Male Ego: Handle With Care

By Patrick McTague.
Edited by Jessica Sutton.

Fragile male ego. It’s a term that gets thrown about a fair bit. But what do I mean by that? And how is it overcome?

When I use the term fragile male ego, I am referring to that part of some men that cannot fathom a woman being their equal in something. The fragile male ego presents itself when normal ego just won’t do because it’s not sexist enough. This can present itself in many ways:

Men who get frustrated when women beat them in any sort of competition, to an extent far greater than when they are beaten by other men. Men who talk down to or talk over women in the workplace because deep down, they don’t think they should even be there. Men who feel the need to mansplain constantly: over-explaining concepts to women as though the female brain is incapable of comprehending simple ideas.[1] Men who feel emasculated by a woman as a superior in their workplace or their personal lives, including their wives earning more money than them, commonly leading to divorce.[2] Men who try to make every conversation that is discussing women’s lives and challenges, about them. And many more.

If you yourself have a fragile male ego, you may start making excuses for these men; he always gets upset when he loses, he’s just self-important, he has mental health issues; while ignoring the fact that that they only act this way with the women in their lives.

The fragile male ego is not born however, it is developed over time through a toxic, competitive culture bred by patriarchal ideals. Men are taught to compete with other men in order to win the affection of women. This leads to men only viewing other men as their competition and viewing women as objects and trophies to be won by besting each other in the competition called life. It also means that if a perceived “trophy” begins to compete with them on the same level, they struggle to compute this. This is what leads to a wide range of misogynistic behaviours, including being dismissive, using derogatory language, employing emotionally abusive tactics, and even lashing out physically in fear and anger.

This fragile male ego keeps men from accepting that women are their equal and therefore prevents our society from advancing as quickly, efficiently, and fully as it is capable of. Diversity of thought due to gender balance in the workplace leads to more problems being solved, and solutions being created faster and more efficiently. Gender diversity of leadership leads to more people having their needs met and rights protected.[3][4] These combined make for greater economies, greater personal wellbeing, greater levels of happiness, and an all-around greater world.

It can be easy to miss the fact that you’re living with a fragile male ego. It takes either doing some serious self-reflection, or someone being very honest and pointing out your misogyny, for you to come to terms with your fragile male ego. And it’s not until you come to terms with it, that you can learn to let it go.

I look back on my life and I can certainly see times where my fragile male ego has affected me. There was a time before I fully engaged with others’ perspectives, and before I really reflected on my actions, where I exhibited the kind of casual misogyny that I still see in so many men. I would get upset because a woman was physically stronger than me, I would think I was a better driver than someone just because they were a woman, and I would definitely mansplain. But as my life evolved, I purposely took the time to analyse the thoughts I was having and whether they were okay. If they weren’t okay, I would ask myself why I was having that thought. The root of the thought was the important thing – that at its core, it was about gender, and how I had been conditioned to think about women.

Taking the time to analyse your pattern of thinking for ‘hidden’ misogyny is a really simple step you can take to move past your fragile male ego. Ask yourself why you are angry about certain things, why certain things make you feel threatened, and whether the way you speak about or behave with women is linked to symptoms of fragile male ego. Then, choose not to react in the dismissive or destructive way your ego is urging you to. When you learn to move past fragile male ego, you find out that it was holding you back this whole time, preventing meaningful friendships and relationships with women based on mutual respect… You can be much happier in life without it.

So, with the new year approaching, and most of us getting some downtime, now might be the perfect time to look back on your actions and reflect. Then make a personal goal for the new year to squash your own fragile male ego.


[1] https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20180727-mansplaining-explained-in-one-chart

[2] https://www.npr.org/2015/02/08/384695833/what-happens-when-wives-earn-more-than-husbands

[3] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/talent/diversitys-new-frontier.html

[4] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15309576.2016.1216002

Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash

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