Vladimir Putin and warped images of masculinity

posted by Eivind on January 19, 2015, at 1:44 pm

The biggest problem I see in the world today, bar none, is the frequently warped image so many people have of masculinity.

The misconceptions generally land in one of two categories: Posturing or collapse. In the more traditional world, the masculine ideal is one of posturing, of pretending to be strong even when you’re not (which for a posturing man is pretty much all the time).

In the more postmodern parts of the world, collapse is encouraged. Here, we are encouraged to give away our power, to not be overtly sexual creatures and to “stop being mean” like all those posturing types. Such men are also consistently exiled from their true source of strength. With these men, you can tell, however. They don’t even seem strong.

My own country Norway is a country where masculine collapse is encouraged. Russia is one where posturing is encouraged.

Putin’s masculinity

The Russian worship of Putin, now essentially a dictator, tells the story of a country where masculinity is seen as some sort of chiselled jaw, strong man stereotype. This morning, I read a news report on the huge economic upset that’s currently taking place there (the Rubel has plummeted due to a steep decline in international petroleum prices and economic sanctions in the wake of Russian intervention on the Crimean peninsula).

The article was a very discouraging read. There were interviews with a lot of people who couldn’t afford iPhones or fancy holidays anymore. Interviewees explained how problematic this was: They simply had to have an iPhone, as that was considered cool and good for your image. One woman, a designer, found that people would not take her seriously if she didn’t own one.

The same woman described how many Russians were willing to have a small flat without furniture if that meant they could have an iPhone and a nice car. In other words, they were willing to “surrender their castle” as long as they could maintain the right image and fit in (faux belonging).

In terms of the evolution of consciousness, this is normal: When totalitarian regimes collapse and the market economy takes over, it seems commonplace behavior that people become incredibly image-conscious. Everyone wants to look good in the new and more open system. The disappearance of communist conformity opens the door to fierce competition and image worship. The Russian interviewees describe lives where looking good is more important than feeling good.

Of course, there is nothing typically Russian about this at all – it’s simply a kind of unexamined herd mentality that is still commonplace in humanity at large.

The more bone-chilling part of the article’s interviews, however, is how Vladimir Putin remains incredibly popular. The inteviewees seemed to see no connection whatsoever between the financial problems and Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. These people see an empire that’s rising from the ashes, and predictably that makes them more proud to be Russian.

vladimir-putinPutin, due most certainly to his own trauma, Russian pride and his warped image of masculinity and power, is now busy restoring Russian imperialism and totalitarianism, and most of the Russians interviewed loved him for it. His approval ratings are high.

The thing is – even I find Putin’s form of masculinity frequently more appealing than the pussy-whipped “sorry that I’m alive”-attitude men in e.g. Scandinavia often have. I mean, he seems strong right. He isn’t of course – he’s just busy covering up profound insecurity – but he does seem strong. That’s enough right? It seems so.

Appearing strong is apparently often more important than being strong when your job is to run a country. For the truly powerful often don’t appear as such to people who are asleep, because their worlds are not black and white. And if your world is not black and white, it’s hard to market your politics to people who view the world through lenses like Fox News. That the weak who act strong are often perceived as stronger than the strong who are acting human is ample evidence that we live in an insane world.

As for Russia, they would not be busy rewinding the evolution of their country’s collective psyche if they hadn’t, as many of us do, this warped image of masculinity in their heritage. When you fear the dangers of the world, you need someone who appears strong to show the way. Putin is taking advantage of this fact – portraying himself as some kind of Siberian Tarzan.

The danger of immature masculinity

So ideally speaking, I would now place my attention on another country and tell you how things are so much better there, right? And then speak about hope for a brighter tomorrow. Unfortunately, every country that I know of has a warped image of masculinity. If we examine countries where they have a collapsed image of masculinity (countries like my own), people will frequently point at the posturing images of masculinity and say how it’s important not to be like that. And then you go to the posturers and then they will tell you how it’s important not to be like those soft-willed, Western liberals.

And they’re both right, but only partially.

In a world where consciousness evolves when polarities are bridged, the two prevailing camps of masculinity still have some way to go before they realize that their maturity depends on embracing the other camp in higher synthesis.

Before significant parts of the world population wakes up to the face of mature masculinity, where heart and spine meet in higher synthesis, our warped views of masculinity may remain the single greatest threat to the survival of our species. A future with Vladimir Putin in power and a similarly fossilized American president scares me. I thought we were done with this nonsense. Seriously, humanity, isn’t it time to get with the program and wake up to a more dignified view of who we are?

So, dear reader, what is your image of masculinity and how are you exiling parts of your masculine gifts based on your culture’s prevailing stereotype of ideal masculine behavior?

Let me know in the comments below.

  • Kamil

    Hey, good thoughts.

    It all makes sense. It’s going to be real interesting how the world will react to Putin’s archetype. The west is far from what he represent these days–socially. morally, politically… I am from Slovakia and I see his position as the only right one.

