Toxic Masculinity Challenged by Men Meet Louie
Toxic Masculinity and Racism Challenged by Men
© 2017 Sherryl N Weston MA, MSW, LCSW (pending in CA)
This is the third in a series entitled, “Toxic Masculinity and Racism Challenged by Men,” an effort to give voice to the process of Progressive men who are in various stages of the developmental process of becoming a better social justice advocate and/or ally. The focus will mostly be on White men, however Men of Color and Queer men will be represented as well. I picked the White men based on my assessment of them as good racial allies and those who understand intersectionality very well. The overall intention is intended to provide a well-rounded perspective. The purpose of this series is to give human form to the suppositions about the legitimacy of certain opinion in matters of race, class and gender, and therefore see where evolution might actually occur for those of privilege.
In this chapter, we get to know a talented artistic type, with a significant role in his community. He is a Man of Color, the first in this series that will address the issues I endeavor to, in their own words, address toxic masculinity through the perspective of their diverse identities. It is important for the reader to understand that each man’s statement arrives here in their own words, without much editing. The editing that has been done is only for the purposes of spelling and the like.
SW: What year were you born/raised? Where are you from and what/who were the strongest influences on your male identity? Ethnicity
I was born in 1971 in El Paso, Texas. I would say the strongest influences on my cis-het male identity were my macho, womanizing father who was quick to anger; my macho, foul-mouthed alcoholic uncle who was a felon/ex con, my codependent mom, and my male friends at school. I'm an Indigenous ceremonial leader. I need to keep my tribal nation identity private for purposes of this endeavor.
SW: Can you identify when you began to realize what was considered “too girly” or “weak?” Give one personal example.
I think I got most of my ideas of what was "too girly" or "weak" from society at large...when I started watching a lot of TV (TV families and such). I used to watch a LOT of TV! I honestly can't think of one specific example. Speaks volumes as to how ingrained the patriarchy is.
SW: What do you think would be the best strategy for a father to influence his son to NOT follow the gender double standards and “notch on the belt/conquer, then brag” sexual games that boys & men play?
I'm raising 3 boys. I feel that parents, and our society in general, need to pay just as much attention to our boys as we do to our girls. The idea that boys will be boys, and what I consider the vilification of girls by saying that I'm lucky - and have it easy because I got all boys - needs to stop.
Also, serving as a positive example and role model, and fessing up when you screw up (accepting responsibility) goes a LONG way in truly raising boys to respect themselves and others.
SW: How comfortable are you with the way our society currently handles sexuality and expectations of cis-gender boys to men?
I think my response above answers this question. I think the [rhetorical] question really is: How comfortable are girls and women - and non-binary, LGBTQIA folks for that matter - with society's handling of sexuality expectations of boys to men??? Clearly, not very...if at all. Boys and men still feel entitled to girls' and women's bodies, and use our male privilege to dominate the spaces we're in. This, incidentally, further drives non-binary, LGBTQIA folks into the shadows, although they're doing remarkable work vis-a-vis their liberation.
SW: As the numerous accusers of sexual misconduct against male entertainment industry and political leaders come forward, how do you feel as a man? Do you feel any personal connection to what caused this environment and therefore somehow shamed? How common has such male attitude been in circles you have had experience in?
I've been both abused and abuser in this regard so it definitely touches a chord. We have a long way to go. My personal journey regarding this has a lot to do with recognizing that women abuse more than we know. 2 of my 3 abusers were women. I also know that while most folks who are abused do NOT become abusers, most who DO become abusers were abused themselves.
Knowing that I've actively contributed to rape culture and abuse is not something to be proud of. It's all made worse when guys like Matt Damon speak out of ignorance when they SHOULD shut up and listen.
Patriarchy, misogyny, and toxic masculinity exist in some of the circles I'm in. Knowing when and how to address it is the trick.
SW: If you were “the power in charge” and resources were no object, what will be the most effective action at this juncture, in terms of prevention and in holding other men accountable?
Knowing that most abusers were abused themselves, I would argue that all employees should be screened for past abuse and further helped if they show an inclination towards any type of abusive behavior. If they abuse, they should be required to attend therapy to heal and restore the individual so that the behavior in question doesn't happen again. Prison is useless in all of this. It makes abusers worse. Prisons are nothing BUT toxic masculinity.
SW: What is your personal strategy in presenting yourself as a feminist man? (Toward women and men) What are any disadvantages? How acceptable do you perceive yourself to be as an ally to women?
True feminism is about equality and equity. Hence, therefore, I hold the door open for everyone, I treat all with respect and dignity, but I also tilt the scales in the limited spaces in which I have any clout or say (offering discounts to girls/women and LGBTQIA, non-binary folks, and actively promoting their work).
SW: What specific issues do you feel the most pressure to improve on in your own self-development, relative to these questions? Where are your discomforts?
I'm working on not getting angry at other men over their shitty behavior. Meeting their toxic behavior with anger defeats the purpose. There are better ways to educate one another. Lead by example!!!
SW: What’s your personal strategy going forward?
To be open and honest with myself and to create a safe space so that anyone, man or otherwise, can feel free to express their hurt, pain, and longing for happiness...
Victims Can Become Abusers
Some of Louie’s statement about victims becoming abusers, etc. has been proven correct by a variety of research. Here are articles that provide some of the information available:
Sad Legacy Of Abuse: The Search For Remedies
Talking About Sexually Abused Boys, and the Men They Become
Female Perpetration of Violence in Heterosexual…
Statistics on Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse
The juxtaposition of my experience in investigating child abuse and sexual abuse of varied kinds, against my other work with adults who have been victims (male, female and non-binary identified individuals) provides me a way to connect cause and effect. It is much more complex than many believe. It is also supportive of Louie’s idea that not all victims become abusers.
The experience of child abuse, especially when proper therapeutic support is provided, may create a high level of compassion. I also have gleaned that this childhood experience creates the sort of self-concept or anxiety that can cause self-destructive/self-harming behavior including substance abuse, process addiction to things like porn, as well as other problems, like eating disorders. It may also severely interfere with the ability to set proper boundaries in relationships. That can either result in being a victim, or in being a perpetrator. As I said, it is a densely complex issue that does not have a single, simple solution.
Our job right now is to be realistic and honest about what has worked and what has not worked. Evidence is there. To go by political expediency, pander toward a particular religious persuasion or leave in place the shame that prevents the most effective approach to stay front-and-center may seem easier at first, but actually exacerbates the problems. That “cautious” approach has wasted millions in funding popular opinion, prevented effective programs to remain in place and has enabled, for example, the court system to be punitive instead of targeting prevention, EFFECTIVE treatment and education or allowing Medicaid and insurance companies’ protecting of profit by limiting the number of therapeutic visits, or denying payment for certain kinds of treatment.
No matter what, the truth matters. For the truth to be held up as sacrosanct, we must first take the stories out of the closet. For the stories to come out, we must be open, with arms outstretched. We must provide the soft place to land. Period. It is not “soft” on violations, though. But as Louie said, the prison system (and, I’m adding too much of our preferred physical discipline with children) are reactionary and punitive instead of educational, restorative and effective to the intended purpose.
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." - Albert Einstein