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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Are Men Becoming More Conscious?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: May 25th 2010

Meryl Streep recently gave a commencement speech at Barnard College, an all women's school, saying that men are becoming more conscious. No longer are we the womanizing men who favor the submissive sweet characteristics of women from the past, but now identifying more with the bossy, powerful and intense characteristics of women as she portrays in the Devils Wears Prada, who was not very empathic by the way.

She goes on to say that men are simply becoming more aware of emotion and becoming more empathic.

She quotes Carl Jung saying, "Emotion is the chief source of becoming conscious..." and therefore men are becoming more conscious.

She cites some pretty heavy data saying that most advanced degrees today are being awarded to women, while it's only been a 100 years since women were allowed in universities. Poor women now own property who used to be property. She quotes the Economist that says the in the last 2 decades women employment has been the main source of growth in the global economy.

So why are men becoming more in touch with their emotions or those of their female counterparts?

Perhaps as women's voices are enjoying more power in our culture today, men are exposed to more empathic speech or verse. However, if the women in power of today are made to be like Meryl's character in the Devil Wears Prada, there is hardly any empathy there. Women in power have struggled with this image, take Hilary Clinton for example. She is seen by many to be cold and unfeeling. Even her tears during her Presidential run were mocked as fake or forced in the media.

Perhaps there is a natural balance of being firm and empathic and in our culture as women take on this power role of having to be more firm and authoritative a balance is shifting where men can assume more roles of being empathic.

For me, I think there's simply a greater awareness in our culture of discrimination, it's been talked about more in the media, it's been taught in our schools more explicitly and so empathy is being conveyed at a young age now. Men and women are exposed to empathy and the phrases like "boys don't cry" or "be a man" are slowly drifting away.

Meryl is right, there is a shifting in our culture...but I would say that Men and Women are becoming more conscious.

Here's her speech:

What are your thoughts on this? As always, please share what's on your mind and any questions you may have. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

The Point? - Kerrie - Mar 17th 2013

All to commonly, male observations about feelings, or conscious awareness are attached to women. Negative views about women. It's time to make these kinds of observations from inside the experience of being male. Otherwise, the title of this post misses making it's own point!

younger versus older men - Mike - Oct 15th 2010

The reason why Meryl Streep is saying men are changing is because she has seen the changes herself from the men of her generation to the younger men in today's society. There is a stark contrast between the behaviors and personalities of younger men and older men due to changing times. This is the reason why so many women are now starting to date younger men - it's not just for their younger looks but also for their more modern and fresher perspectives and behavior. Look at the cocky, rude and arrogant behavior of older Hollywood male actors such as James Caan, Al Pacino, Sean Connery, etc. And look at the behavior of younger male actors who are much more down to earth and humble. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

Younger men are refreshingly a product of their modern times. Even the "crazier" or "more aggressive" male actors such as Christian Bale or Russell Crowe who are known for having thrown fits of anger have apologized and curbed their behavior because it's not acceptable today. They have both said they were ashamed of how they acted. Back in the 1960s people would have been a lot more accepting of such behavior from men. Society is tolerating men with superiority complexes less and less so they have no choice but to change with the times. My aunts who are in their 40s date slightly younger men who are in their 30s because they say men their own age are more rude, pompous, stubborn, demanding, and unfair towards women. Simply put, they have less empathy and social consciousness. 

But these positive changes have been seen mostly in the Western world. The Middle East, Asia, Africa, and numerous other areas of the world still need a lot of catching up to do. Latin America is changing but not as rapidly as the US or the UK.


maybe... - Kathryn - May 26th 2010

Whether or not men are becoming more conscious, more sensitive, empathic or whatever remains to be seen. I've certainly seen evidence that this is somewhat true in the U.S.  As for other parts of the world, don't hold your breath.  Male dominance and all that entails is still very much the norm in Asia (including India), the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. And it still exists to a lesser degree in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

As far as holding the reins of power, more women than ever are doing so and I think this trend will continue as long as more women the world over are being properly educated. I think the style in which many women operate is different, more relational and more empathic than men, and with less aggression than men, generally speaking. And there are women who believe they should act like men - not a good thing when business and political practices include lying, deception and greed.

I think it's all about the pendulum slowly swinging the other way. At best, it will take a century or two for real change the world over to happen.

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