19/11/18 International Men’s day – on the subject of toxic masculinity

Your masculinity is toxic…

Go on, try it for size…

Ok, perhaps have a shot at toxic femininity.

What reaction does that instil in you?

The reason I’m raising this is that I’ve seen a whole bunch of punch ups across social media today – on this, international men’s day.

We’ve had men and women reminding us that crying and showing our emotions is a good thing.

We have some men coming back – often aggressively – with claims that they – we – are being emasculated by these claims.

There then follows the usual, tit for tatting, vitriolic, polarising war that (anti) social media knows so very well.

Before I go any further, I think it’s important to declare that my allegiance is very much with the ‘it’s important we talk about stuff’ camp, especially given the fact that men in the U.K. are 3x more likely to take their own lives than women – and that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

But…have I, we, you perhaps, made it all a bit too simple?

Men don’t talk about emotional stuff – psychological pressure builds…raising the risk of suicidal ideation and acts?

The end…?

But this doesn’t seem to take account of the blue toys vs pink toys, action man, blow the shit out of stuff, boys will be boys indoctrination that I and the vast majority of other men were brought up in.

For fuck’s sake, we still have Royal Navy adverts that declare, ‘I was born in Carlisle but I was made (implication ‘into a man’)in the Royal Navy’

These are core beliefs drilled into us during our formative years.

Before you declare your immunity to this kind of shit, take some time to have a think.

I did, and I’ve got to hold my hands up to feeling a childhood excitement when the ‘The holidays are coming…’ Coca Cola adverts hit our screens, with the hope that, maybe this year I’ll see the big red lorry.

I was brought up in a world where aggression – not just anger – was rewarded with kudos…for this and more complex reasons, I fought my way through my childhood into my early 20’s.

I played a lot of sport to dilute these feelings – but they were still there..

Looking back, I’m more than happy to accept the label of ‘bellend’ er, sorry, toxically masculine – but what does that mean?

It means a handbreak turn in years of socialisation – and, more importantly, it means cognitive dissonance, which, as anyone who’s had even a dalliance with psychology knows, is the road to lunacy.

There are folk out there who’re suggesting that it’s not our inability to talk about emotional stuff, but this cognitive dissonance that leads to more suicidal thoughts and behaviours in your male of the species.

Imagine being brought up being told you had to behave one way, only to be told that was wrong?

Cognitively, I find it very easy to make the case that talking about our feelings is a good thing…emotionally though, I can still fall foul of that (toxic?) masculinity that washes over me when Ella tells me she loves my big shoulders (somehow ignoring my ample belly) and how she feels safe with me…

This is nowhere near as black and white as I’d like it to be…I appreciate there’s much about the masculinity we’ve had drilled into us in the past that’s harmful…and let’s not pretend this brainwashing is a thing of the past – type ‘masculine’ into your google device – then follow that up with ‘antonym’

I did, and I was equally surprised and disappointed to read ‘weak’, ‘timid’, ‘feminine’ and ‘effeminate’ right at the top of that list.

We don’t exist in a vacuum.

I know the, ‘Man up’ rhetoric is harmful to millions of men and women across our fine country, but we need to tread warily when we talk about toxic masculinity.

For many, their masculinity is their identity, and so, if you call their masculinity toxic then…

There’s more to this than a 280 character tweet, or a smart arse blog, can cover…if we truly want to change things we need to ask and listen. Even when we don’t like the answers…we need to listen…

I could take you back to those feelings I experienced when testosterone first coursed through my veins – but that’s enough for now…

Walk a Mile


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