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The social construction of the patriarchal hero

We can only understand masculine shame if we understand the gender roles, socially constructed distinctions based on sex, into which a male is socialized. The male socialization process is founded upon the concept of separation from the mother. Masculine development is all about the denial of the mother, an expectation that derails the development of a masculine self in a number of significant ways. Boys are expected to mature out of “infantile” dependence and their maternal needs very early (which will be discussed in the next chapter in more detail), before most boys are emotionally ready. Boys are taught that staying close to their mothers is something shameful, and so they are shamed into withdrawing from her more than necessarily wanting to. At the heart of society’s male gender ideas, from the very beginning, is the male need to achieve “masculine autonomy.” Maternal loss dissociates a boy from his inner space; upon the loss of his connection to his insides a boy turns to conquer outer space, and this forces the tiny child to become a man long before his time. Boys have to be more independent sooner or their peers will call them sissies and ridicule them. As Tolstoy observed, by the time he is five a boy can be taking on the whole existential burden of the human condition.

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