Aldila

How I Conclude that the Existence of Toxic Masculinity is Universally Unfortunate

From a woman’s perspective. Why self-expressing are often distinguished by gender?

Man up. What a cleverly disguised way to say shut up. Shut up, or fight back, or you deserved what you got.” ~Riley Redgate,

Villagepipol.com

Let’s start with a quick story:

Years ago, in a freezing misty forest.

“Man up!.” An older teenager shouted, glancing at the rest of my teammates and then me. My thought flew back recalling, wondering what mistakes we did that could be causing an intendedly-angry-senior somehow shouted like there is no tomorrow. I am sure we deemed from the back of me and my teammates’ minds that this is just a typical format on a normal annual seniority shitshow, so we just have to go with the flow and probably could pass by showing them about solidarity and stuff, you know.

But Oh how I hope it was the one that concerned them.

It is better though, to critique our solidarity and other little relevant pieces of stuff. But the actual reason — which is a one awakening point for me towards issues like this is that they were upset about the little tiny fact that we as a team, agreed on me — the only women on this temporary team is the one leading the team going through the forest.

They kept asking with a shady tone, why the males beside me were not the ones who lead? We could only get silent. What could possibly be the answer in this situation? We knew it was intendedly pointed towards my male friends. But there is actually more meaning than that.

Maybe glints of ego walk past them a bit, and not acknowledging that the intention is not only to devaluing my male friends by hinting their lack of masculinity, but it also affects me, as a woman in how I see myself. I also as a human could not contain not to feel dysfunctional because I legit understand what they implied by that little word. It is a way to tell that my male teammates are not being ‘masculine’ enough to be the one who leads and that unintendedly giving the idea of me, being incapable to lead just because I am the only female in the group.

(a tiny fact: it is only a quick team to walk through the forest!)

The realization just came after a bit brief of thinking. Oh, it must be about gender because they don’t even know us individually. I conclude that the option of me leading males is the most disagreeable choice, because of — why female, where there are male? Ah, Here we go again.

It must be about gender. Because they don’t even know us individually.

That is just one of a bunch of scenarios I knew people encountered in life. If I giving myself a chance to crawl back into every corner of my head to find a similar story, I would make a literally whole book. I always wonder, why would the way how people deal with things other than things that are related to the biological aspects(also conditional), should be determined by gender?

If we were talking about what makes people do what they do and think what they think, there are a lot of theories to look up to. Biological aspect, anthropological aspect, political aspect, generational aspect, there are a bunch of influences that could potentially determine these things on people from time to time. But one thing to conclude, these differences are nowhere to blame and not a reason when it comes to putting a particular kind of a person into stratified boxes. What I meant is, differentiate people into a vertical grade based on something horizontal, is just violate the theories itself.

I knew that these types of situations exist since I analyzed a lot of my interactions with people back then for the past eighteen years. If I am not aware enough, I will shortly fall deep into the flow like it was just meant to be a default. This is where I realized that this issue has been normalized by the majority of society, and thus there needs a certain new point breaker to educate and also putting mindset about what it means to live in differences, in order to avoid misunderstood and the unbeneficial continuity for a particular people or even universally. I do realize that in the case of how people do what they do and think what they think, the way to differentiate and putting one in a higher stake-by ego could still happen regardless of what their gender is. But unfortunately, other than the broad aspects of humans that could possibly determine stratification, I mostly encountered a scenario of social stratification that is made to classify a lot of things based on gender, and that is the most irrelevant one through my process of life. This is what I will be focusing on right now.

A brief explanation, the system of putting men onto the first grade human and women onto the second is known as patriarchy. In conclusion, women are often excluded from the power agenda and men are the ones who hold superiority. What I have been talking about since the beginning is what possibly could happen in an environment where there is still a patriarchy mindset that determines how people see any kind of power/superiority of a person based on their gender. If we take a glance at the story, in the beginning, we could see that the way people get an odd feeling on the fact that the men aren’t being the one with superiority is a product of this system.

This system’s effect leads to my main concern here, the toxic masculinity. From the word ‘Man Up’ we could see that it is a way to pull someone’s braveness, power, and another superior thing into the surface. From a women’s perspective, I could see that the way society considering men as a person with zero vulnerability and weaknesses is just awry and could be harmful to both(+) genders. Why? besides the very first example, I encounter a lot of scenarios when men also need vulnerableness and nurture, because simple — they are human. And being obligated to be the one with power and zero weakness every time when we all are humans after all seems wrong and tiring to me. That is one example of why the occupant of power should not be determined just by gender.

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Another example. One of the traditional masculine norms other than ‘no tears’ is the dull agenda about what things that men should not wear as an expressing attitude. As a woman who loves to wear what society defines as masculine fashion, it is unfair to see men are socially restricted in expressing themselves more with society’s feminine traits. This seems like a simple issue, but letting this getting normalized isn’t just making life less fun but also could be a starting point of what dreadful effect it could give universally. Pink, skirts, nail polishes, should not belong to only one particular group. Because the way I see it, it is just fabric and colors.

