I’ve been told many times by my wife that men suck. Her words offended me, angered, and even irritated me – how could my wife, someone married to a man, make such a sweeping declaration? This is an open letter about how I, a recovering fuckboy, came to find her words so true and how radical self-love is changing my life.
Let’s jump right into this: “Men suck.” It’s the truth and that’s ok.
Somehow on our anthropogenic journey as human beings we have literally created a system that produces shitty, violent, abusive, hyper masculine men, so blind to our privilege we have judges asking rape survivors why they couldn’t manage to keep their knees closed. I know; I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one, too. We’ve created societal constructs that have taken the most anecdotal differences between men and women, and turned those into the very definition of what it means to be a man or woman. For instance, “Might makes Right” – because men tend to be physically stronger than women, they must belong at the top of society’s food chain, but in actuality the very same variance in physical strength found between men and women can also be found amongst men. Not to mention, psychologically, we are all the same. These same constructs have also been used to oppress queer and gender nonconforming individuals.
Let’s be clear, in reality there is no authentic hierarchy, we all “just are.” But for some strange reason we’ve convinced ourselves that putting each other down, or propping ourselves above each other, is human nature. I beg to differ. What makes these claims especially dangerous, outside of how long they’ve been perpetuated, is the fact that they’re supported by both the oppressor and those that are oppressed, creating a self-reinforcing system of tyranny. And as long as we live in a patriarchal society where men have control over the narrative, women and femmes will continue to be the victims.
The tricky thing about privilege, and more specifically toxic masculinity, is that you typically don’t become aware of it until someone calls it out – and speaking from experience, this can be particularly explosive, seeing as though irrationality and a lack of introspection are prime characteristics of toxic masculinity.
It’s something I also see very clearly in my daughter, a parallel that has contributed significantly to my human revolution. My daughter was born into a comfortable life, one much more comfortable and privileged than my wife or I experienced growing up. Despite our hardest efforts, for lack of a better word, she’s kind of an asshole. There is nothing malicious behind it and she is an awesome kid, but there is a certain level of entitlement that comes with a child born into a middle class family living in the Nation’s Capital. One day she will grow up, truly become aware of her existence, and will have to decide for herself who she wants to be and what she wants to believe. For now, a lot of who she is will be based on circumstance and the opportunities we provide for her.
This is the same conundrum that most men face. You are born into a society that tells you from birth “boys don’t cry” and “don’t be soft”, a culture that demeans women at every level reducing them to objects, only needed for our pleasure. A culture steeped in competition, one in which only the strongest survive, and all other weaklings only serve as fodder for the strong. And this is further reinforced by women who have also been brainwashed into believing the very same ideologies. That they need to be as strong men, they’re overly emotional, their value lies in their appearance, or the service then can provide for a man.
One of my favorite political quotes of all time is from Donald Rumsfeld’s classic “Known Knowns” speech: “There are known knowns and there are known unknowns, but there are also unknown unknowns.” While this statement was used as political cover to evade the truth, this ridiculous statement is very accurate, and I think an addition should be made. “When unknown knowns become known, it is the individual’s responsibility to act knowingly,” words Rumsfeld should take to heart.
For me, the burden of toxic masculinity finally began to dissipate when I began loving myself radically. Loving myself for everything that I am, because that’s what makes me “Me”. On the outside I look like the prototypical “Man’s Man”. I’m tall, athletic and fit the archetype of a heteronormative cis-gender male, but on the inside, I’m an overly emotion, extremely sensitive guy, who loves sweet cocktails, Disney movies, and bright colors.
We live in a society that imposes a litany of standards and constructs on us that are not only ridiculous and out of our control, but often times simply untrue. A box that often times cuts us off from large parts of ourselves, parts that makes us who we are. We’re born into systems so widely supported and brought into by the majority of society, we automatically accept them as truths.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve talked to one of my friends about relationship problems, and before any details are even discussed I’m hearing “You know how emotional women are”. What kind of emotional void, dangerous situations are we creating if men are being conditioned to cut themselves off from their emotions, while simultaneously believing all femme beings are overly emotionally? Seems pretty disastrous to me.
Throughout my time as a fuckboy I’ve run the full gambit of self-hate, and even worse forcing that emotional burden on my partner. My wife and I have been together going on eight years. She truly is my other half, the De la to my Soul, the thinly sliced salmon to my capers. We have an awesome relationship, but there are some actual issues that we have, something that just comes with two people trying to navigate life together, but because of my toxicity I would be abusive, short, dishonest, and honestly, emotionally unstable, completely missing the actual reality of what was in front of us, or what actually needed to be worked on. Expecting her to solve all of my problems, or at least to codify me, so that I felt comfortable in the situation.
That’s the thing with being a fuckboy, and toxic masculinity, if you’re being true to yourself, it never gets you what you really want. It’s like wanting to have a fun night out, but instead of just enjoying yourself, you over do it and get shit faced drunk because you’re insecure you can’t just have a good time being in the moment. You might have had fun for a moment while extremely drunk, but next thing you know you’re in a ton of pain, and usually you’ve made a big mess along the way.
Letter Break: I’m a big sports fan, with everything going on surrounding the coming sexual assault trial of Derrick Rose I thought I’d take a moment to discuss consent. Being a former prominent member of the fuckboy community, I know the default understanding of consent for a lot of men is “as long as she doesn’t say no, I’m good”. My friends, this is not consent. Consent is making sure each sexual act is agreed upon. Here is a guide for my challenged brothers. A very simple way to change your mindset around consent, is to always make sure you’re prioritizing your partner’s sexual happiness and safety the way you would your own (Really just a good way to live life). From my experience, bad things usually happen because of sexual selfishness. Sex isn’t about “I’ it is about “We”, this mindset not only ensures a much healthier experience, but in my case, makes the sex so much better too. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
More Radical Reads: Clenched Fist: Toxic Masculinity Always Equals Violence
At the very root of toxic masculinity is fear. Fear that I’m not physically strong enough, fear that I am not in control, fear that I will be perceived as weak, fear that my dick isn’t big enough, fear that I don’t fit into this box of what society has told me it means to be a man.
I’m here to tell you “Break Free”, break free from the idea of who you are supposed to be, and relish in the beauty of who you are, because there’s no one else like you- literally. After finishing college, it took one of my best friends a few years to find a job he really thought had meaning, and this would regularly get him down. I would always tell him, there is no right or wrong way to move through life. From birth were given all of these narratives: you go to school, you get a job, you find love, and you get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. And anything else is a wasted existence. This is beyond limited, and along with the rest of Western civilization’s narratives don’t define the human experience. There is no right or wrong way to live life, no path that is more satisfactory than any other.
As a father the single biggest lesson I’ve learned, is that strength is not defined by force or power, but by discipline and compassion. As a fuckboy, I’ve not only hurt people I care about, but also myself. All in the name of entitlements and narratives I believed to be my own. According to Webster, masculinity is defined as “having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man.” So, if all men are different, then it is inherent that there is no definition for masculinity – masculinity is for you to define.
Life is beautiful, and it is extremely short, too short to not live the way you truly want to. Too short not to appreciate people for who they are rather than what we want them to be or what we are told them should be. As the Based God and Chance the Rapper so eloquently stated, “Everyone Is Beautiful”.
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[Feature Image: A photo of a brown skinned Black man wearing a white t-shirt with a lightbulb sketch on it. he is wearing a necklace around his neck and has a high top fade haircut. Source: Melissa Wang]