Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, and Roy Moore (of Alabama) all walk into a bar….
Is there a proper end to this joke? Would Harvey Weinstein be behind the bar jerking off? Would Anthony Weiner be sitting in a booth posting photos of himself before he heads off to prison?
Why are all of these stories of toxic masculinity coming out in the media now? Why are all of these men so damaged? Or are all men in our culture damaged?
Are All Men Damaged?
Perhaps our society has been traumatized for too long by this toxic masculinity; maybe women are tired of being abused, tired of being traumatized. Women are banding together, finding a voice, creating a community, climbing up on a platform--maybe we finally feel supported enough that we are speaking up.
We have been living in a top down system in this country where even the leader of the free world is admittedly abusive to women. Trump has grabbed women without consent, calling them “Fat. Pig. Dog. Slob. Disgusting animals.” These are just some of the names that Donald Trump has called women.
Men are pressured to conform, to stay silent in order to:
· to keep their jobs,
· to align with the popular beliefs,
· because they are confused themselves over what is right and what is wrong.
But their silence makes it appear that they are then supporting the perpetrators. They are agreeing with their behavior, approving of it by their silence. Without speaking up against the actions of these men for their abuse of women, they display an inherent continued acceptance of the behavior.
Lena Dunham wrote recently in the New York Times,
“The use of power to possess and silence women is as likely to occur in a fast-food restaurant as it is on a movie set, and Hollywood has yet another chance to make a noisy statement about what we should and should not condone as a society. A liberal-leaning industry, we have been quick to condemn Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and, yes, the president. We do not accept sexual abuse as “locker room talk.” So why the deafening silence, particularly from the industry’s men, when one of our own is outed as having a nasty taste for humiliating and traumatizing women?”
But our society has created these men. We have given birth to them. We have to wake up and see this truth. These men have all had mothers and fathers. They were raised in this country, they were educated here, they were married, they have played sports, gone to college, been hired for jobs, all here in the good old “United” States of A. We have taught these men to play these roles, taught them how to treat women. They were not born thinking that it was okay to pin a woman into a corner and pull out their junk. They learned this from somewhere.
What Is Toxic Masculinity & Where Does It Come From?
The toxic roles traditionally viewed as male in this society are harmful and create trauma, not just for the women that are abused but for the men that take on these roles, as well. 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 common theme in parenting that has been passed on through generations as a way to survive, to repress fear, to cover up vulnerability. War was the foundation of our civilization and male warriors cannot afford to “feel” or have empathy.
We send a message to men that they shouldn’t feel normal human emotions, the range of which includes sadness, vulnerability and grief.
These messages are harmful, not helpful.
The repression of an integrated self that includes vulnerability, feelings, and empathy can create depression, undue stress, and can ruin relationships. Taking on toxic masculine roles leads to a deep sense of shame. Shame can destroy integrity. Integrity is sorely missing today in our society.
It is the one thing lacking in politics, in Hollywood, in our banking system, in 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.
The Sacred Feminine is Pissed
When did men learn it was acceptable to drug a woman to have sex with her? Perhaps this idea is so deeply entrenched in our psyches we don’t recognize it as pathological. We have romanticized non-consensual sex since the days when our mothers read us fairy tales in bed.
Perhaps it began when the Prince kissed a sleeping Beauty and she woke up oh-so-grateful to have a handsome man who wasn’t a short guy that lived with other men?
Lots of positive traits men learn are not harmful unless taken out of context. Male sexuality and the desire to protect, serve, ravish--all of these are roles that may be well served in relationships
But the toxic parts of masculinity in our culture have taken over. They have over compensated, and now we are out of balance. We could use a lot more sacred feminine. The feminine roles include receptivity, intuition, kindness, nurturing, listening, creativity, and wisdom.
Sleeping Beauty has awakened and she is not happy. She is speaking up. The sacred feminine is pissed off.
Toxic Masculinity & Integrity
Toxic masculinity can be found in the unspoken code of behavior among men in any large group these days. In cultural contexts where the roles of men have become self-destructive or destructive and harmful to others, many times it is the result of toxic competition, fear, or violence. These groups include prisons, gangs, sports teams, churches, fraternities, political structures, corporations, and now, Hollywood.
So how do men live in integrity 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.”
Harvey Weinstein hired private security officers to meet with the women who accused him to try suppress their allegations and collect information to use against them. One of these agencies was Black Cube, The New Yorker reported, was “run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies.”
Blaming the victim is weak, cowardly, and only makes you look bad.
Number Three: Silence is violence
If you know that your colleagues are perpetrators and you don’t say anything, you aren’t just avoiding blame, you are colluding with the problem.
The Wrong Way to Apologize
Kevin Spacey's apology to Rent actor Anthony Rapp for his sexual interactions, reportedly unwanted and unwelcome, has inspired lots of reaction from the Hollywood community, on social media and beyond.
Kevin Spacey tried to apologize. He tried to be honest. He was criticized for using the moment to “come out,” which he may have consciously or unconsciously been using as a way to deflect from the more important conversation. It may have been a way to manipulate the media, something our President uses as a trick quite often.
There is a right way and a wrong way to apologize. Over the course of the past two 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.
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 & Raising Men 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, I want to encourage you all to walk into a bar.
Sit down. Tell your story.
It is time for all us to wake up from our collective unconsciousness. And to teach men new roles.
I have a son. He is 21 years old. I feel the pressure 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 raise a man.
Let’s all pledge to do a better job.