So this is an interesting thing to talk about and then take action on. I mean, it's one of those things that some admit is a real problem while others will nonchalantly say "boys will be boys." Sure, I have a toddler boy and there are some things that he does where I'm like, what a total boy. Those things are like wanting to jump off the deck with no fear of hurting himself or maybe trying to pick up a worm in the dirt and then eat it. These things are little boy behaviors that I believe are ingrained in their crazy little minds perhaps because I ate soft cheese while I was pregnant; we'll never know. But the things that are taught and learned from a very young age are the things that make that boy a man, and what kind of man they become, emotionally and in how they act.
When you look at the Orlando shooter under a microscope, you'll see that it's not just about being a radical terrorist, actually there are far more signs of toxic masculinity than there are any ties to ISIS or Islamic terrorism. From a very early age, the Orlando gunman's violent behavior was manifesting itself already. He was disruptive in class, hit other students and defied authority. He had issues with English and though his teachers thought he was intelligent, they were having difficulty helping to control his behavior. Talking to a friend, her first thought was, that someone was failing him at home. I tend to agree. Was Omar Mateen able to express his feelings or was he told that men don't cry, men don't show their emotions? We'll never know but the way that a boy is raised, it's an important thing to make note of.
"So, to be excruciatingly clear, toxic masculinity is a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.
Toxic masculinity aspires to toughness but is, in fact, an ideology of living in fear: The fear of ever seeming soft, tender, weak, or somehow less than manly. This insecurity is perhaps the most stalwart defining feature of toxic masculinity. " - via SALON
So here's the thing, toxic masculinity isn't just "there" when a kid is born. There are reasons that, over time, a young boy grows into a man that can exhibit varying degrees of toxic masculinity. There are societal cues that they see through male role models or on television/in movies. There are things that are said to you boys "Act like a man!", "Boys don't cry" etc, can build this idea that to be tender and show your emotions is to be viewed as weak and feminine, when in actuality, to love, be tender and express yourself is an act of being human. Imagine suppressing all your feelings until they erupt into some sort of violent display? I mean, I guess that's what we're saying here right? Omar Mateen spent years building on violent, abusive behavior, showing that he was quick to anger, abused his wife and was enraged by seeing two men kiss. This didn't happen overnight. This sh!t had been boiling up for some time and was ready to blow in a big time way. Add a dash of self loathing (because it appears as though he may have actually been a closeted homosexual who had no way of being comfortable with himself), easy access to guns and a hatred of gays and you have a real recipe for disaster.
"The emotionally damaging “masculinization” of boys starts even before boyhood, in infancy. Psychologist Terry Real, in his 1998 book I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, highlights numerous studies which find that parents often unconsciously begin projecting a kind of innate “manliness”—and thus, a diminished need for comfort, protection and affection—onto baby boys as young as newborns." - via SALON
So if we're talking about toxic masculinity, we might as well talk about rape culture as well. Right before the Orlando shooting, there was a widely publicized rape case involving Brock Turner, a white, privileged athlete. He got away VERY easily with the rape of an unconscious woman. Why did he rape an unconscious woman? Why does any man feel that they have the right to "take" what isn't theirs? How often do we see women being sexually assaulted, being dominated? TOO FUCKING OFTEN. In the world we live in today, a collegiate athlete is slapped on the hand after taking away a woman's dignity; her innocence. It's no wonder that boys/men are consistently fed the message that it's OK to do what you want... there's no fucking consequence to it! What the Stanford rape victim did with her statement was to bring to light the effects of what was taken from her. A boy, whom everyone called "upstanding" was still able to destroy a woman's life with little to no change to his, that is, until the internet made sure that EVERYONE had seen his face and knew his name. It's not justice, but it's something.
So here I am, like what am I supposed to do about "toxic masculinity"? Well, for one thing, I will continue to have the conversation/s with those around me. Get people talking about the dangers of the information that our society "feeds" itself.... and feed better information into the ecosystem. And for another thing, I've got a small, mold-able boy at home. Guess what? That little guy is going to know what it is to respect EVERY person in his life. He will know about consent, he will know that he can always talk to me about how he's feeling. I will tell him it's OK to cry because we are human and have feelings. I will give him love and affection and let him know that he needs to give love and affection in return. That's how you raise a man who you can be proud of. Do you have someone impressionable that you can make an impression on? I urge you to do it. Change starts small but can have lasting effects.
Other articles you may be interested in:
The Stanford Rapist and the Orlando Shooter, two sides of the same bent coin
Many shootings are not called what they are- domestic violence.
Why are most rampage shooters men?
Toxic Masculinity is killing our men: The roots of male trauma