I’ll start with a quick caveat: I’m going to generalize.
I’m going to generalize men, I’m going to generalize women and I’m bound to be pretty heteronormative as I can only speak from a perspective based on my own black, cis, heterosexual, male experiences and observations. So let’s all just go ahead and institute the “If it don’t apply, let it fly” rule on this one and y’all get out of your anecdotal, contrary ass feelings – I can see the phantom “Not All Men” hashtags floating across my screen as I type – Fuck off!
Fellas, I think it’s time to have a long overdue discussion on masculinity… and how it has us kicking ourselves in the balls on a regular basis.
Now, I know we fuckin’ hate it – no one ever *wants* to think of themselves as being on the side of the oppressor, least of all, me – but, let’s talk about male privilege for a quick sec and nip the idea that it doesn’t exist right the fuck in the bud. Because we revel in it everyday. We walk streets alone at night without a shred of concern for our personal safety. We talk shit about how long it takes women to get ready as if there’s an unrealistic standard of beauty WE are expected to adhere to every time we enter a social or professional setting. We talk right over women and we impose our opinion on women’s issues that have fuck all to do with us. Shit y’all, we do male privilege 9 different ways from the time we step out of bed in the morning to the time we finish our first cup of coffee – so, fuck off sayin’ it’s not a thing.
Women don’t experience much social privilege but they have managed to build themselves a micro-system of emotional privilege. Now, I’ll explain what I mean by that later so don’t go fuckin’ Google-ing “emotional privilege” because it isn’t actually a thing.
What is a thing is “toxic masculinity” and that’s what I’m here to discuss today.
Here are 5 ways men are failed by their own masculinity.
1. We Can Only Enjoy Certain Shit
We all have guilty pleasures, right?
Well, not exactly. In all honesty, I can’t remember ever knowing a woman who was even low-key embarrassed about enjoying any damn thing. If you ask most women what their guilty pleasures are – Oh, they’ll give you answers – they’ll give you very non hesitant answers with an air of confidence and, dare I even say, glee in their voices and expressions that could lead one to believe they didn’t actually feel guilty at all about their Moby catalog or their indelible Barry Manilow obsession. A woman can have 19 post grad degrees in Astro-Physics-Anthro-Political-Scientology-At-Law and shit – but still ramble on insuppressibly about Real Housewives of Ratchitty-Ratchetsville without feeling a single, solitary sliver of shame.
When you walk in on your man watching TV, and he looks up and frantically turns the channel – you’re thinking, what? He’s watching porn, right?
And it’s absolutely possible that’s exactly what he was doing. But…
the fact is…
it’s just as likely he was right smack dab in the middle of his favorite scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you just walked in and fucked his whole LIFE!..
But that’s not on you. It’s on us.
A guy will come up with more excuses than Bill Cosby’s defense team when he turns on the ignition in his car full of his boys, forgetting his stereo is cranked up to 38 and tuned in to his Avril Lavigne Pandora station.
It’s funny in a sitcom-ish sort of way, but we really need to stop puttin’ up that front.
Nigga, rock that Mylie Cyrus if that’s your jam, yo!
2. We Don’t Get To Be Sensitive… Like Ever
“Stop being a little bitch!”
Five devastating words that work like links in a chain, forever shackling us to a façade. This one sentence will have you in fights you were neither interested in starting, nor do you have the hand-eye coordination to finish. Those 5 words will beat every instinct or inclination you have to share the depths of your heart in a machismo-clad room right the fuck out of you. Your voice bet’ not crack an inch – Your eyes bet’ not well up save for the death of a loved one – and you are allowed to be anywhere in this world you want to be, except for in… yo… wittle… feewings.
There’s much more, but I’ll save it…
3. We’re Too Superficial For our Own Good
I have a friend. Let’s call him “Skip” (as in, Ima”Skip” on calling my peoples out by name).
Skip was dating a beautiful woman who wasn’t so beautiful by western mainstream, largely Eurocentric, Hollywood induced, Video Vixen, fuck boy from Fuck Boy-landia standards.
She was cute, but she wasn’t Jet: Beauty of the Week cute – or Afro Punk: Afro of the Day cute (Afro Punk can ack all progressive and afrocentric all they want… they still only spotlight classically [Read: Eurocentric] pretty people on their social media outlets #YeaISaidIt).
She was charming, funny, reasonably intelligent, knowledgeable in a worldly sense and, overall, pretty chill… there were about 13 different things that made his girlfriend interesting, sexy and free…
But she wasn’t Hollywood pretty.
There wasn’t anything particularly unattractive about her, she just didn’t poses the features and aesthetics necessary to be anyone’s universal idea of eye/arm candy.
