Oh boy was it hard getting around to writing this essay! It’s said procrastination is the plague of the perfectionist but this was something else- I literally Marie Kondo-ed my entire house before I could even look at my computer, since last time I implied a #metoo issue in an article , way before the Me Too movement, I was lambasted and even got some hate mail. It may have taken months to get around to this but in that time, I digested books and articles, trawling forums full of jilted incel men and broken women, all the while re-examining and calibrating my own heart and mind.
Let’s start from the beginning- the patriarchy . About 5000 years ago women got the raw end of the deal when hunter gatherers decided to stop constant gypsying around, set up permanent camp and divided land so every man had his own. Up until that point we were a part of a surprisingly egalitarian society, where women's rights were equal to men, yet now our very existence became taking care of the home and bearing children, as many children as possible, so they could work all that land and provide financial security. Trouble started when we reduced humanity to economics - one man claimed more fertile land than another , inequality became entrenched, and with it, a power imbalance. Amassing wealth became paramount and women, now just property, like cows, became something to be traded or used.
Lord Acton called it when he said : “Absolute power corrupts absolutely “, because hello toxic masculinity! A belief that is so deeply rooted in the world today that it operated stealthily , on the whole unquestioned and unchallenged, it’s entitlement raping and pillaging the Earth’s resources, traumatizing people, destroying nature, self-perpetuating destruction without care or conscience. Toxic masculinity is a “catch word” some say, but in all reality it is how our society still operates, and unless we become aware of what it is and how it works dear fellow humans, we are on a path to certain extinction.
So what is toxic masculinity, this term thrown around that “not all men” identify with, yet most don’t fully even understand the meaning of?
To me, it is the misuse and abuse of power to control, silence, coerce and/or take from powerless targets for own benefit ;mostly women, but by extension children and the planet and admittedly many man has been hurt by it too. Throughout history, it was solidified by white males in positions of high rank,that flaunted science to justify the superiority – even Charles Darwin tried to prove that females were inferior to men, not to mention that sometime in the Victorian era they took away the whole concept of female pleasure away from us – all of a sudden, women weren’t even capable of orgasm , it was just hysteria that their doctor had to cure and if they failed and the women remained contrary or outspoken, they could easily be diagnosed as crazy and sent to a lunatic asylum.
New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the power to vote in 1894, and the feminists of that time, the brave suffragettes faced violence, imprisonment, ridicule and shame attempting to gain the same rights for women around the world- for example Switzerland only followed suit in 1971, and Saudi Arabia not until 2015 (!). Some would think that perhaps politics don’t matter so much, but they sure do when you aren’t allowed to own property or wealth unless it’s in a man’s name.
Despite all this, here we are in 2019, men still claiming control over the female reproductive system, education and movement, women still earning less for the same work, yet spending more hours on childcare and chores, while some of our sisters still get killed “in honour” by their own fathers and brothers.
In my own private life, I have experienced this toxicity’s many flavours multiple times, from men that no one would suspect had it in them. Ranging from the seemingly innocuous examples such as arrogance, patronising, minimising, denying, and shifting blame, to harmful financial, emotional and physical abuse. I’m not the kind of girl to stick around long when this behaviour surfaces, but I know I am the lucky one to have the funds and support to get out – there are many women who wear the abuse because they don’t have options. Since this year’s Women’s March objective is domestic violence, I want to expand on the scourge this represents in our society and what it taught me from experience.
I grew up in an egalitarian family environment. Both my parents worked and looked after the home and childcare. Occasionally, they would argue, but apart from yelling mild profanities at each other, they would quickly make up and be very loving. As a result, I never saw myself subordinate to men or expected that I would be treated with anything but utmost respect and adoration. Yet, there were relationships in which wounded men would hurt me with all they had because their traumatized parataxic distortion made them into hair trigger bombs waiting to explode when challenged on their bad behaviours.