    He’s got a plan. Masculine.
    He’s working on that plan. Masculine.
    He know what are his, his nation’s values and follow them. Masculine.
    The Russian respect and follow him. Masculine.
    He’s not afraid. Masculine.
    He’s fit. Masculine.

    On the other hand, the west that pushes on them are just talkers, Machiavellians and betas that can only borrow money when they need it. Or borrow popularity, image, resources. You get it. That’s what they know. That’s what they crave. That’s what they will continue doing.

    Let’s say Putin only appears strong, even though I see him as a strong parson. Read any book on him. It’s still more masculine image as that of the rest of the world’s submissive, politically degenerated leaders with their fancy ties.

    Even in my country. These clowns’ been just talking for last 25 years. Nothing special and memorable about them. Maybe Mr. Mečiar, but they got rid of him because he was that masculine leader they feared. If something serious happens here they are all gone with their pre-written media statements. Simply gone end the nation’s left on it’s own.

    All in all, I am just trying to supports your point–collectively we are loosing contact with the King withing. More specifically with the Magician and the Warrior. The lover’s there, he’s responsible for the obsession with iPhones and so on. It’s just unbalanced. Think about it in that way; “what would a king do with an iPhone”. I know he wouldn’t desire it more that the practicality and comfort of his castle, right?

    Keep posting, this was an interesting article.

    – K

  • Stephen Whiting

    Good article. I agree with a lot of what you said. The UK men seem to be either the posturing fake Alpha type or the collapsed masculinity wimp type, with very few having any idea why they are unhappy or having any kind of positive role models/mentors to learn from.

    The political leadership is often driven by the right wing media who demand macho posturing on many social issues. A few years ago our prime minister suggested that some wayward young men probably require more love and support, he was ridiculed in the press as a ‘hug a hoodie’ politician. Despite the fact that our prisons are full of many of these individuals, who are often struggling with learning difficulties and mental health problems and/or come from harsh, critical or abusive backgrounds. Since then it’s been a race by political parties to posture as much as possible on crime and a range of other issues.


  • Xerox

    „I mean, he seems strong right. He isn’t of course – he’s just busy covering up profound insecurity – but he does seem strong.“

    With all respect, I call this bullshit. We can argue that he‘s narcissistic (posturing) dictator but no mask (covering up profound insecurity) or acting alone can pull off what this guy has. I understand if his „flashy macho“ masculinity publicity posturing acts dosen‘t fly in your ideology but calling him (or implying) just a insecure weak man (with a mask) sounds more like a typical shaming tactic women use.

  • This is a complicated issue, Xerox, and part of me holds your perspective with you.

    It all comes down to our definition of strength. If strength is defined as rigid, masculine, chiselled jaw stoicisim, then Putin is a badass.

    I base a lot of my thinking on my understanding of archetypal shadow and Alfred Adler’s deep insights on the inferiority and superiority complexes. I’m also influenced by David Deida’s three levels of development.

    Alfred Adler understood that beneath every superiority complex lies an inferiority complex and vice versa. So when I look at Putin, I see a man who is very busy squelching his inner sense of inferiority. The same is true for a plethora of politicians around the world.

    I also see a man who is stuck in David Deida’s stage 1 masculinity. So he seems powerful, but it’s all posturing – not arising from an authentic powerful heart-space.

    We can see from recent events in Russia that there is incredible homophobia there, which tells us that Russian men are afraid of their sensitive feeling parts. So again – fear runs their lives. Fear of being weak and gay. That is the opposite of power. Which is why it looks so violent on the outside. It’s all an outer display that is in reaction to an inner conflict.

    But I’m not a postmodernist who simply wants men to be nice and caring and sensitive. That strategy is not working out in my part of the world.

    But I know that our own repressed parts come out in the things that we hate in our outer worlds and following that line of inquiry, I can see that Putin is trapped in a maze of his own demons. And since his masculinity does not allow him to be vulnerable, he cannot get out of it.

    Bottom line is that I’m not okay with a definition of power that is compatible with establishing dictatorial rule. That is unhealthy ego power, not authentic power.

    I don’t see myself as having an ideology. I just have a deep desire for men to be authentically powerful. Myself, you and Putin included.

  • Yeah, when men have not risen psychologically above adolescence, they tend to be very busy looking like badasses.

    It’s a sad state of affairs. This is why initiation is so important – to be deeply humbled is the path to true power.

  • Thanks for your comments on these complex themes

  • Stephen Whiting

    It’s makes me think of a conversation I had with a guy I was work with. I said something to him (jokingly) about him being emotional and he replied with “I don’t do emotions, only horny and hungry”. While this was pretty funny, I think it shows the unrealistic expectation of many guys towards their own emotions and the socially conditioned idea of what an alpha male should be like. I have worked with this guy for a while and he definitely does other emotions! Clearly he’s not very aware of them.

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