“White male privilege” and “toxic masculinity” are terms that seem to be brought up now more than ever. Many men I know take offense to these terms. I don’t because I believe it’s true now and has been true for a very long time.
I have received opportunities in this world that other minorities (females, LGBTQ, race, religion, etc.) have not. Does this mean my life has been all roses, or I haven’t had struggles, or that I have not worked hard in my life? Of course not – but I believe I’ve been given an inherent advantage over most because God/universe made me straight and white.
I give talks to groups of men on occasion and state that if you turn on the news and see whatever event they happened to be covering that it’s most likely a result toxic masculinity. I receive quite a bit of pushback from some men challenging me, asking if I can rename this as “toxic behavior” instead. No I can’t.
I believe our collective male egos (including mine) are so fragile that we don’t even want to settle into the discomfort of the idea of having something in our society be called “toxic masculinity” or “white male privilege.” I encourage any man who does take offense to this term to look inward and see why this is so triggering. Can you find examples in your life where an experience had nothing to do with “toxic masculinity” or “white male privilege?” I’m sure you can. But most non-white straight males can come up with many more than we can. This is about equality and things aren’t close to equal right now.
So is this about shaming ourselves? Of course not. But it is about awareness, and the only way to have this awareness is to be honest and talk to other non-white/straight males and ask them about their experiences. Why don’t we as men do more of this? It’s because we have less to gain. We are already in a position of power and although we have daughters and sisters and have come through a woman when we showed up in this world, we will never know their experience of navigating through this world.
But if we’re going to make any progress we have to play a more active role, and sadly I once again see the women taking charge. I went to a Families Belong Together rally in Downers Grove yesterday. Guess who dominated the attendance? It was the women. I certainly didn’t have it on my calendar. My wife did and she invited me to go and I gladly went.
So if you are a man and any of this resonates with you, I offer two resources to put thoughts into action. One is a tongue-in-cheek satire of what it’s like to be a woman offered by Saturday Night Live. It’s called “Welcome To Hell.” Every woman that I have shown this to always responds the same way. “Yup that’s about right.” The other is a blog I found that is a list of 100 Easy Ways to Make Women’s Lives More Bearable.
For now, I am going to at least join hands with my wife doing what I can to make this world a better place. Hopefully someday soon I’ll find myself taking the lead and asking her to join me because it’s too much to ask the minorities to do this by themselves. They feel less safe, I don’t. We can get further faster if we, as white straight men, take the lead on the injustices in this world.
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