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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