An Attempt at an Inclusive Discussion on Male Loneliness

A recent op-ed by the New York Times bought the discussion about male loneliness into limelight again, with people across all ideologies chiming in to discuss the causes behind the phenomenon and how to make men feel less lonely.

In a world where late stage capitalism is rampant and the emphasis is put on individual growth and prosperity than building and nurturing communities; people of all genders and intersections start to feel lonely due to lack of meaningful connections outside of school/work and familial connections. This sense of loneliness is heightened in minorities who are often shunned from communities for their identity. Queer and trans people have discussed in length about how they feel alone and isolated in the places they live in due to lack of queer spaces or the rampant bigotry they face from locals. This sentiment is reflected by religious minorities, the Dalit community, BIPOC, and disabled individuals and the feeling is compounded with intersections of different identities.

Even women have talked about the loneliness and isolation they have faced over the years in a patriarchal cisheteronormative society. A lot of women who are in heterosexual marriages are expected to stay in the confines of her home and only seek companionship with her in-laws and her husband. The lonely women who are mostly stay-at-home wives are also the favourite prey of different multi-level-marketing scams as these scams promise the women financial security and community, only to sink them into immense debt. As discussed earlier, this is worse for women who are not cisgender or heterosexual or in any other position of privilege.

When the world is getting lonelier, and the loneliness phenomenon affects minorities more than others, it might feel rightfully frustrating to see the discussion focus on men, a group whose members face immense privilege everywhere. It might also feel cathartic to see a group of people, who are predominantly our oppressors and aggressors, face a pain somewhat similar to ours in this isolating world. But unfortunately, like most things in the world, this discussion deserves nuance.

The main contributor of male loneliness is the patriarchy that is supposed to uphold men. Patriarchy demands that men are stoic and unemotional to be truly 'masculine', and the only 'permissible' emotions are anger and lust. The emotional restraint prevents men from being open and vulnerable to the people around them, leaving them feeling lonely and isolated. Patriarchy also imposes expectations on the relationships between men and women as friends (while also pretending that gender is an inherent binary) – that men and women cannot be platonic friends, and the relationship has to be romantic or sexual in nature. This expectation leads to men not seeking a platonic connection with women and mostly seeing them as objects to conquer sexually.

A lot of men internalize these patriarchal ideals and become emotionally distant, prone to fits of anger and ready to enact violence on others, especially non-men. Even though these men are victims of patriarchal gender norms, they deserve no sympathy for inflicting their pains as violence on to others, no matter how big or small.

Just like MLMs and pyramid schemes prey on stay at home mothers by promising financial security and community, a lot of misogynistic men (mostly in the form of pickup artists and podcast bros) create pyramid schemes, affiliate marketing schemes, podcasts, and online courses promising community, success in sexual conquests, and being a 'real man' in the patriarchal sense all to deal with male loneliness. Also, like MLMs, these schemes do nothing but make their creators richer and uphold and perpetuate misogyny, bigotry, and patriarchal ideals.

There may not be one true cure for male loneliness; but there are steps that men, who are willing to do better, can take to help themselves. Building communities is the best solution, but it should be remembered that these communities should allow men to express their emotions freely and work on dismantling patriarchal ideals to deal with the root of their problems. These community spaces should be inclusive of ALL men — queer men, trans men, disabled men, Dalit men, men of all religions and races as the misogynist male communities shun any man who does not fit into the cisheteropatriarchy. Being in a community with diverse men which encourages emotional vulnerability and questions patriarchy can be the first step to curtail male loneliness. Men, especially cishet men, also need to realise that they can be platonic friends with women and all people are complex individuals with thoughts and beliefs that are not dictated by patriarchal gender norms. For men who are having trouble expressing their emotions freely due to years of suppressing them, therapy and counselling can be a great start if it's an option they can afford.

Male loneliness is a topic that deserves a nuanced and balanced discussion, a discussion that should also focus on how it impacts non-men and men who are not cishet or in other places of privilege. By supporting and amplifying the voices of the most oppressed, can we properly address and dismantle the systems of bigotry and hate that keeps us all down.