The Pressure of Toxic Masculinity
I remember when I was young I was given a science project to do where I would build a volcano using baking soda, vinegar and papier-mâché. The concept was simple, to show how a volcano can erupt due to the constant pressure that forces the magma (baking soda) to the surface and forces it into the air. This was the only way for the volcano to become calm again and relieve itself. This elementary project was designed to teach me how science works, but now I view the project as trying to take something that can be very dangerous, and make it fun. You see, because when a volcano erupts, while it can temporarily relieve itself of that pressure, the destruction and havoc it causes the surrounding area can have long lasting ramifications.
This is similar to how men are created in this country. I say created because I believe that the genders “man” and “woman” are fabricated constructs. Men, born into blue blankets, socialized in hypocrisy and systems of power – are the volcanoes. Men, made to believe women are simply objects surrounding us, devoid of equal humanity, existing for us to control. Pressure builds up within us throughout our lives from our peers, the media and the “rules” of what it means to be a man. If we do not fit into these rules, and abide by the “guy code”, we do not fit into this construction of manhood. Moreover, if we live our lives trying to constantly fit into these rules, constant pressure continues to develop until we erupt, destroying the community around us.
With the social media boom of the #MeToo campaign, we see how the concept of toxic masculinity unfolds. We now are being forced to see all of the destruction that men have caused collectively through action, or silence. What men must do at this critical moment is NOT look for ways in which we can separate ourselves from the Harvey Weinsteins, the Bill Cosbys, and the Donald Trumps. The time is now to recognize patriarchy as the system driving these acts. We must realize that there is something planted and grown in the very fabric of our world that enables men like this to exist, and because we don’t challenge it, it makes us culpable. Most men do not want to harm women, but if we truly want to be seen as good men, then we must accept that we created patriarchy and step to the forefront to destroy it. Only then can we truly say “not all men”.
We have to be diligent in searching for the roots of this manifestation, as trees do not grow without seeds. We have to ask ourselves, who was my first teacher? Where did I learn to think that girls and women were less than? Why did I just accept that as truth? How has it HELPED me? When we are not looking within to answer these questions, we are destined to exhibit the same thinking, behaviors and actions that create and enable violence against women.
More importantly, we must understand what consent is. We are raising boys who do not know, then acting surprised when they grow into men who do not care. We cannot survive without women yet we can’t bring ourselves to be okay with having relationships where both parties can agree to be comfortable? We find it too difficult to believe them when they tell us they are hurt? Where is the logic? Therein lies the problem and men must not be afraid to address the actions of the assaulter and stop antagonizing the assaulted.
Certainly it is possible to change this narrative, this behavior. We have to focus on helping each other as men understand that we must pick up the torch, bond together in radical masculine strength, and attack the roots that feed these thoughts and behaviors. The silver lining in volcano eruptions is that the ash that is left behind can be utilized to create new plant life in vibrant abundancy. Acknowledging that we have already erupted and caused harm, we can do better by learning from our past and planting new seeds of love, hope and equality to grow new and healthy relationships with women. If we do not, we will continue to destroy ourselves, our relationships, our communities until ultimately, we destroy the earth.
Is holding on to this behavior worth it?
Schools Over Violence Program Manager, Peace Over Violence
Rashad Beal has a B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Northridge. He is currently the Schools over Violence Program Manager at Peace Over Violence. Rashad’s life purpose is to give back to the community and help people fulfill their dreams as free people. He is a husband, father of two children and currently lives in Palmdale, CA.