A white teenage boy shot a girl and others he disliked in Texas because she said no to his advances. Toxic masculinity taught him that men pursue women until they get what they want. Toxic masculinity taught him that men deserve the attention and sexual favors of women because women are objects to be obtained and owned. Toxic masculinity equates masculinity with power, dominance, and violence.
We can blame video games. We can blame liberals who pamper kids. We can mourn that fathers are no longer the heads of homes. But toxic masculinity is not a new problem. It is being challenged in ways it hasn’t been before.
Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual—are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away. – The Good Men Project
Society is actually expanding what it means to be a man or a woman. We are embracing the positives in masculinity AND femininity in new ways. We are challenging male and white dominance. These are all challenges to dangerous, ingrained, limited, and twisted ideas of masculinity and femininity.
When we talk about entitlement, the conversation is often focused on the poor. But toxic masculinity is the epitome of entitlement. It assumes that sex entitles one to certain privileges and rights. It diminishes anyone or anything that isn’t masculine in the “right” ways. It convinces men that they need to take back, demand, and control what is theirs through violence.
Our daughters should not fear that their lives are at stake if they say no or if they are not interested in a boy. Even if it’s for shallow reasons. Even if to say yes would be “nicer.” They don’t owe boys pretty or accommodating.
Let’s not hold up the persistent, entitled dudes of 80s movies as masculine role models to our sons. Let’s not confine masculinity or femininity to small boxes that limit sense of self and authentic self expression. Let’s stop making “gay,” “like a girl,” or femininity insults to “real” masculinity.
Yes, oh, yes, let’s figure out how to limit access to guns. Let’s increase access to and funding for mental illness. But we cannot stop there.
These violent tantrums of toxic masculinity are part of a cultural and systemic problem. They are a result of ingrained cultural misogyny, racism, sexism, and ableism. If we want to end the violence, we have to tackle these things in our homes, schools, laws, communities, media, and religious institutions.
And, perhaps most importantly, we need to call these crimes perpetuated primarily by white men and boys what they are: acts of terrorism.