A Black Man's View of Toxic Masculinity: Meet Ron
© 2018 Sherryl N Weston MA, MSW, LCSW (pending in CA)
Ron offers an opportunity for us to see this complicated issue of toxic masculinity and how it interacts with different factors in a person’s background. Ron represents a growing number of U.S. citizens whose race and ethnicity come from a mixed background. A relatively new vocabulary might consider Ron “Afro-Latinx” because of the different origins of his parents in the African Diaspora. The common practice of referring to the Caribbean mix of racial heritage (“Afro Latinx”) as separate from “black” /African American has come under scrutiny in some circles. Each family has its way of referring to this. It has also been said “we’re all cousins” because we “were just dropped off at different stops.” It is another way of referring to the effect the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade has had in forming the black ethnic mix of the Western Hemisphere. It matters because of what the conquering European cultures have had on what becomes the black people who, for example, speak English, Spanish, Portuguese or French and have those influences in their dietary customs and religion. We don’t always know that much about each other, but as “mixing” continues, and the shames or preferences of each generation evolve, the perspectives on many things diversify further. One may “look” black, but what that exactly means always requires further examination.
Ron is also living with a disability. This also makes him a prime example of the concept now commonly referred to as intersectionality. For this topic, though some factors may not seem to be relevant to the issue at hand, the seriousness of the perception of any one man as a potential “threat” and the way he will be treated—plus or minus—is quite complex and deserves consideration.
SW: In what years were you born/raised? Where are you from and what/who were the strongest influences on your male identity? Ethnicity?
RB: My name is Ronald and I am hearing impaired. I was born 1976, raised in Philadelphia, PA. Although he passed when I was 13 my father was my influence, but as I grew my step-father became my male counsel. My father was mixed Puerto Rican and Black, my step-father Black.
SW: Can you identify when you began to realize what was considered “too girly” or “weak?” Give one personal example.
RB: I never taught those things just how to look after my sisters, so I played with dolls and had tea parties. I was taught that although I played those games it how I played those games that mattered. For instance, tea parties I was always her date I play educated them with how they were to be treated while out on a date. Learned from watching my Dad play. Also dolls I was always uncle Ronald. So, the notion of what was girly was pretty much absent from teaching. Besides it never crossed my mind that playing with dolls with my sisters were girly in fact I was commended plenty of times by visitors as to how I played with my sisters without compromising my masculinity.
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?
RB: There's no strategy. As I mentioned already by the way I treat his mother will show him a woman's worth. It will show him his mother is more than a notch or number by a prized possession that just keeps on giving prizes when treated right. Besides I'll tell him if you don't want nobody doing it to your sisters don't do it to nobody else's daughter.
SW: How comfortable are you with the way our society currently handles sexuality and expectations of cis-gender boys to men?
RB: Simply by the way I treat his mother and sisters or any other woman. My actions towards them shows my son the woman's worth. It shows him that his mother is my pride and joy and is seen by the way I worship the ground she walks on. It shows him his mother is more than a number or notch but a lifetime prize that just keeps on giving by him noticing him and his siblings are the biggest parts of the gifts from the prize.
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?
RB: Very uncomfortable being that I have 2 girls. Although I have no care for a person's sexual orientation, and personally know that same sex is dead wrong and not normal; my main concern is with the ones who can't handle the criticism for their "chosen" identity that remain in the closet. They tend to string innocent women along all under the guise that they look and appear gender straight. Knowingly and intentionally opening the possibilities of women becoming affected with STD's that be handed down to the children during pregnancy. Yes, I worry a lot because the sad choices in the pool of young men in my daughters' future looks very bleak.
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?
RB: Nope and cannot relate, either. My pride and dignity don't work that way I don't sell my soul for misplaced pleasure to be among the elites. It would have been checked the moment it occurred. I have no problem people sexual orientations just don't under any circumstance direct them towards me. I'm still trying to find out where the hell all these gay trans les or whatever you want to call them come from. When 2000 hit they came out the wood works. As a man I sometimes feel like a possible rape victim walking in gay communities.
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?
RB: Community revitalization done by male members of the community, as well [as] rebuilding the community (new houses, stores, markets, etc.) All built by them, it will give them a sense of pride and would want to take care of the things they built. Things of this nature requires all hands, so women boys and girls would be involved as well. Accountability, pride, and dignity will be born out of projects like this. Everybody wants better, so give them the opportunity and means to rebuild their communities they will.
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?
RB: Man and woman is balance and are allies to each other to otherwise is to ignore the balance.
SW: What’s your personal strategy going forward?
RB: I feel no pressure, but there's always room for improvement. I'm an intellectual. [I will] Continue to be an intellectual.
Ron’s perspective represents a portion of society, one in which there is fear and the diversity in sexuality and gender remain a question. However, learning, safety and fairness are still of strong value. Below are a few resources for education and consideration on these issues:
A National Family Support Group for LGBTQIA
Dissenting Religious Perspectives on Gender and Sexuality