The fact that I have the thoughts that it was me and that I have no right to complain about this, shows us how rampant toxic masculinity is.
Toxic masculinity, as defined by me because there are many understandings: when gender roles, ideas, and super old belief systems are imposed on others without their consent thereby resulting in demeaning feelings; usually associated with aggression, confrontation, and a "belittling" of genders not their own.
Teaching gender roles like "boys don't cry" and "ladies need a good, strong man to care for them" is what leads (potentially) to toxic masculinity.
Please note, that I did not say (MEN) anything. I don't believe in that shit and here's why:
Lesbians engage in toxic masculinity ALL THE TIME!!
Ever heard of butch/femme? Ever wonder why I, with my spikey hair and "boys" clothes, always insist on opening the door or grabbing the check? (No? Good, because I'm keeping those - they are chivalry and not hurtful/toxic!)
Ever watched a lesbian "challenge" another at a bar over a woman's attention?
Ever seen gay men do this? (Yes, they're men, I know) But my point is, I've seen Trans women do this, cis-women, so on and so on.
Of course we have!
Toxic masculinity does not only apply to men! It is used to describe a behavior and that behavior stems from a thought somewhere along the lines of, "I am superior to you, you shall obey my wants/needs and thus, your behavior will be dictated by mine. GRR." Maybe not so vocal with the GRR part.
So, in my opinion (which I know you all are dying to hear), we need to address the larger issue of gender roles rather than making men feel shitty for something not all men do and that folks who are not men do also.
Look, do cis-straight-white men have it sooooo much easier because our systems were designed with ONLY them in mind and we are too dip-shitted to move away from hundreds year old thinking and doing things? Yup. But can we work to make things better, not outcast all our mens, and actually create a space of EQUITY even within this topic?
Step 1 is accept that we all have the potential to put toxicity out into the world. All of us!
Now, for the case that brought this to mind.
How about my case of walking down the sidewalk, wait, let me set the scene:
My dog Khaos (pictured above and super cute, right?!).
Anyway, Khaos and I are out for a walk when 2 people are walking the opposing direction on the side walk. Now, I have a dog...he is kind of big..some people are afraid and I am always SUPER respectful, kind, considerate when walking him. So, as they approach Khaos on I are to the inside of the road, too close to get out and around quick enough, so I pull him to the side and lean as to allow this person (who I am assuming was a man due to my perception of their expression); okay this fucking dude is walking down the side walk with his hands in his pockets, elbows out so much so that the woman walking with him is forced into the street. We intersect for a moment, I struggle to move my dog and lean my own body and this mother fucker does not move a muscle! Nothing! Not a nod, a hi, an I'm sorry. Completely unapologetic for taking up so much space in that moment that 2, 2!, women are forced into being unsafe and uncomfortable. He felt, or at least appeared to feel, completely justified in this behavior. He probably didn't even notice but my blood hit boil so fast!
Then, of course being me, I start to analyze why that made me so angry. I am a super, just not angry person BTW. It's such a waste of necessary energy BUT I got mad.
SO I thought about why. It went like this:
"Do I feel disrespected?
Yeah. That was rude!
So, lots of people are rude.
Why did that effect me so strongly and quickly?
You don't react that way when someone cuts you off in traffic.
Are you mad because the other woman was displaced by him too?
What are you mad at, exactly?
That he didn't move?
Are you jealous that he is so strong in taking up and holding space for himself?
Are you mad that he's allowed to?
Do you feel like you're not?
Like she's not?
Would you be feeling this way if a woman did the same thing?
What about an older woman, you love them?
No, probably not but if anyone is old you should move for them!
So, a young woman..?
Hmm. I would've moved the same, but considered myself chivalrous for doing so.
OMG. (Do you see what happened there?!)
Are you mad at yourself for not saying something?
You don't like confrontation.
Do you think you're weak because you don't like confrontation?
He's an idiot. You would've been wasting your breathe.
Oh, that wasn't very nice. Bring it back.
WHY IS THIS BOTHERING ME SO MUCH?!"
...and here we are.
I spent the next few minutes or so doing some breathing and thinking about Don Miguel Ruiz's The 4 Agreements. I kept repeating to myself:
Take nothing personally.
You are only responsible for your half.
In this case, I am responsible if I allow what happened to take my time, energy, or emotions.
Let's go back for a second to the OMG moment. The moment when I realized that, apparently, in my brain - there is a hierarchy and I am not "male" or "female" in this system. I'd like to think this is like, my internal responsibility guide order.
After diving into my brain a bit about this, I think it looks something like this (in my head, which I am working to change!- give me a break):
How does this make any kind of God damned sense, I have no clue! But I can guess where it came from.
I think like this: If a dude is around and shit goes down, he should be the one to handle shit. If there's not a dude, I got it over having a more "feminine" woman or say like, my partner (regardless of expression) handle it. Fascinating.
My mom was a very strong, very capable woman. We rarely had a dude around at all, never a stable one (really, although there were some really promising ones through the years). SO, my mom handled shit.
BUT! She was also raised in the south and had some gender roles and expectations drilled into her so we got a little bit of that. Not much and not gendered though. HERE. WE. GO. I'm getting it!
My mother raised us to be kind people, giving people, providers and protectors.
All of us.
Not just my brother.
I bet if you ask my siblings, male and female, they would say the same.
You move when you're in someone's way because that is polite and we were raised to be polite.
You help because everyone helps.
You are kind because you are a kind person, not because anyone else "earns" it.
You always depend on yourself and look out for others. (We did foster care so were very independent youngsters, taking care of other youngsters.)
OH!! Got it. Okay, cool. New awareness.
So, I'm not as bad as I thought. I just think: you bigger, stronger, more capable than me- you go right on ahead and handle the situation; if not, I got you. Whoever the YOUs are in the situation. There have been many a time that I've bailed out some boys, too. Truth.
So what I am gathering is: you were upset because you met resistance between your morals, ethics, and behavioral code and his? Because you might have been more aware of that situation than the others involved? Sooooo you're mad that you're aware and a good person? .......
I don't know what was happening for that person on that day. I don't know what his deal was. He probably did not even notice the exchange between us or the full situation.
Is that the problem? Are too little people aware?
I think so. But I also think that is their right and because I believe in what I do, I will continue to be kind and supportive to them even if I disagree with their behavior.
...And I just have to say...they might just really, truly, honestly...not know.
There's a difference and we can tell it. For those that just don't know, I believe in compassionate education.
For those that do know, but refuse to be kind, I believe in showing them the love and kindness that my Mommy taught me anyway. My behavior reflects only me, not them. And maybe it will make some small change, to see that modeled. I hope.
Side-note: Had this been a friend of mine, yes, I would have brought it up for conversation so we could all learn and grow from it (hopefully).
Moral of the Story:
I'm a believer that most people are good; many just walk around the world half asleep.
We've all been there and I am not excluded from any of this. I have been a person who once used a powerful space of mine to make another person feel small. I didn't mean to, but I did. I was asleep and I try to be more aware now.
So maybe, after Step 1 of realizing that we all have the potential to make other human beings feel very small -
we can all take a bit more care when walking down the sidewalk; through the store; in traffic; through life.