Move on to the next one, I remember a lot of cases about sexual assault that men were involved in even as the perpetrator or as the victim. Toxic masculinity puts the assumption on both of that position completely wrong and often affects the way society is dealing with these cases. As we could conclude from the previous, the power of men had in this mindset is giving the idea of the normalized dominance they have. It affects how perpetrators are treated because of that and seemingly often giving an unfair result because of the normalization. It is often called rape culture.

Toxic masculinity teaches men that their identity hinges on their ability to exert dominance over women, and one common way for men to assert their dominance is through sexual assault and harassment. (Weiz, Suzannah)

When it is unfair for those cases, male victims are treated inadequately too. Because of the obligation to get rid of weaknesses and to dominate all types of things by the society, male victims are often mistreated and people tend to see them as weak, as invalid for being a victim. Society often told them to face the truth as in a way to show that men aren’t powerless and is dominating. But the truth is, regardless of what gender, people should not blame the victim in any occasion. Also when the case is done by a woman, society tends to consider it as an advantage — which is completely wrong. It puts men into a particular situation where they do not feel valid for being a victim and therefore it could give them a hard time and could also affect their mental health.

Researchers from the Men’s Project surveyed 1,000 young men between the ages of 18–30 on their attitudes toward self-sufficiency, toughness, physical attractiveness, rigid gender roles, heterosexuality and homophobia, hypersexuality, and aggression and control over women. Graphic by Emma Reith (From the Men’s Project)

Last but not least, I analyzed the fact that how diverse people are on this planet could be affected too is the most dangerous one. The way toxic masculinity places and obligate men to be somewhat rejecting and being intolerant about the different idea of the way people express things, especially for men, are often could lead those differences being perceived as below them because they don’t represent what society labels as masculine. For example, sexual orientations other than heterosexual over the years have become a critical topic, and often not only people with toxic masculinity but also society with their various resources of mindsets see this negatively. Let’s take a look at these examples of how toxic masculinity build an assumption based on sexual orientation in this quote below by Josh Willacy and Suzannah Weiz.

Over the years, the word “gay” has become a derogatory term used to belittle and negatively label men as weak. This, in turn, has led some men to perceive gay men as below them simply because they don’t represent what society labels as masculine. (Willacy, Josh. 2020)

Masculinity has been constructed in contrast with femininity, so whenever a man does something considered a woman’s role — like dating a man — he is automatically considered less of a man (Weiz, Suzannah. 2018)

One thing to note is that sexual orientation is different from gender expression. [Gender expression is how a person presents their gender to the other people — North Bay Parry SD HU]. A way to see a person’s sexual orientation based on the way they express themselves is false and based on stereotyping and prejudice ( — Interligne).

These false prejudgments are often being the root in the hatred as acts of homophobia, transphobia, (etc) people give to the community. That is inescapably dangerous remembering what negativity, animosity, and hatred could really give for the marginalized people. There is no reason to negatively label/name a person based on their background. And who or how do we as an individual express ourselves and our love, should not define how worth of a human we are.

Sophie Labelle on Twitter
Sophie Labelle on Twitter
Sophie Labelle on Twitter

Last quote to summarize from a men perspective:

“My father’s notion of being a man was also flexible. As I grew from a child of the 70s to an adult of the 90s, it grew with me. I learned that sometimes a man should back down from a fight; that real men are also feminists; and that not being seen as a ‘sissy’ is meaningless, while not being homophobic is important.” — Matthew Ryder, Depression, violence, anxiety: the problem with the phrase ‘be a man’

I remember writing an essay for my first-semester task about things related to this, and references are broadly reachable and also understandable. From this I could conclude that the access to these kinds of information could really be reached easily especially in this technological era. But the important thing is, the obligation to be neutral in the way of thinking really has a big influence in order to understand, especially for anthropologists. In order to understand people and how a mindset possibly pops up in humankind regardless of its validation of facts, a detached sense should be put to mind first.

In conclusion, I just want to state one sentence of power: No one should ever feel in danger of being who they truly are.

References:

Two scoops of homophobia (Willacy, Josh. 2020)

Suzannah, Weiss. 6 Harmful Effects Of Toxic Masculinity.

Interligne. Talking Gender and Sexual Diversity

North Bay Parry Sound District HU. Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression

Note:

Amunisi yang disiapkan adalah online course dari platform gratis, tentang Gender dan Seksualitas. Berbagai hal tercantum disini berakar dari kalimat-kalimat yang diantaranya subjektif tapi aku pikir sudah mengalami intersubjektifitas juga dari banyaknya pemikiran serupa walaupun tidak universal — yang muncul dalam otak hasil mengubek-ngubek pembicaraan manusia di daring, maupun di ruang pengalaman-pengalamanku berlokasi. Selamat membaca.

Please, do correct me if I’m wrong ☺

Aldila, September 4th 2020. Jakarta, Indonesia.

Perkara-perkara yang timbul dan ditimbulkan. Kritiklah, semoga suka.