Jan Mikulin is a man with a mission. To use and embrace masculinity as a business asset. His new venture Mastering Masculinity will offer workplace consultancy and training on the topic.
In the current climate, where gender equality, #METOO, and equal pay conversations are dominating the media, Rogue wonders if this project will be perceived as enlightened or treading a risky path.
We chatted to Jan about why a culture celebrating masculine energy isn’t the same as reigning men.
Hey Jan, why are we talking about masculinity in 2018?
We seem to be in the middle of a polemic argument about masculinity and femininity… pitting one side against the other and suggesting that the ills of the world are all down to the patriarchy keeping the matriarchy underfoot.
This distances us further from resolution and is why I want to bring men to the table and have an open and honest conversation.
As Gorbachev famously said, “If not me, who? And if not now, when?”
This year has been a year where there has been a lot of talk of _toxic masculinity_ and I think it is time we redressed the balance of the conversation; to talk about masculinity without giving it such a negative charge.
Are there certain ‘masculine’ traits that are ‘toxic’ and ‘harmful’? Sure. Are there are many ‘masculine’ traits that are neither of these things, which are needed and helpful to the individual and society? Definitely.
What do you believe are the positives of masculinity?
Intrinsically, there’s nothing positive or negative about masculinity. It just is. The issue is how masculinity is expressed. For example, one of the core elements of masculinity is purpose. Purpose creates meaning and power. Purpose itself has no charge, it is simply the reason for a person or organisation to exist.
If you consider a purpose of “freeing my people from oppression”, the idea seems noble and pure. The question then is how this is manifest… is it approached with the idea of a zero-sum game, or with the potential of a win-win? Is it accomplished through warfare, or diplomacy and peaceful protest?
Anger can be channeled into creativity or aggression. The energies and attributes are not the issues, it’s how they are used!
Why do blokes get a bad rep for expressing it?
I’d like to make an important, if slightly pedantic, point to make, here. While there is a general corollary of gender and energetic core, this is not absolute. There are some men whose authentic core is feminine, and some women whose authentic core is masculine.
Additionally, a man with an authentic masculine core does not have to be masculine all the time! It might be more appropriate for him to connect with his feminine side in certain situations.
This, essentially, is where the ‘bad rep’ comes from… there are too many men who, for one reason or another, are unclear of what ‘masculinity’ is, and how best to express it.
Are Alpha Males and Angry Men just misunderstood?
The prevailing misconception about masculine energy is that it is synonymous with so-called alpha male attributes; ultra-competitive, aggressive and out to prove themselves as superior to all others. While these are part of the masculine armory, they are not the sole elements! More importantly, it is worth reminding ourselves that these so-called attributes are, in fact, actions… they are emotions made manifest.
The biggest issue that most men face is that we are not nurtured or taught how to express our anger in creative ways! From an early age, we’re socialised to believe that anger is a “negative” emotion… ever heard of the tactic of counting to ten before you say or do anything? I know I heard that a lot when I was a kid!
This presupposes that anger is an emotion that needs to be repressed, rather than expressed… this is b*llocks!
While it may seem easier to curb a child’s anger, it creates deep-rooted and long-lasting issues, as they are not supported to express this in more creative or acceptable ways. This, basically, tells the child that what they are feeling is wrong (or bad). We then go through life repressing the anger, until we reach a point where we cannot hold it in any longer. At this point, we “blow a fuse”, “blow our top”, “lose it” … or any one of a multitude of phrases that hold more wisdom than we give them credit.
The key is to integrate this emotion and energy into our authentic core and find ‘healthy’ ways of expressing it.
Tell us something brilliant that masculine energy achieved?
Ha! This question reminds me of the scene in Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian”, when they ask, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”
Masculine energy has helped create every part of the world in which we live. Buildings, legal systems, companies, governments, and much more would not have been created without masculine energy.
That’s not to say that feminine energy was not needed in the creation of our world, far from it! However, without goal-oriented masculine energy, the decisive action and implementation needed to bring such ideas to life would not have been taken.
When masculine and feminine energies are brought together, brilliant things are achieved. The creative, expansive flow of femininity can be given shape, form, and purpose. Unity is vital and why we need to be talking about masculinity and femininity as two equals, yet different, parts of a dynamic and interconnected system.
Sell Masculine energy in a tweet:
Conscious masculinity transmutes contradiction into paradox; creating clarity and focus. It’s purposeful, positive and paternal.
What is your game plan with the business venture?
My plan is three-fold: Firstly, I want to start an open conversation about what masculinity is and how it needs to be part of an inclusive mix of energies and approaches. Secondly, I want to create a practical guide and set of tools to allow men to step into authentic, conscious masculinity. Finally, I want to share these tools with organisations and individuals, so that men can stop feeling ashamed or guilty of being men.
My hope is that this will create an open dialogue about not just equality, but difference. There are certain areas where men and women are different and, rather than ignoring or admonishing these, we should be respecting and revering these, as part of a means of becoming the best versions of ourselves and building a society where all are free to develop and express their fullest potential.
Basic Instinct, or super-disruptive?
It’s both – a paradox, if you will. There is a basic tenet that is, in itself, disruptive.
Ultimately, my belief is that masculinity and femininity are equally important. There is a need for us to create equality of opportunity and that there should be equal pay for equal work. That said, men and women, masculinity and femininity are not the same!
As such, the conversation around equality is missing some important distinctions and is creating a combative environment.
What could an organisation expect of the course/workshop?
This depends on the individual organisation! The mission is clear… we want to help organisations, and the individuals within them, master masculinity and allow femininity to flourish.
In terms of exactly what this looks like, we’ll be looking at this on a case-by-case basis, as not all organisations are in the same place.
We will use orientation exercises to establish where you are, so we can set the origin point, before working together to develop a plan and a program that is geared to your organisation.
Currently, we’re registering interest via the website. The plan is to engage in a period of consultation and communication about what conscious masculinity really is; this will be via multiple means; online discussions, surveys, and men’s groups to generate the data that will form the basis of the tools and techniques to bring this project to life.
So – essentially – is it time to man-up?
I genuinely believe that we are at an inflection point; one where we need to come together to create a future in which we all have the tools and freedom to express our true selves and unlock our individual and collective potential.
I see this endeavor as my purpose; I am excited by it.
Find out more at www.masteringmasculinity.com.