As a society, as we confront rape culture and sexism, we are spending time discussing “toxic masculinity.” The problem that is arising from this discussion is defining toxic masculinity. What is it? How are we defining it? Are we all using the same definition? And after that, how can we address it.
I am the mother of 4 young men of color. I am raising men. I am raising black and brown men. I intend to raise men who embrace their masculinity as much as their femininity. I am not fearful of masculinity, or threatened by it. There are many positive qualities that are described as masculine. The problem arises when we allow negative, ugly, post-colonial traits to be defined as masculine.
The phrases masculine and feminine are constructs. They are created which means they can be recreated. This article is not full of answers, rather, it is full of questions. Questions that intend to help you define masculinity, both toxic and healthy, for yourself and your family. I don’t believe anyone has answers we don’t know, they’re all inside of us. Khalil Gibran once wrote “There are no answers that stir in me that do not already live in you.” Let us question.
- How do you define masculinity?
- What are the words you use to describe men? To describe masculinity? Masculinity, much like femininity, is subjective. You have to evaluate and determine how you define masculinity. What was your father like? Your uncles, brothers, what were the men who raised you like? What did you love about them? What is that brought you pain? Our relationship to masculinity is based on the experiences we’ve had. Spend time delving in to your history. Determining how you got to this space, this relationship with masculinity. What kind of man do you want to raise? What kind of men do you want your children to love?
- Where do you see toxic masculinity in your life? Where do you see healthy masculinity?
- Once you’ve spent some time thinking about masculinity, about the men you know, the experiences you’ve had. Think about the relationships you have. Your friends, your colleagues, what are you reading and listening to? What about your brother, your son, your lover? Are they reflecting toxic or healthy masculinity? Chances are it’s probably both. Do your children exhibit toxic masculinity? Where did they learn that? Are you exhibiting toxic masculinity? Are you supporting the patriarchy through your actions? The problem with toxic interactions is that they infiltrate all of us. Take a look at yourself.
- How can you remove toxic masculinity? How can you encourage healthy masculinity?
- Once you have determined where you see toxic and healthy masculinity in your life then you can make moves to remove it, encourage it, challenge it. This is the most difficult part, this is the action. While self reflection can be painful and difficult, taking action to correct behaviors can be scary. If you are in a relationship that is abusive you may have to leave it. If your father is toxic you may have to separate yourself from him. If you are still exhibiting toxic qualities that you’ve learned from the patriarchy you may have to spend your daily life checking yourself.