A recent study conducted by a very official institution showed that 100 percent of conversations between men since the beginning of time have involved discussing football, sex, biceps or penis size. It’s kind of like Godwin’s law, but for toxic masculinity. And based on the way men are raised in American culture, these results weren’t surprising.
One participant I reached out to said, “I wish I could talk about my biggest fears in life, or maybe even just about my interest in fashion, but my friends just call me gay. So I just talk about sports and hooking up with girls.”
OKAY YES THIS IS A FUCKING MADE UP STUDY, BUT WOULD IT BE THAT SURPRISING?
From mainstream movies to advertising, pop culture and more, men in western culture have been socialized to hold in emotions, demonstrate aggressive behavior, and display inappropriate acts of power. These lessons start at a young age. How many times have you heard it: “Boys don’t cry.” “Man up.”
So, should we talk about it? Or should we maybe just talk more about football?
In the last month alone we’ve seen cases against public figures such as Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Roy Moore and Kevin Spacey. We’ve seen a number of brave women come forward. Not to mention the hundreds and thousands of other stories we’re not hearing, or the ones that aren’t being given mainstream attention on news outlets. Oh, and this is nothing new (remember who we elected as president?) ― we know that sexual harassment and assault and abuses of power happen all the time, and not just in Hollywood.
It happens in the workplace. It happens on the street. It happens at parties. It happens at bars. It happens at bus stops. It happens while commuting. I’m not sure there’s a place where it doesn’t happen.
Don’t just dismiss it as “locker room talk.” It’s a much bigger issue than that.
So, men, should we talk about it?
PAUSE: Yes, obviously All Men Are Not Bad. Of-fucking-god-damn-course good men exist. And I’ve compiled a list for your convenience:
But as a whole, we need to talk.
Not being a sexual predator isn’t good enough. It’s also about verbal assault. It’s about consent. It’s about not being complicit when others around you are acting inappropriately. It’s about challenging one another to be better. Because we all can be better. I can be better.
So, men: when are we going to discuss our role in this? I don’t want to take anything away from those who this behavior is so permanently affecting, but when are we going to talk about how we need to do better? When are we going to have the tough and uncomfortable conversations? When are we going to take responsibility, instead of putting the accountability on women? When are we going to address the (toxic) elephant in the room?
I’m not here to attack masculinity — I simply want others to acknowledge that toxic masculinity does exist, and understand that we have an opportunity to shift the paradigm. But it starts with dialogue. We can redefine what it means to be a man in today’s society, because this isn’t benefiting anyone.
I’m not saying stop talking about sports. I actually enjoy talking about #sports. I’m saying, if a guy wants to talk about the game AND about his feelings AND about his day at work, fucking let him.
We need to let each other be vulnerable, and openly talk about emotions. We need to make this true starting at a young age. We need to categorically declare that aggression does not equal courage or bravery or strength. We need to turn and sprint away from the idea that power equals respect and positive influence — the idea that because you are a man you can do what you want without consequences. We need to reiterate the impact of listening instead of talking. We need to do better.
We need to put an end to toxic masculinity.