Ladies, I want to stress that there is such a thing as toxic femininity, because we are all a product of the fucked up power dynamic that is the patriarchy. I had a girlfriend recently renounce feminism saying something like : "I don't hate men! I don't want to be a feminist!" and honestly, I need to address this once and for all. Saying you don't believe in feminism is akin to a white person saying: "I don't see colour". Sure to you, it isn't important because your individual situation shields you from the problems of the wider society, but that doesn't mean that the situation doesn't exist, isn't a problem to your fellow humans and doesn't need our vigilant attention and concern - indeed my friend is in an entitled position as a well off ,white female with a supportive and wealthy family growing up in a liberal society.
Our behaviours need to be addressed too-if we are violent, opportunistic, abusive or manipulative to men, we too are toxic and a part of the problem. We must look within ourselves for behaviours that the patriarchy taught us were necessary in our dog eat dog society; the competition, backstabbing, jealousy, harmful gossip, covert sabotage, and outward harming of other women. We make up 50% of the world and we must raise our own consciousness in love so that we can change ourselves, our men, children and the greater world around us.
After all there are still women preforming female genital mutilation, slut shaming and betraying other women, women who are bias against women in the workplace, women who coddle men by excusing and explaining away their misbehaviours and covering up their misdeeds. We all must acknowledge blockages , rid ourselves of the concepts that belong in the past and move on into the new paradigm together.
However, many a man confuses a simple complaint with unfair criticism and then disregards the woman completely, making her into his enemy by feeling she is an abusive viper out to hurt him when all she is doing is trying to teach him how to love her and the world better. And that to me is at the root of toxic masculinity, this entitled belief that as a man you are above correction, above learning, above allowing yourself to be vulnerable and at fault. This is where every toxic action starts from, for action comes from emotion, feeling comes from thought and thinking is influenced by our core beliefs. If a man’s core belief is essentially misogynistic, ingrained as such by his childhood conditioning and reinforced by his peers, he will have faulty thinking that will allow him to feel slighted and wronged when he is told his behaviour isn't good enough, so he will follow up this misguided victimhood with abusive actions that only cause to inflict violence on his environment.
As Derrick Jaxn, a self proclaimed African American “Love Ambassador” ( and feminist ) said recently: “We (men) don’t call it love unless it’s one of two extremes- if it’s not the extreme of being coddled or having a harmful behaviour enabled, the extreme of toxic masculinity in the form of you’re not allowed to feel, you need to man up, you’re not allowed to go through pain, or cry, if it’s not one of those two extremes, we don’t call it love and we fight it. (...)Or even worse, whenever her love comes in the form of calling us to a higher standard than we are currently meeting, to walk in our royalty as the kings we claim to be, then we tell her she is trying to belittle us , trying to emasculate us, she doesn’t respect us, she is trying to tear us down, all she brings us is negativity and that all comes from a misunderstanding of what love really is. When the truth is; love does sometimes come in the form of correction and accountability, but it’s like- if you get coddled for so long, any accountability feels like an attack, therefore we get defensive and we cannot take from that message of accountability what we need to move forward”
Or as Alain De Botton said: “There is a damaging idea that to make any criticism of another human being in love is a sign you don't love them anymore. Love gives us a ringside seat on somebody else's flaws. You will spot things that need to be mentioned.The romantic view is to say 'If you loved me, you wouldn't criticise me'. Actually, true love is often trying to teach someone how to be the best version of themselves."
All of us have fears and beliefs about the world stemming from our childhood conditioning that make us somewhat cognitively dissonant to the reality in front of us and some of us have traumas that completely blind us to reality unless we dutifully work on ourselves to develop mindfulness to question whether our inherited beliefs are true or beneficial. We are all assholes and angels, not just one or the other for our world is made up of duality, it’s not either black or white, therefore the amount of growth we are capable of correlates to just how much assholishness we are prepared to acknowledge in ourselves so we can explore, learn and actively work on improving daily and in perpetuity. If all we have is defensiveness in the face of complaint and a refusal to change, all we are doing is passing the poison chalice along to future generations. The world is changing and we must evolve with it.
