barriers that lead many men to take their own lives.
For those of you new to Max, he contributed to my lovely little interview book last year: “Perfectionism: living with perfectionism”. I think it’s a great book that many different people can relate to, not just men. In fact that book inspired my other blog series “Perfectionists speak”, which welcomes a variety of guests to speak about how perfectionism has impacted their lives, and how they manage it to lead a fulfilling and balanced life.
Be sure to check those out after reading this first interview on this topic with Max. Don’t forget to subscribe to the posts to get them in your inbox each week (no other spam sent out!)
Over to Max,
I think the subject of men’s mental health (and physical health too) is such an interesting one because we’ve all just accepted that men aren’t forthcoming when something goes wrong. There’s many aspects to why this is and the constant struggle that public health initiatives and governments have with trying to get men to take care of themselves really highlights how ingrained it is.
Now I should probably preface everything by saying that I have a perspective that is a result of the way I identify and the innate privileges that I have as a person; I can only speak as a white Australian, as a gay man, and a young person. There are many factors as to why men don’t discuss personal matters and a lot of them have to do with cultures, identities, socioeconomic influences that I just don’t share.
With all that being said, I will put forward some points that I believe either contribute or are the reason why “men don’t talk”:
Machismo/Toxic Masculinity — In many places around the world, to be a man implies that you have to have a certain hardiness to you - whether that be innate physicality or mentally - that you have to prove yourself as a man in a very performative and demonstrative way. This manifests itself in the constant gendering of everything from deodorant to frozen meals at the supermarket. Culture, media, and advertising have created this segmentation in the market where men somehow feel threatened if there isn’t a product made specifically for them that removes the ‘effeminate’ qualities of what they want. This is pervasive and is a constant reminder that makes up the background noise of gender stereotypes. The common depictions of men are that of one in their physical prime, muscular, virile. To deviate from this is a sign of weakness.
Sexism/Misogyny/Gender roles — One of the main reasons men don’t talk about their mental/physical health is because it implies weakness and sensitivity, which are the qualities that women are ‘supposed' to have. Men don’t talk about their feelings because you need to be ‘feminine’ to do that. Women have always been seen as the caregivers, the sensitive types, the empaths. Men are the brutish, strong, aggressive types. Think about men and women in positions of power: when a woman is confident and assertive, she’s seen as a bitch; when a man is seen as sensitive and caring, he’s seen as a wimp. When there is a transgression of gender stereotypes, it’s confronting and it makes people uncomfortable, and sometimes inspires hatred. Men are ostracised if they don’t fit in with other men. Speak to any queer guy who has had to grow up being laughed at by the boys for playing with the girls, and laughed at by the girls for not hanging out with the boys. Something that has always perplexed me is how much straight men feel threatened by my homosexuality; it took a long time for me to realise that it comes from a fear that the way I may potentially treat a straight man is the same way a straight man may treat a woman. They fear objectification, they fear taking the passive role, they fear being dominated.
When it comes to men and their insecurities, a lot of them are laughed at because they’re perceived as trivial and feminine. You only need to look at how little attention is paid to male eating disorders and body dysmorphia. To be vain is to be sensitive to yourself.
I think that there is also an aspect of how men are just treated as disposable and a statistic in many ways. Men go to war, they always leave the sinking ship last. Women and children need to be protected, who need to fight for. Men can die for them. Which is so paradoxical given how much women suffer under the patriarchy.