Abuser. Misogynist. Thug. Criminal.
Welcome to the world of dysfunctional manhood.
Society’s template classifies the male identity as totally opposite to the feminine identity. Women are soft, delicate, sensitive, and caring; men are hard, aggressive, insensitive, and cruel. We are to believe – and assume – that there are no similarities between the two genders, and any attempt to compare is ludicrous, for the contrasts are distinct and easily definable – the strength and furor of a man are evident. The media and society are adept at taking random or deliberate instances of behavioral maladies and uses them to generalize men as monsters, catcalling bastards who would steal candy from a baby and his mother’s purse, if circumstances warranted it, and even if it did not. The perceived grievance is not without merit, and some who live selfishly take more than they give to the world and tarnish the ‘masculine brand’. We are aware of the men who capitalize on their physical stamina through acts that are unconscionable; however, we also recognize that this ‘toxic masculinity’ – the trending terminology used to describe men whose behavior is less than authentically gentle-men is limiting and ignores the fact that toxicity is not gender-specific.
Who are we speaking of when we think of and define masculinity? Where do we get our information? The media and society’s marginalization and rote, blasé attempts to influence the heart and soul of manhood is insufficient, lacking depth, and often succeeds at predetermining our perception and comfort with – or lack thereof with the men in or around our lives. Images and stories of men doing and living their lives in sub-standard conditions; victimizing a defenseless humanity that is too weak and too ignorant to defend against them – are rampant. Consequently, we have to recognize that there is an erratic energy; coexisting as the male utopia.
However, if we want to define ‘bad behaviors’, egregious acts of insolence we have to be fair and note that all behaviors – and people – are not created equal, and all of us are capable of offensive self-expression. Yet, in the midst of constructive and deconstructive observation, we must separate the behavior from the individual. To label, monitor, and describe a man’s behavior as toxic behavior is marginalizing, and forces men to recoil and limits their ability to be open and vulnerable with others and with themselves. We cannot continue to obliterate masculine humanity; nor refuse to acknowledge the influence of external factors that are set in place to try to dictate a man’s happiness or unhappiness through unspoken and obvious competition.
The reality is that toxic behavior is the issue, and every time we forget that, we propose that men lack the depth and emotional intelligence to live comfortably in this world, and in their souls. People act or react and utilize unsavory words, ideologies, and behaviors as an excuse to channel their discontent, need for validation, and aggression. Toxic behavior is the result of misguided perceptions of what someone has and feel that or think they cannot have – whether it is money, power, or popularity; toxic behavior is the manifestation of unresolved personal issues. Toxic behavior is the vehicle that insecure people use to either exert control or hurt others. The idiom ‘hurt people, hurt people’ is real, and the key word is people. To label an adverse action performed by a man – or men – as toxic masculinity is ambiguous and eliminates the idea that ‘bad actors’ can be anyone and can occur at any time. It is easier to generalize than to accept that each person is responsible for their destiny and that under open circumstances – perceived threats, challenges, or unrequited affections – anyone is capable of behaving inappropriately for reasons that are contrary to what society determines as ‘normal’.
Stereotyping based on gender separates and limits personal responsibility and places one person or gender against another. We need to engage and at the same time be accountable for our life and recognize the impact we have on others and to the world. No one person can endure the totality of conflict initiated by one or several unhappy individuals. The ego is strong, and our attempt to control what can – at times – be uncontrollable and selfish – can be challenging. However, let’s not make the lack of self-discipline of some be the burden that every/man/one must bear. Can we dismantle, disseminate, and dispute the toxic stereotypes that society place on manhood? It is important to push through the innuendo, lies, and deception and remember that the need for validation is strong and the depth it holds in our lives propels some to react in ways that harm others.
When we accommodate society’s divisive perception of manhood, masculinity, and ‘maleness’, we too are pigeonholed, and we miss the incredible opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the inner beauty of his personality and human existence.
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