And that’s the problem. Dudes don’t just want a companion, they want an accessory. Don’t get me wrong, pretty much everyone wants to be with someone they’re physically attracted to, but by and large, women don’t prioritize it the way men do.
I once listened to a man argue that fine women date ugly men because ugly men have to be more confident than most and fine women typically get hurt by a lot of men and lose more and more self esteem as they “run through these niggas” in relationships. So and ugly man catches a fine woman by meeting her while he’s at the height of his confidence and she’s at the low of hers.
BULL FUCKING SHIT!!! Am-I-right? (Seriously , am I?… Ladies?… Yes/No?)
I just think women learn earlier in life than we do, that “classically” good looks are nice and fun for a while, but they ain’t shit in the grand scheme of a relationship.
But Skip didn’t think his girlfriend was pretty enough and he was afraid of what the boys might say. He didn’t have any moral qualms with PDA that I knew of (and she damn sure didn’t), but he’d stay curiously modest in that regard around his male peers. He’d give the room a quick canvas to see who’s looking before sneaking that peck on the lips in. He spoke to her, mostly, in the same tone and slang he’d speak to the boys in… Which isn’t a problem in and of itself, if that’s your relationship… but he did it in a way that was meant to lead us – his boys – to get the sense that he didn’t take her all that seriously. He didn’t realize it at the time… but that shit was transparent as fuck. And she picked up on it – because, she’s not stupid. Women are NOT stupid! Women are intuitive as fuck.
And so, she left his ass.
Not only did she leave his ass…
but, she left… his… ass… and had herself a new boo not two weeks later.
And Skip was salt-TAAYYYY!
Yo, my dude was salty with a side of bacon. You could see it in his eyes, clear as day, whenever her name would come up. Ahh man, he couldn’t stand it.
According to her, he had all her inboxes full. He had her email, voice mail, her DM’s, PM’s, IM’s, allllllll that shit on LOCK!
He was closet happy with a woman he’d formed a friendship and bond with and he ended up heartbroken through his own idiocy and insecurity. This is the shit we do to ourselves.
4. Our Hearts Break Too
Skip’s scenario isn’t always the way and reason things end. Sometimes relationships/dating situations end through no fault of either party or equal fault of both. Sometimes it’s just an energy alignment differential that simply can’t be overcome. But it all, for the most part, hurts the same.
When I’m broke, I know what to do – I borrow from someone who gives a shit or I do some heavy brainstorming and figure myself out new revenue stream.
When my car breaks down, I know what to do – I call roadside and later either fix it or pay someone else to (it’s uh… It’s usually the latter).
I lose my job, I look for a new one. I break my arm, I take a shit load of pain killers and wait for it to heal.
But what does a man do with a broken heart?
Do I go to my boys and interrupt the Kobe vs. Lebron vs. Jordan vs. Mike Vic vs. Meek Mill vs. Drake vs. bad bitches vs. fart jokes vs. pseudo philosophical bullshit conversation – so I can talk about the pain and frustration I feel being alone in my 30s and continuously being hurt by the women I trust? How do you see that playing out, exactly?
Your average guy just doesn’t have the same support system, available our feminine counterparts typically have. Women know how to squad the fuck up when one of the girls is going through a thing that requires a sympathetic ear or shoulder to cry on… Seriously, as cliché and overall soft as that sounds, and as much as we like to mock and think them weak for it, women really have the right idea when it comes to living their emotions out loud.
In a “man’s world” – and this is especially true for black men – we’re trained from the time we are boys to brave an unforgiving and unsympathetic society. We’re taught to fight bullies, protect our siblings (especially our sisters), watch out for cops and try to stay the fuck out of jail. We’re taught about sex but not about intimacy. We’re taught to treat women with respect (uh.. yeah, about that..), but we never learn jack shit growing up about the complexities of emotional availability and vulnerability. We’re given a “take care of your woman” narrative when we receive the little adult male advice and quasi wisdom we do get pertaining to relationships, but we’re never really taught to view women as partners or as free-spirit individuals who live there own existences outside of romance and the care taker/nurturer paradigm. So we never expect that THEY may be the one’s to break OUR hearts. But, they do… Boy oh fucking boy, they do.
And when they do, we don’t have the first fucking clue what to do with ourselves… so we either bottle it up or we lash out. We become vindictive and trifling and we take it out on the entire female species and become every bit as much the “bitter bitches” we accuse them of being.
