It seems the popular thing to do these days it to jump on a blog and bash men. Toxic Masculinity is the term I’ve heard thrown about the walls of popular blogs and social media. Personally, I always thought toxic masculinity was something that had befallen my father. A combination of absent parenting and little childhood boundaries led him to making up his own rules. As far as I’m aware he didn’t have a good grounding or someone to teach him right from wrong. I expect he lacked the nurture, grounding, and good boundaries every healthy kid should have when growing up.
I had an exchange with someone on twitter a few days ago and it was put forward to me that all men participate in toxic masculinity whether they are aware of it or not.
Have I been part of this?
Yes, perhaps in my late teenager years and early twenties. I was heavily involved in drugs, and alcohol and socialised in unhealthy groups of people around about that era. So you could say I was part of a stem of masculinity that is harmful — this was my father’s legacy to me, a toxic male, as it was his dad’s before him.
I don’t believe that masculinity in itself is toxic though. For one thing that would mean every woman would feed into this paradigm too, because our spaces between each other are very small, and there’s very, very little chance that one cannot be influenced by the other. Actions have consequences. Occasionally those actions, however small, can snowball into terrible consequences. If what this man said was true, and that masculinity was indeed toxic, then women would have to exist on an island on their own to play no part in it.
I have also met incredibly empowering men in my life. Men that have picked me up when I have been at the lowest point in my life and just sat there with me, men that have mentored me and have went that extra mile so I could achieve what I wanted to, and men that have been incredibly generous with me. I am proud to call most of these people my friends. A lot of the masculinity I missed from my absentee father I have drawn from these men.
I had a manager once, it was when I was beginning my career, before I changed direction and I was wanting to climb up the ladder in the civil service — I remember him coming to my desk, putting his arm around me in a fatherly way and saying to me,
“Raymond, if you want to succeed you’re going to have to broaden your horizons.”
Of course I didn’t know what this meant (I SO wish we had internet back then), to me he was just being a nice man making conversation, but actually as I sit here writing this now a lot of what he told me back then rings true today. Funny how these snippets of life advice stick, right?
Anyway, there’s a lot of contention and negativity within some of the male circles I’m in, particularly on the topic of Feminism. I mean I get it, it’s popular to bash men and they are feeling attacked. I am feeling attacked at times. There is also a stark hypocrisy within some of the articles I’ve read that ask for realistic goals but act unrealistic themselves. An example would be, “Men should talk about their feelings, and open up” but when we do we are chided as fragile, or toxic, or that we are the problem. You can’t have one without the other. In essence men can’t open up without people getting their feelings hurt. I give space to my wife. It often hurts what she has to say but this is what I give up in the name of growth. My feelings getting hurt.
I often wonder if this whole situation is to do with the lack of self-reflection and personal awareness on both sides? I know for a fact that if I scold someone then the reaction I get back wont be a positive one. I know that as soon as I judge, blame, accuse, or look down upon someone they are no longer listening to me. They have switched off as soon as I have approached them, or they have read the first line of my article. One must talk to another with respect and treat them as your equal for real listening to start.
I’m not judging of course. The last job I did was working with people at the grass roots of society and that requires a particular set of skills. Something not everyone can do, listening without judgement is incredibly hard and takes a long time to master. Most people I have met are reactive and don’t generally think about how their actions impact on others. I do a lot of work with cause and effect. I think before I speak, and I always wonder what effect whatever I say will have on my intended audience.
My last manager used to say to me,
“before you speak, think about how you would feel if you are receiving your own words.”
It’s something I had to embed into my mind like a paradigm from childhood. It’s something I do today without even thinking and I get frustrated as to why people don’t do the same. I often wonder if it’s because they don’t care, or are unaware. I’m not sure. I speak of all sides of the spectrum here, from far left to far right. Of course I don’t always conduct myself in a friendly and open manner. There are people that I don’t like, and rather than engage in useless arguments I just stop talking and get on with some work — productivity and family are the key areas in my life. And the key to success. Hashing it out with someone is a waste of time. I always say,
“Why argue with someone that isn’t listening when I can do more productive things with my time?”
And that’s the crux of it. Why waste countless hours of your time being in a negative state when you could drop it, and do something fun!