In patriarchy, men were responsible for two things: protection and providing, yet in today’s world neither of these are as crucial to women as they used to be. So while women had to worry about appearance, conduct, domestic care and developing themselves as all around catches to be attractive to suitors for centuries , men have woken up in the 21st century to find that simply being a man with a pay check is no longer enough to guarantee sex or marriage. Overwhelmed by their sudden inadequacy, some first develop shame and then violent rage at women and society. Researcher Brené Brown has identified that when people don't recognise their shame and the expectations and messages that trigger shame, we put up shame screens, a defence mechanism that tries to stop our amygdala from going into flight, fight or freeze mechanisms. We then unconsciously do one of three things:
-move against shame by trying to aggressively gain control or power over others
-move away from shame by withdrawing, hiding, keeping secrets or staying silent
-move towards shame by seeking approval and belonging
Simply put, shame separates, isolates and makes us feel bad about ourselves. Yet, instead of examining feelings and why they have arisen , some men cling to old reactive mechanisms of blame, defensiveness and anger and what is worse, try to impart their rage on the world as their birthright when they feel slighted, traumatising their loved ones for lifetimes. I'm sorry but as any mother will tell you, toddlers will also try to lash out when they feel bad, not having the emotional maturity to cope with the intensity of their feelings. Behaving like a tantruming toddler is weakness, not strength, it is fragile masculinity in the extreme. You are only powerful when you are brave enough to instil vulnerability and empathy into your default reactions and admit to your shortcomings.
The Gillette commercial may have been a marketing ploy for the new generation, but it is also a sign of the times that someone capitalised on first. Patriarchy is dying- it is no longer cool to grab a woman's ass, tell her you'll give her a job if she has dinner with you, refuse to recycle, not change your baby's nappies, deride gay people, build a business with a destructive huge toxic footprint or otherwise act like you couldn't give a damn if the world burnt, just as long you were having a grand old party feeling good about yourself. I find it funny that there is a campaign to boycott Gillette now , because this is a perfect metaphor for what women deal with when they need to tiptoe around some men's egos. No where does this commercial say that all masculinity is bad, it very specifically identifies that some aspects aren't ok and should be left firmly in the past yet it has caused indignant outrage and a pervasive feeling that a company is unfairly targeting masculinity and shaming men into feeling bad about themselves. Why is it so hard to accept that a child shouldn't be bullied and women should be treated as humans?
Because the patriarchy stamp approved a particularly cold and/or aggressive rearing of boys , a lot of men never received validation that it is ok to be soft, or break or cry, let alone seek professional help, and the built up resentment simmers into anger and solidifies into depression they are too scared to even admit to themselves, let alone show to the world. Mix this inability to open up and share with the righteousness of entitlement and numbing coping mechanisms of drugs and alcohol and you have a breeding ground for mental health issues and violence.
Our world is in dire need of men who will be proud to be called feminists, who lovingly embrace the feminine and protect it. This is the beauty of masculinity that we have long forgotten. Masculinity never thrived in patriarchy, it mutated into a monster. True masculinity is a man's ability to keep his heart open and his emotions tempered while he guides the world in vulnerability, wisdom and truth allowing to be taught as much as he teaches. It's an ability to dispose of the ego, improve, acknowledge and heal by accepting own faults and guiding fellow men.
Toxic masculinity is killing the planet, and causing an epidemic of femicide, while our politicians ignore the statistics, display rampant sexism in parliament , instead choosing to divide the country on traditionally poll winning issues of refugees and migration.
When does it stop? It stops when we unite and fight together, it stops when we decide on what it means to be a real human being and start being real heroes. We all may be victims of patriarchy but it is now time to go beyond simply being survivors into waking up to our full potential as conscious co-creators. We need you men, we need you to rise in awareness and in love so together we can heal the wounds of centuries past. We are the ones we have been waiting for.
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