There was a moment in time when being gay or being “other” became acceptable. Simultaneously discriminating against these groups became absolutely unacceptable.
Similarly, our country decided that apartheid was unacceptable. So we changed it.
- We collectively decided that what was going on was not acceptable.
- We collectively decided to do something about it. And we changed our thinking and responses.
- We are again at that moment in time when we have had enough.
- We need to decide to change what is going on.
- We have arrived at a moment of reckoning in our society.
- We are at the point where we need to have respect for other humans and their unique qualities.
- We’ve done it in the past and there is absolutely no reason that we cannot do it again. Quickly.
“If you think the world is all wrong, remember that it contains people like you.”
– Mahatma Ghandi –
This is where our team steps in – what we do is open people’s eyes and help them to understand what is really going on. And then, once they understand what is going on, we help them to figure out what to do about it. Practically.
First, we are going to explain what we believe to be the most important points that must be made clear to every person in our country and on the planet:
- The meaning of the term ‘toxic masculinity’ and how it is feeding physical, emotional and sexual violence against others
- The difference between toxic masculinity and healthy, acceptable masculinity? When is it healthy and when is it toxic?
In no particular order, let’s get right into it:
Toxic masculinity is when a man uses their masculinity in a way to belittle, degrade, hurt and make someone feel lesser. The harmful associations of “maleness” in our culture.
Masculinity is, simply, being male. That is not “bad”.
So then, what we are saying, is that toxic masculinity is being male in a way that hurts someone else.
Since “Day Dot”, men and woman have been taught what masculinity “really is” and “how it should be”. This has been communicated in their families, cultures, through social interactions and by the media. Men have been taught this very warped meaning of what it is to be a ‘Man’ – teachings that instruct them to be overly sexual, dominant, show physical prowess, make inappropriate comments, objectify women, suppress any emotional expression and above all else, ensure an absence of any displays of vulnerability – in other words, men are taught to have either limited or absolutely no conversation around struggles, insecurities and emotion.
Some men would rather die than tell others that they are hurting.
They are great at talking to other men, but not about anything important. Sport, money, cars, women………that’s all great! God forbid they talk about their struggles. Insecurities. Fears. The things that keep them up at night. Their feelings of not being good enough. Their emotional isolation.
Well, of course, they cannot speak about these things! That would go against their fundamental teachings of being masculine. If they spoke about these things, then that would show weakness – of course, weakness, in a “Man’s World,” is equal to rejection and ultimately, death.
In short, toxic masculinity is driven by fear.
Fear of rejection. Rejection equates to death. That’s how your body and brain responds to it. We could write essays on this if you want – there’s just a lot to get through for now.
So – what are we saying?
Masculinity, the art of being a man, has been taught to us incorrectly. So now what?
Men are men. That will not change. Ensuring that masculinity is not toxic, that toxic behaviour is not acceptable and that the perceptions that we have around ‘masculinity’ – now that is a change that we can effect immediately.
Some men behave in toxic ways and its not conscious. It is so deeply ingrained that it becomes their new autopilot. See below for common examples.
It also perpetuates itself. We do something that hurts a woman, we know that we have done it, we feel that niggle inside that leaves us feeling uneasy – yet we adamantly do nothing to rectify the problem. To say that we are sorry. To show that we are sorry. Often habitually. The other men in our lives seem to support that behaviour. There is no safe space or accountability amongst many male groups.
Women – we are going to need help in order to do this. In a constructive way. Keep our feelings safe. Educate us on how you feel in response to something that we do. Even when you are afraid to do so. Allow your partner to express themselves openly without your own conditioning detracting from that expression.
Guys need one opening. One person to listen. One person to sit down and tell them that its ok to open up, with no judgement, not worries, that they are safe and that you are there to listen to them.
Men – give the women in your life a voice. Don’t just allow them to speak, but actually listen to what it is that they are saying. Act on what you hear. Modify your behaviour. That is real masculinity. The ability to accept one the biggest challenges you will ever face – being brave enough to admit that you were wrong and that you have the power and ability to recreate yourself and defy unacceptable “norms”.
Instead of looking for someone or something to blame for the position we are in, it is vital to turn introspectively towards the issues and change our own behaviour. To be intentionally self-evaluating and critical.
Create a new norm and standard of what is acceptable behaviour. Commit to fostering and encouraging healthy forms of masculinity.
How do we redefine what is acceptable behaviour? Start talking. Openly, honestly. Address toxic masculinity in our everyday lives and we will broaden the perspectives of our men and our women – of all ages.
Create what is acceptable behaviour and reject what is unacceptable.
What does Healthy Masculinity look like?
Healthy masculinity means not using your size, strength, power or ‘maleness’ to get what you want from others. It allows men to feel and express their full emotional range and share this with others. They can be honest about their feelings, needs and desires. It develops deep and meaningful relationships, socially and romantically.
Healthy masculinity can allow men to:
- Be accepting of their and others bodies even if they’re not muscular
- Treat women and girls with the same respect and thoughtfulness with which they like to be treated
- Advocate respect for women and others
- Intentionally develop as emotionally available caretakers and parents to both boys and girls
- Accept that anger is no excuse for violence or abuse
Once we know what is really going on, then we can do something about it.
Understand and change.
Unlearn and relearn.
There are so many important things to discuss and teach and yet we cannot get through them all in one article. Notwithstanding this, the team unanimously chose to discuss ‘toxic masculinity’ and the lack of open, honest communication between men and women – people.
There will be follow up articles that will help you in your relationships:
- The traits of Toxic Masculinity and what perpetuates it – then how to start the process of change.
- Surviving rape, relationship trauma and changing the relationship dynamic.
If, in the writing of this article, I have offended anyone or made anyone feel small, insignificant, not good enough, belittled, dehumanized or hurt in any way – female, male (or a person who identifies as not falling within those gender categories) – then I am truly sorry. I am honouring my own belief in that I openly ask for help, advice, perspective and thoughts from anyone and every one – so that I can better understand any of my own unconscious bias and thereby, start to understand the broader picture and thereby help others to do the same.
To the women that have helped me to write this article – thank you for your insight into how difficult and even terrifying it can be to be a woman. Thank you for being willing to help us to do better and to live better. Now that we know, we can start to do something about it. We cannot do this without your help.
To the men who helped me to write this article, thank you for unanimously asking for help from women to understand what is really going on and how we can start to fix the things that are broken. Asking for help is very difficult, especially when it comes to things that we cannot even pretend to understand.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION and RESOURCES
Self Reflection on Toxic Masculinity
Ask yourself if you believe the following statements are true or if you identify with them.
- Admitting you can’t defend your self means you are weak
- Real men don’t cry
- Women should be available for my pleasure
- No doesn’t always mean no and if you keep pestering she will give in
- Men need to fight with other men to show dominance
- Men don’t do housework
- Men are superior to women
- It’s OK to intimidate someone to maintain power
- I don’t value a woman’s opinion as much as a man’s
- It’s OK to shout or physically dominate someone if they don’t agree or outsmart me
- It’s weak to show emotions
- Some emotions are for women only
- Women need to please me
- The more attractive a woman is the more valuable she is
- I get more out of life because I am a man
- Groping or handling women is normal male behaviour
- What a woman wears is an advertisement for my attention
- I don’t need to step in when other men are being inappropriate
- It’s OK to call men gay for expressing feelings
Men if you need examples of what it feels like to be in common uncomfortable female situations, please see below and consider speaking to your partner about how they feel.
Public areas where women feel unsafe:
- Parking lots
- Hotel passages
- Shopping mall/club/restaurant ablution facilities
- Uber rides