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Toxic Masculinity - Maybe the Worst Kind!

We constantly hear of that awful construct “Toxic Masculinity” – not a term I tend to use, but that is for another post. However, many people do use it and write about it. Please bear with me. I want to break ‘toxic masculinity’ down into 2 parts. For my lack of creativity, let’s call them Type 1 and Type 2, at the risk of being simplistic and unsophisticated.

My understanding of what I’ll call Type I toxic masculinity is a masculinity that is built on power and control over others, that is an entitled and privileged position which bestows certain self-proclaimed rights over others, especially in intimate relationships, including:

· the right to power over others

· the right to demand obedience

· the right to decide for others

· the right to deference

· the right to sexual access whenever required

· the right to punish

· the right to intimidate

· the right to control and coerce

· the right to ownership over a person

· the right to suppress women and children as second-class citizens and as inferior human beings, etc.

Statistically, this is a small but significant and dangerous percentage of the male population. The percentage of that male population may rise and fall, depending on the country, culture, creed, and context. These men form the bulk of our domestic violence abusers, the men we work with in men’s domestic violence intervention groups. Certainly, not all this bulk of men end up in men’s domestic violence intervention groups. Only a minority do. And that of course is a major problem. How they are contained, constrained, and held to account within a system that often colludes and does not provide appropriate consequences for legal non-compliance is a major part of that ongoing problem.

However, I believe there is another ‘toxic masculinity’ which is a much larger percentage of the male population – Type 2 toxic masculinity. These are the ‘pusillanimous’ (a harsh word I know) ones. I know because I was one of them, and still have to fight not to be pusillanimous. These are those who:

· lack courage to act

· are afraid to speak up

· who don’t engage

· are fearful of other men’s opinions

· don’t want to know

· exonerate themselves from any responsibility

· turn a blind eye

· can’t be bothered to be involved

· are passive and inert

· are silent and secretive

· go with the flow, instead of swimming against the tide or creating waves in the stagnant waters of the status quo.

This is a percentage of the male population who inadvertently support abuse by ignoring Type 1 behaviour and claiming neutrality. There is no neutral stance here. To be neutral is to silently condone Type 1 behaviour. Type 2 toxic masculinity hurts women and children too. Type 2 discounts, dismisses, and disavows women’s and children’s needs – maybe more subtly, but just as insidiously as Type 1 toxic masculinity. Make no mistake, our inertia, passivity, and silence are so dangerous and harmful for victim/survivors. Type 1 and Type 2 go hand in hand. Type 1 abuse their power to control, Type 2 surrender their power to do good and effect change – both sides of same coin, in my humble opinion.

There are only 2 choices – collusion or resistance. Believe me, I have some work to do. Maybe, if you reflect on this, you also have some serious work to do. Let’s get working!

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