I am part of a problem; a problem that I know I can’t truly understand because of my privileged position. I am a white, cis male in a western ‘civilization’ that has been dominated by the patriarchy and toxic masculinity for so long that it screeches whenever it is called out slightly; and God forbid there is any real challenge to its system. It’s really uncomfortable — but I am ok with that.
First of all, what is hate? Cambridge Dictionary says it is “to dislike someone or something very much” while Merriam-Webster more harshly defines it as “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury” and “extreme dislike or disgust”. So actually looking at myself I can see that maybe this does apply to me as well.
Honestly, perhaps because I am not purely heteronormative — perhaps not Bi, but definitely heteroflexible(basically love the feminine spirit where ever it shows itself) — I have been embarrassed to call myself male for a lot of my life. I hate football and lad culture, I hate shallowness in relationships and value emotions — even the difficult ones. I hope for and desire to give intense realness, and a gentle kindness; a willingness to dive into the depths is not frightening to me.
One of the messages I was given by society was that those things are wrong in a male, though I also got the message that anger is wrong (a subject for another day), that only certain behaviours make one masculine. So much of my life I have had mainly women for friends and worked in caring industries with fewer chances of being with “Macho” types. Still, even then there are toxic assumptions built into the mechanics of the whole thing. Experienced women believing they are less than a man with a university piece of paper, passive-aggressiveness against a woman, even women dragging each other down or commenting on others look. It’s the normality of all these things that are depressing and that I do have an ‘intense hostility to!
I never understood that I was living in a bubble, even if my own traumas had let me see it. It is no excuse but as an Irish protestant, I remember the message “Keep your head down”, “Don’t be seen”, “Don’t make a fuss” (https://jisasr.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/keeping-their-heads-down-shame-and-pride-in-the-stories-of-protestants-in-the-irish-republic-pdf1.pdf), so when those “uncomfortable” moments of seeing sexism, even if I felt that it was deeply wrong, I didn’t call it out. For this, I am deeply sorry. I am determined it won’t happen again. Many times it happens so quickly and unexpectedly, especially from a certain type of older man, that you think “Did they really say that?”, “Aren’t they embarrassed?”, “Was that hug mutual, or put up with?”. I must become more aware that they are acting from a place that is deeply wrong and dehumanising. I must become aware that I ‘dislike it extremely’ and not be ashamed to call it out.
Having said all that I do have a few good male friends, who are kind souls not the “Macho” type and are fairly well able to talk about emotions and feelings. I hope we would hold each other accountable when we step out of line, however, it feels embarrassing to me when the “Not All Men” argument is raised generally. In many ways, it feels like, yes actually “All Men”, have – if not been aggressors — then have been complicit in benefitting from the prevailing narrative and society. Are we actively challenging it, when it would hurt, perhaps, how we are seen — particularly with an older family member? Are we actively teaching our children when, for example, something like the ‘Karen’ meme is a trend, or women are actively reduced in agency in popular entertainment (or portrayed as being bossy in leadership)? Do we even want to have the conversation, or do we shut it down?
I do have an instinctive disgust for ‘men’ and all that means. Not a self-preservation “I am not like them”, or an overdramatic “I loathe myself”, but a soul level “This is wrong and I am part of the problem”. This toxic version of masculinity has pervaded everything and must end. This is the beginning of the conversation.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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