Every stand-up comedian from Dave Chappelle to Seinfeld to Chris Rock has a routine about how simple the needs of men are in comparison to our girlfriends and wives, but in truth, we’re just as moody, needy and emotionally complicated as women are – it’s just that part of us isn’t nurtured and we’re never really given the sense that it’s ok to let it show… It’s just not expected of us.
Meanwhile, women live and fight in the same harsh world we do (even more so since… well… patriarchy), but they’ve carved themselves out a safe space where they can take care of their ever-struggling love lives and emotional selves in as healthy a way as possible. They have a village of friends, sisters, mother’s, grandmothers, aunt’s and general female peers to assure them everything will be ok and talk them out of doing the stupid shit their hearts are trying so persistently to steer them into – like leaving novel size text messages on an ex-lover’s phone, or showing up at folks jobs and houses uninvited and drunk, or proposing marriage to the person you were just dumped by… or breaking shit.
Even now, I try to imagine a bunch of secure, masculine men hugged up in a living room, tissue in hand, supporting and guiding each other through waning romances and lost or unrequited loves and shit…
Even now, I try to imagine this and my inner Dude-Bro is shouting at me “Nah folk, that’s ‘gay’ af!”
The unlearning is so real, it’s hard to know where to start with it.
Some guys are probably thinking “Well, shit, I’ll just go to my female friends and associates to coddle these wittle feeeeeewings of mine!”
Well, maybe… If she’s loves you.
But for the most part, women will always be far more sympathetic to each other’s pain than they are to ours. They know the ins and outs of their gender and what it is for them trying to survive out here. So don’t go trying to boo-hoo on some random female associate’s shoulder. Because unless she’s connected to you through blood, intimacy or very close friendship…
She. Wont. Give. A. Fuck!!!
She may entertain your weepy ass shit for a short time, but after a while she’ll be looking at you like you trying to get some free therapy out this bih, and you needs to come up off that session money if you wish to continue.
Speaking of which…
5. We Don’t Know How To Take Care Of Our Mental Health For Shit
For much of my adult life, I’ve been in and out of what might have very well been sited as clinical depression had I ever bothered to get myself checked out and diagnosed. I was 30-something when I’d finally had enough and decided to seek help but, of course, I had no idea where to start. So I took to social media and posted a status asking for mental health recommendations for “a friend”. The responses I got were mostly positive and helpful, but there were a handful of douche-canoe responses like “Just smoke some weed, nigga” or “It’s called pussy and beer, brother.. pussy and beer!” and, of course, lest I forget, “Stop being a little biiiiiiiitch!!”
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which gender those who offered those little tidbits were. Meanwhile, men of adult age are dying by suicide at 3 and a half times the rate of women and the vast majority of studies in the last century have drug and alcohol addiction at nearly double for men.
But “therapy is for the weak”, says the male ego, and so we suffer accordingly… as do those closest to us.
To Conclude (A Lot)
You know, in 2016, a lot of women know they can embrace their more masculine qualities without losing what makes them women. They can fuck all they want, cuss all they want, enjoy sports, smoke weed, throw hands and tell you to “Stop being a little beeeeeeyotch!!” with the quickness. But they don’t fall into the same trap of toxicity that we do… Why? Because they know how to code switch. That’s right – the same way black folks can speak “Job Interview” in professional settings and “Blackitty-Black-Black” in the confines of our homes, a woman can cuss and make crude jokes one minute, and engage in sententious dialog about love language and intimacy the next. We need to take a page from that book. We can be the man’s man without staying in the way of our own betterment behind macho bullshit. And we’ll be better and more well adjusted for it… and we need that shit y’all…
Because right now men are beating, stabbing and shooting women just for spurning their advances. And we’re doing all manner of mental gymnastics trying to mansplain how shit like that can be avoided if women learn to be polite, smile and take a compliment instead of teaching men how to take rejection and leave a woman the fuck alone when she clearly doesn’t want to be bothered with our greasy asses. We’re blaming rape on alcohol and promiscuity instead of… well… rapists.
From catcalling to domestic violence, men (and I’m pointing an elbow at black men, if I’m being honest) will always fall all over themselves to find some convoluted “devils advocate” ass argument to point out what the woman could do/have done differently and the bullshit diatribe always seems to boil down to “a man’s going to be a man”.
Listen, I’m no expert. I’m still learning to recognize, unlearn and call out chauvinism and misogyny that has been ingrained in all of our cultures since the beginning of recorded time. And I fall short everyday. It’s like finally coming into true adulthood only to discover a whole new journey of growth to be embarked on… It’s a bitch, but a necessary bitch. It’s necessary to make this world a safe and equal opportunity place for women and it’s necessary to aid men like myself who still struggle with living as our authentic selves.
We have to do the work y’all. We have to do better.