With You

June 14, 2017 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Today I’d like to talk about toxic masculinity. If you’re not familiar, toxic masculinity is a term that describes a whole range of what Wikipedia describes as “socially destructive behavior[s] among men”. In general, toxic masculinity is the idea that the way that we conceptualize masculinity in the U.S. is problematic at best.  It’s harmful to the men who perpetuate these ideas, the women who are treated as less than, and society as a whole.

Stu and I wrote a song about it!

For as long as I can remember, being called a girl was an insult, or at least teasing. Feminine qualities were not desirable, this much was clear. Unfortunately for me, at least as it relates to this conception, is that for as long as I can remember I have had plenty of stereotypical feminine qualities. When I was younger I did my best to suppress things like feeling emotional, crying, and any nurturing instincts I might have. I built walls. When I cried after we lost in the first round of Washington’s football state playoffs my senior year of high school, it was the first time I could remember crying since another kid broke my glasses in third grade. I’m sure I must have teared up at points in the interim, but going nearly a decade without a significant cry doesn’t seem healthy. I did my best to bottle up my emotional side.

I’m so thankful that one thing I did hang on to was my participation in the arts. Theatre is all about tearing down our walls. One of the reasons I wasn’t a better actor was probably because I didn’t do the real work of identifying where my trouble spots were. However, it gave me a line into and contact with people who were putting in the work of self-realization. Music has also helped keep me grounded in a more emotionally inclusive space, because it’s hard not to get emotional when you’re singing – or at least, it’s not hard for me. I’ve always been a person who feels things strongly and deeply. I’ve been fortunate to have things that have connected me to my emotions, even when I pushed back against my feelings.

Over the last several years I came to realize that not crying was the manifestation of some part of me buying into these toxic masculine notions – that crying was somehow a revelation of weakness. That notion is, of course, a bunch of bullshit. So I started practicing crying. At first, nothing happened. I would feel emotional, but I literally could not cry. I would be alone watching a movie, something sad or heartfelt would happen, tears would form behind my eyes, but nothing. It’s like when your sphincter clenches involuntarily. So I would practice letting go. Not holding it all in. Breathing into my emotions, into my feelings, into not hanging on my feelings but letting them come up naturally. Now I cry at everything, and I still kind of get embarrassed! When I say everything, I kind of mean it. I teared up during this trailer for Ferdinand the Bull. I mean, come on, he just wants to be himself. *sniff*

This is a mild example, but these things run deep. Toxic masculinity is correlated with increased rates of depression, stress, and substance abuse. It perpetuates misogyny and homophobia. It says that men have to be one way, when the reality is that men can be anything they want to be. We don’t have to trap ourselves in boxes and expectations.

This brings me to With You. It’s about the lack of intimate relationships that men often have with other men. It’s difficult to be close with someone if you can’t ever reveal your emotions. We have to work to be better, every day, to talk with our friends. Tell them we love them. Not pass on these kinds of toxic worldviews to our children. We have a long way to go, but I know where I can start.

 

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To Be Human

June 9, 2017 at 9:30 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Hi world! It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything, as is often the case. To be more clear, it’s been a minute since I’ve written anything for this blog – there’s been a LOT of writing elsewhere in my life, and it’s the reason I’m going to be graduating with my master’s degree in a week! Anyway.

I saw a tweet the other day that I’ve been sitting with. For those of who you who don’t want to open the thread there, the gist is that there’s a lot of popularity to be gained by nihilism and saying the world’s about to end when it really isn’t. Is awful stuff going to happen/happening? Definitely. Are we living in the most peaceful period in human history? Yeah. Making vague, nihilistic sentiments ignores the fact that there is a lot of work – hard work – to be done. The road ahead is long, filled with triumphs and setbacks, both for us individually, our country (if you’re from the US), and the world. So I’ve been thinking about that for the last couple days.

Then I watched both the Comey testimony and Wonder Woman on the same day.

If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman, this post may contain light spoilers. I’m going to mainly focus on general themes, but read at your own risk. If you haven’t watched the Comey testimony, I highly recommend you do so now, or at your earliest convenience. Both are excellent, in their own ways.

My take on the Comey hearing was that despite various ideologies and goals, a bipartisan group of senators was working towards the truth. Sarah and I turned it on, expecting to probably fast forward a bunch or stop watching and move to the highlights.  We did neither – it was compelling political theater and showed (to me) that our system of checks and balances, as clunky as they may be, is functioning. I was impressed and moved by Comey’s testimony, and I am convinced even further that Donald Trump is unfit to be our chief executive. Others may disagree, but I’m not sure how you can watch that testimony and not feel that something is deeply rotten in the White House right now. Trump is a terrible human, and he’s brought that with him to the Oval Office.

Wonder Woman, on the other hand, moved me to tears on several occasions (something that has been discussed at length by those more eloquent than I), and struck the main chord that leads to my writing today. Something that I hold very close, and which never fails to move me, is the idea of redemption. The idea that humanity holds infinite light – what Buddhists might call “Buddha nature” within each of us, is compelling to me. We always have a choice. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before (OK, this is obviously wrong – your actions and choices are important, but hear me out), you always have the choice to do something different. We are constrained by the choices we’ve made in the past, but, as Stephen Schwartz writes so eloquently in the musical Children of Eden: “Our hands can choose to drop the knife…our hearts can choose to stop the hating.” We can be better. Better, if only we work towards the common good of humanity. Better, if we choose to seek it within ourselves every day. I am compelled by the idea of free will and redemption because it says to me that each of us can aspire to something a little higher than we can see right now.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that everything in our lives is our own choice. Our lives are shaped by various systems – many of which are toxic. Patriarchy, systemic racism and white supremacy, over-consumption, and other structures are pervasive. I do not believe, however, that these structures are stronger than we are. I firmly believe, in the core of my being, that we each have the ability to do what is right. People need education, of course, and there are people who have hate in their hearts, but we can appeal to our better angels. We can discover for ourselves that each human on this earth has dignity and worth. We can hold these ideals to be true, and then we can make the choice to work towards making those ideals our reality. We each do it in our own way. Sometimes our acts of kindness and joy are small. I look to a life of service because I enjoy the public sector, I like the messiness and minutia of policy work. Other people will be called to serve as teachers, firefighters, police, baristas, corporate workers, or dentists. We each do things our own way. We can choose, though, in ways big and small, to make the differences we feel we can make.

The world is a big messy place. Our country sometimes feels like it’s ripping up at the seams. The world is not ending, though. Especially for us millenials – life is just beginning. We can all take steps to build the world we want to live in. It’s hard work. It’s work that will find us losing before we win. It’s also the most important work we can do – letting the radiant light within us shine forth and set an example that we will not give up. We’re capable of more.

 

 

 

To Be Human. 

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