How to Be a Man
We are living in a culture rampant with toxic masculinity.
But this is not a surprise. The sexually offensive and abusive treatment of women in our country is not getting worse, it is just getting uncovered.
Women are finding their voice, beginning to speak out. Finding courage in our collective strength, enough to speak up.
Al Franken, Senator and former SNL comedian, is now the latest (for today) politician being accused of sexual misconduct toward a woman. He has admitted to his behavior and is calling for an Ethics Investigation against himself.
Where do young men turn in our culture for role models? We live in a top down system where even the President is admittedly abusive to women. Trump has grabbed women without consent, calling them “Fat. Pig. Dog. Slob. Disgusting animals.”
What Is Toxic Masculinity & Where Does It Come From?
The toxic roles traditionally viewed as male in this society are harmful and lack integrity. The worst and most tragic of these toxic roles include:
· Misogyny (the prejudice against or contempt of women)
· Homophobia (negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality)
· Violence (intentional use of physical force or threat of force)
The root of this toxic masculinity comes from a much deeper problem. These roles are founded on overt self-reliance and an encouragement to stifle their emotions. “Big boys don’t cry” is a theme passed on to repress fear, to cover up vulnerability.
It also has the negative and dangerous side effect of repressing the ability to “feel” or have empathy.
When we send a message to men that they shouldn’t feel normal human emotions, the range of which includes sadness, vulnerability and grief, it is not surprising that they can objectify women, touching them, grabbing them, masturbating on them, and worse.
The repression of integrity and empathy can create stress, depression, and confusion around one’s own identity as a man. Taking on toxic masculine roles can leads to a deep sense of shame. No one wants to be the guy who has to drug a woman to have sex, or who bullies a teenager in a mall. Gross.
The shame that comes from these behaviors either creates denial, in order to continue to feel good about one’s self as a man, or a deep sense of remorse, that may actually be valuable in moving us all toward change.
Right now, integrity is sorely lacking in politics, in Hollywood, in the traditional toxic roles of men.
Shame and toxic masculinity can define a person’s life, and as a result, lead to substance abuse and a pathological relationship to relationships with women and to sexuality.
Other traditionally masculine traits that are not toxic are a devotion to work, a commitment to family and a desire to provide for children, the desire to father and protect offspring, a pride in excelling at sports or accomplishing tasks.
Also, being sexual is not a negative trait. Having erotic desires and fantasies is not toxic,.as long as one does not act out on these desires without consent.
Lots of positive traditionally male traits are not harmful unless taken out of context. Male sexuality and the desire to protect, serve, ravish — all of these are roles can be positive in relationships
Dangerous, despicable male behaviors toward women are being uncovered. So what does this mean about being a man in a time of toxic masculinity?
Number One: Admit fault if you are accused.
Louis CK spoke out about the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him recently. In a statement, the comedian said:
“These stories are true…..at the time I said to myself that which I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”
Number Two: Don’t blame others
Harvey “[Weinstein’s] response [to allegations against him for abuse] was infuriating,” Oliver said. “Because he and his attorneys admitted he needs help while also denying the charges and threatening to sue the [New York] Times.”
Blaming the victim is weak, cowardly, and only makes you look bad.
Number Three: Silence is violence
If you know that your friends, colleagues or other men are sexually offending or sexual perpetrators and you don’t say anything, you aren’t just avoiding blame, you are colluding with the problem.
Number Four: Stick to the Facts
Kevin Spacey tried to apologize. Instead he used the moment to “come out,” which he may have consciously or unconsciously done to deflect from the more important conversation. It may have been a way to manipulate the media, something our President does on Twitter.
Number Five: Apologize
There is a right way and a wrong way to apologize. Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve seen several high-profile examples of men trying to respond to accusations of toxic masculine behaviors; nonconsensual sex, violence against women (and men), even rape. Does it matter how you apologize for these things? Yes. It matters if you take the blame, say you are sorry, and promise to change. It doesn’t take away what you did. But its still important.
Number Six: Get some Help
One way to maintain integrity in a world gone mad with ‘alternative facts’ is to stop trying to spin the story to make yourself look good. Denial, deflection and blame will only make you look guilty. If you did the things people are accusing you of, don’t use your platform to try to silence the allegations against you. Admit what you did and get some help.
Being a Man is Challenging
It isn’t easy to be a man right now. I get it. But, seriously, it is still harder to be a woman. For the 82 women who said Weinstein abused them, for the 51 women who accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing them, for the nearly 1 in 5 women in the US who report sexual assault, and for all the women who have been silenced — Tell your story.
It is time for all us to teach men that these behaviors will not be tolerated.
I have a son. He is 21 years old. I know it is my responsibility to teach him to respect women, to cry if he needs to, to find empathy for those who are not like him.
And to come out if he ever has to use the hashtag #metoo.
It is a big responsibility to be a man.