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Editor’s note: This post contains words which may be considered offensive and derogatory. The author uses the terminology to discuss the use of language as a weapon.
Earlier this week on Twitter, I read a #myjobhereisdone tweet by a mother who was watching Sleeping Beauty with her young son. The boy was outraged that the prince kissed Sleeping Beauty without first asking her permission. I was elated at this tweet, partially because my son and I have had almost the same conversation (albeit about the song “Kiss the Girl” from the Little Mermaid), and partially because in order to change the nature of relationships, we must teach our young boys how to treat others, be they women or other men.
In my excitement, I made the mistake of scrolling down into the thread to read the replies. As an aside, if you want to see the worst of humanity, trolls who hide behind the anonymity of a keyboard, read the comment section, or the replies to any post. It doesn’t even matter what the original post/tweet/column/article was about, it is only a matter of time before the reply section becomes overtly political and divisive. This was the case with this tweet as well.
It took no time at all for the toxicity of masculinity to show its ugly face. Some of the responses were as follows, “Honestly I don’t see the point of even tweeting this. Just another gross feminist looking for more ways to bash men.” Another read “If that’s true (because many of these style tweets are complete lies), then you have raised a soy-boy cuck that will be too afraid of doing anything in fear of offending someone.” This last tweet confused me, so I did a bit of research on the term “soy-boy.”
According to Urban Dictionary, Soy-boy is a term used by overly masculine individuals (typically males) intended to demean men who go against the concept of hypermasculinity. It is the most modern word used to describe a male who identifies as a feminist. Although the term itself might be new, the concept certainly is not.
When I read this definition, I thought about all of the words used in my lifetime to describe this exact type of male: pansy, sissy, pussy, bitch. All of these terms attempt to portray the male in question in a more feminine role, lacking in typical male qualities. This type of rhetoric is similar to homophobic slang, insinuating that men who are homosexual are less masculine than their heterosexual counterparts. In my youth, using terms like faggot, queer, gay, homo (among others) were used to symbolize weakness; a less than.
What is it about the toxicity of masculinity that encourages this behavior? Why do men feel so inclined to fear, or rage against a man who deviates from the heteronormative ideology of how a “man” is supposed to behave? A few years ago, young men couldn’t even hug or compliment another male without ending the sentence with the ridiculous phrase “no homo.”
In my own house, we practice respect. We practice tolerance and humanity and unconditional love. We practice because these things take practice. A certain element in our country is constantly pushing back hard, these days more than ever, to reestablish the dominance of the male in society. The concept of feminism takes away the last vestige of power these men hold so dear. For centuries, men have been the dominant force in society. Women have had voting rights for less than a century.
The more we push for equality, the stronger the pushback becomes.
I applaud this mother, whose 8-year-old knows the difference between right and wrong. Is it a Disney movie about princes and princesses? Yes. Are there worse examples of toxic masculinity? Yes. Does that mean we excuse these things? Or turn a blind eye because it’s just a cartoon? Absolutely not. We use these moments, to teach our young boys how to behave, how to act, how to thrive in this society. We teach them that equality is paramount, and mutual respect is earned, not given. If more parents had these conversations, perhaps we could get past the name calling and hate.
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We must begin to understand the power of language.
Also by John Williams:
How is it that movies with scenes like this are so beloved.
A father reflects on how he wishes he had answered a tough question in his youth. Years later, his son’s answer makes him proud.
One father laments over yet another school shooting.
Photo credit: Getty Images