J.D looks at toxic masculinity this week, and his personal experiences from it. It’s not pretty. So who is to inspire against this ugliness? A symbol for all men. Addiction to toxic masculinity: the cost of a drug of machismo
Captain America grew up as a weakling. Did you ever watch the movie? He’s like Gollum. From the Lord of the Rings?
Steve Rogers, ol’ Cap’s real name, uses a dustbin’s circular lid to defend himself from aggressive men trying to bully him. He stands up to them. Not very tall. But he takes their punches just the same.
(This of course, before he takes the super-soldier serum, and becomes mighty, almost as might as Thor.)
Life’s different when you’re a weakling male.
You’re last picked for the PE soccer team.
You brush it off. You’re made to stand down from your opinions under threat of violence. When you’re in High School, physical presence matters.
Does it not also in life following that?
I dated a wonderful woman while in University. But I’ll never forget when I was in a pub with her, and she was talking to a tall muscular jock. He suddenly made reference to me, skinny, medium heighted me, with his thumb.
“What the hell are you doing with him?”
I didn’t know him from Adam. So, what the heck? He judged me based on physical appearance, on stature. And evaluated it based on her beauty. He assigned values. She’s hot. I’m not. Why would she possibly be with me?
It didn’t make sense to him. And his contemptuous male toxicity smoked through his nostrils.
Male toxicity is the idea of men being a certain thing. The alpha chimp, chest-thumping and aggressive. Able to break arms with ease.
He could have broken my back easily, if he wanted to.
I knew it. He knew it. It’s why he didn’t care about disparaging me in front of my girlfriend. What would I do?
I’ve never forgotten that incident, nor how she looked down, embarrassed, unsure of what to say.
Nor I looking away, pretending not to hear anything.
But I think back on it aplenty.
I have these mad revenge fantasies.
How I call him out, and as he menacingly comes at me, I kick his knees at the side – like I was taught to in martial arts school. Break a cap. As he goes down, I leap into the air, and use all my downward momentum to smash my fist into his jaw. And as he woozily tries to recover, I punch him again and again. And again. And again. Against the floor.
His friends bound up. I kick the one closest to me in the stomach, before kneeing his head. And use momentum to hurl him into the next. I screech like a Wolverine:
“Who’s next?! You! You want some!? I got some for you! I got some for everyone!”
It’s a bit sick, really.
My Houghton House therapist says I have this deep well of anger buried in me. Not, like some men, at women who have rejected me. I’ve always understood people have their boundaries – even if I have infringed them – that always resulted in deep regret.
I’m angry and resentful at men.
Their violence, through threat, through presence, has helped define me.
I drank, heavily, because I am an addict. But did I become an addict in order to be around men? Possibly partly. (I also drank because, as my therapist will attest, I am bipolar-1, and we have a high statistical chance of addiction based on a need for self-medication. If you don’t like that view, if you believe we are inherently all addicts first cause, tough – every individual is different).
Funnily enough, I wrote about how women could be swept away in hysteria two weeks ago (this is actually an inaccuracy – I was specific as to this being a possibility, and I was clear that this was a human phenomenon, not specific to gender.).
But it’s men I fear. And women who comfort me. I have good male friends I trust more than anything. It’s the men I don’t know I fear. The toxicity we talk about now, en vogue, I believe (here I go again) is a collective issue.
Most men are, individually, good, calm, and understanding.
The toxicity develops in groups.
The culture becomes toxic if left unchallenged for too long.
We end up developing a situation where machismo may breed. Warriors all, we respect strength, and lack of emotional showing.
Women start being denigrated.
Reduced to sexual objects.
My girlfriend, such a special person, told me of her relationship with a man she loved. Not thought she loved. She really did love him. Even though he would sometimes come back drunk to her bed and rape her.
My heart broke for her. I will never stop respecting her for never letting that break her.
To this day, I love her. No, not as a requiem for a romance (maybe a bit of that, actually), but for being one of the most beautiful, strongest people I know. We remain friends long after the fact.
I think we are all victims to the toxicity.
Unless we do things differently.
Like Captain America.
He absorbed body blows with his garbage bin-lid shield.
Eventually, he gained the strength to fight back. Through the super-soldier serum.
And even then, never used more force than needed. Never made forcible moves on a woman (watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies! He has so many opportunities, but shows restraint! Hell, I feel obligated to make a move on him so he gets some!). Never wavers from his code, archaic and all. Never lets even the pushiest of people (Tony Stark in Civil War) make him do anything he isn’t comfortable with.
He stands tall.
He doesn’t exist.
It doesn’t mean, for us men, he doesn’t have to.
Sometimes, when I need him, I have him as my shield.
We men need heroes. Real heroes.
Even if they don’t exist.
We can make them exist.
If we choose to.
Captain America, I salute you.
Photo by Steven Libralon