This article first appeared on Guerrilla Resistance and is reprinted by permission.
Yes, it is true and I’m not talking about sexual abuse. Some of the debates about feminism often lack one side of the story: men’s. Probably some people reading this will question my phrasing and be skeptical towards my provocative headline or what my motives are. If that was you, I only ask you one thing: bear with me. I’m by no means trying to say that men suffer more than women: we do not. But we are the first victims, where the whole problem starts.
When my grandmother died, my entire family cried, except for me. Everyone, except for me, let their emotions run wild in the moment. I didn’t, not because I don’t have emotions (of course I do), but because I simply do not know how to express them. I wanted to cry, I wanted to be able to let my emotions out, but I couldn’t. And the reason I couldn’t is that as a sensitive boy growing up, I was always conditioned to “man up”, “act more like a man”, “don’t cry like a girl”, because “boys don’t cry” and because “it’s silly to cry over things you can’t control”, I was told once.
My emotional numbness obviously traces backed to my very young self. As a five-year-old boy, I didn’t like playing football. I liked playing with Legos. I didn’t like to run or to play knights and swords. I liked to read books and draw. But as soon as boys go to school, they start socializing and become socialized in environments that can be a challenge to what they are taught at home. I was brought up in a stable, loving family, but due to their lack of awareness and strong religiousness, there was only so much they could do about the toxic masculinity that slowly started to shape me into a man.
As a teenager, I never liked playing football, but I pretended to. It was very easy for me to be insecure about myself as a teenager. But it was even harder when I felt I wasn’t good at being a boy: I was too soft, I wasn’t good at sports, I was shy and quiet, I didn’t have many girlfriends and didn’t know what to do to charm girls into liking me either, mostly because I didn’t like who I was.
I started feeling trapped inside myself. Having so many emotions is okay, some boys are more sensitive than others, but I was (and partly still am) conditioned to prevent myself from ever expressing them. No one wants a boy or a man to express his emotions. Because it makes them seem feminine, because it makes them look weak, because it makes them feel like they are not who they should be. They will never be like their strong friend who has three girlfriends, who is able to do thirty-five push-ups or drink 5 litres of beer in one night. I know now that none of those things makes me a man, but because of the toxic masculinity I was forced to learn from, I have momentary relapses, like an addict.
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It’s not hard to understand why statistically men are more prone to commit suicide than a woman, or why men are more likely to kill women, or abuse women, or harass women: because they never learn how to express themselves, they never learn women are equal in every possible way.
Toxic masculinity’s first casualties are boys. They never learn how to express themselves and it takes a strong mind to break free from the chains. With more emotions than they know what do with, men start drinking heavily, spiralling into self-loathing and become arrogant, abusive and sexist. It takes an extreme effort to overcome this and, in many cases, the toxic masculinity never really goes away.
The ironic part is most of my friends perceive me as a friendly, reliable, supportive friend who has got his shit together because I never cry and I almost always sound full of certainty when I speak. But inside my mind, I’m really full of doubt, full of existential self-examinations and insecurities. I still don’t know what to do with my emotions, but I’m working on it.
I don’t want to be a toxic male. I don’t want to be the man I was brought up to be. I want to be so much more and better than that. But even if I want to be who I want to be, I’m still aware of my surroundings. I know people would treat me differently if I expressed my emotions more often. I know people would make assumptions, make judgements because how the world is filled with a masculinity that is overwhelming, toxic and the root of the entire problem that sexism is. And I know I could have gotten much further in my social life and career if I had embraced toxic masculinity instead of rejecting it.
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Outside of our leftist bubble, the general population doesn’t understand that feminists aren’t out to get men, they are trying to bring down Patriarchy; we are not out to get men, we are out to get The Man. In general, men haven’t realized that the inability to express themselves is not normal, it’s a problem. Men still think it’s standard norm to shout “It’s fine, I’m fine!”, whenever they are going through an emotional breakdown. Men don’t realize they are privileged either, in spite of all the extra baggage they carry without even noticing.
A lot of the feminist agenda consists in teaching grown man how to act: how to re-think what they have done in the past and restrain themselves from doing further bad deeds in the future. But that is only a small band-aid for a much larger wound. Men were boys once. Parents need to have serious conversations with their kids. They need to encourage their kids to express themselves, talk about everything, let them fail and try again. As a society, we need to teach our children better so that they can be better men. If we are ever successful as that, toxic masculinity will hide in the deepest corners of the world. It’s not an easy fight, it will take years, maybe decades, but it is possible. It’s in our hands.
[Featured Image: A person looking into a cracked mirror. They have short hair and blue eyes. Source: pexels.com]