Category: Life | Comments Off on TM III, STFU

I’m going to try to keep this one brief.

I’ve no doubt that some who have read my last two think-pieces on toxic masculinity rolled their eyes as they did so. I imagine some rolling their eyes were women, because I am certain I miss the mark at times on this issue, simply because my life experience is so different from that of women.

I also know that I’ve been an asshole myself at times in my dealings with women throughout my life. I regret that, and it was never my intention, but intentions are meaningless when someone is hurt, offended, or made uncomfortable by something we say or do. My own issues, insecurities, and frustrations with the opposite sex were ever an excuse, never absolving me of my responsibility.

I don’t know all the ways that we as men can specifically address the problems of toxic masculinity, sexual harassment, and a culture that perpetuates aggression against women, but I know that being silent or shrugging it off as just the way of the world is not the answer. We need to shut the fuck up sometimes and listen, truly listen, to what women are saying about this stuff. The knee-jerk reaction of some guys saying “not all men…” not only misses the point, it is telling women to be quiet, adding to the problem.

And all this “everybody in the public eye gets harassed online, deal with it” horseshit needs to be shoved up the nose of those spewing such nonsense. Conflating criticism with harassment is dangerous; blaming a victim of harassment for not being tough enough to “deal”, particularly when one doesn’t know them personally, is just kicking them when their down, joining in with the harassers and attackers and then shifting blame onto the attacked, like “she was asking for it.”

I could use an analogy of violence here, but I want to use an anecdote from when I was 11 years old and I joined an already-in-progress game of soccer where a kid’s sack lunch was the ball. My buddy Rene and I walked onto the outdoor basketball court next to the school gym before first bell, and 6 other boys were kicking around some kid’s lunch. I had no idea whose lunch it was, and in my eagerness to be one-of-the-guys when asked to join in, I pushed aside any thoughts of who was being hurt by the fun.

Just as I kicked the lunch toward Rene, trying to get the mashed up brown paper bag through the makeshift goalposts of his legs, the owner of the lunch walked around the corner. Rene caught the lunch between his knees, further mashing up the contents, then let it drop as the other kid walked toward us. Dejected, expressionless, our classmate picked up his sack lunch, looked inside, folded it closed, and walked away without a word to any of us.

Fifteen minutes later, during role-call in gym class, he returned and handed the gym teacher a note and sat down. Rene and I had a one-way ticket to the principal’s office. When the principal asked, “Did you two destroy that boy’s lunch?,” my first thought was “No, it was destroyed before we touched it.” This was true, but even 11-year-old Rusty and his new friend Rene knew that this was no kind of excuse for what we’d done. We both said “Yes” and took our punishments.

Okay, maybe that’s not the best analogy here, but I do think it kind of makes my point. “I didn’t start it” or “women are mean to women too” or “everybody does it” or “it’s never going to go away” will never be valid arguments against taking action to curb the shitty behavior of men against women.

Men, let’s resist the urge to get defensive; I don’t care if you’ve been the perfect angel in your interactions with women your entire life. Shut the fuck up, and listen. Then let’s ask how we can help fix this shit.

I’m going to shut up for now.



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