XIV - Much Better - Toxic Masculinity - Privilege - I Melt With You
– Toxic Masculinity – Privilege – I Melt With You
Friends Ron, Jonathan, Richard and Tim, have
known each other since college. They reunite in Big Sur to
celebrate Tim's 44th birthday. Each of them enjoy some degree of professional
success but are unfulfilled with their lives. Ron is a stockbroker, but is
currently facing indictment from the SEC for embezzlement. Jonathan runs a medical practice, but
all of his patients are wealthy drug addicts, he and his wife are divorced, and
their young son identifies more with the stepfather. Richard is a published
author, but has only written one book and now teaches high school English. Tim,
openly bisexual, was in a happy relationship with a man, until accidentally
causing a fatal car crash five years ago that took the lives of his boyfriend
and his sister.
Drugs, drugs and more drugs and plenty of
alcohol – unite the men – along with memories of their youthful
indiscretions. Sexism and elitism –
shines among these self-centered men.
They speak of how they’ve made poor choices, yet strangely it is so
unfair that they face accountability for some of their actions.
One man has fleeced many clients of their
money, but he is so, so proud that he’s never been unfaithful to his wife. Another has had sex with many women, but he
doesn’t want to settle down with any one woman.
What does it mean to be male – as 2023 is
about to begin? What does it mean to be
cis-gendered and upper-middle class?
What does it mean to be white?
An important part of all of this for me –
is my relationships, both with the mostly younger men who have some significant
things in common with me, as well as the ties that I build with others –
locally and beyond – who have much different life experiences!
As one who no longer drinks alcohol, nor
consumes the mighty 420; who has never been an aficionado of tobacco, and is
mildly lactose intolerant, I’m pinned in and out of some corners.
I can see that I’m far, far from “better”
than others. I recognize that
significant addictions, and/or seeking bonding and connection through
them, usually seems suspect.
The four men in the movie are best of
friends, but what does that mean? While
they speak with admiration of each other, and take potshots, they don’t probe
deeply into their respective souls.
Part of significantly caring about others is to ask questions –
substantive questions, helping all of us to grow.
moderately privileged man has benefits that unfortunately commonly trap men
like me! We can walk and even run into
many different spaces, without facing resistance, or questioning. We can minimize and ignore the
pushback. Much of the time we can
easily avoid thinking about both the impacts of our actions on others, as well
as their feelings.
we can show that we are relevant, and that we care. What do we need to do – to seem
“good” to others?
We need to work
and make a decent living. We need to
be present at meaningful events in the lives of our partners, children, parents,
and close friends. We need to show
respect for others, avoiding unnecessary conflicts, not being a bully, not
being threatening. Our “goodness”
is often shown most by our absence of
having visible weaknesses, and not rocking the boat.
In their heads,
these men tried to be “good”. They stretched boundaries. They strayed in ways that interfered with
their well-being. Their downfalls
resulted significantly from these types of things.
Growing up we
are often taught many horrible lessons!
We learn to do, not to be. We learn to be independent, and through that emotionally
alone. Our worlds can be very
competitive, where we fear losing. Even
when we seemingly are successful, there is always a “step” above us, a further
challenge to pursue. Thrills, foolish
risks, and pushing boundaries to show a supposed lack of fear, are sometimes
necessary to show our buddies we are manly.
If we are an
athlete, we need to standout as an individual, being the top batter, pitcher,
shooter, runner or whatever. Our
individual statistics define our identity.
Teamwork often is less important.
successful is very important! Our
girlfriends need to have the perfect curves and thinness. When we are gay, our boyfriends, or the man
we are with in the moment, needs to be young and cute, or buff, or visibly
supporting our youthfulness.
There are other
paths we can take in our lives! We can
be on a path towards comfortable and meaningful masculinity, rather than
toxicity. We can work on our childhood
traumas, recognizing the importance of our personal growth. We can embrace becoming the men we respect
deeply with other men is important, regardless of our sexuality. Listening and really hearing others is
important. Sharing in caring ways is
important. As we grow positively, we
can explore more deeply the worlds beyond our immediate reality.
How do many
women find community in ways that differ from what we are used to? How is it that they emotionally caretake for
their friends, families, co-workers, and more?
We can choose to
dig deeply into our emotional journeys!
I am white, upper-middle class, cis-het, Jewish, autistic, and
autistic, I also had insecure bonding issues with my parents, which further
isolated me emotionally. My family
valued and embraced being “different” – which in a few ways was incredibly
wonderful. I learned to be anti-racist,
and to care about the rights of others.
I learned to think for myself, and not feel pushed to agree with others.
I also learned
that life was nearly only learning and intellect; totally being in my
head. My emotional journey was stunted,
particularly diverting me from working on important personal issues.
In my late 60’s,
I finally started to learn to love, and care for myself. This allowed me to begin to love and care
for others, and to connect much more deeply with their journeys in life. This has helped me avoid serious recurrences
of depression, which had ruled over much of my life previously.
Doing mutual aid
work – significantly different from “charity” – has helped me blend my personal
life with my political – activist core.
I can see the importance of using my personal work, in building my journey
beyond – my immediate self.
justice is a core concern of mine! My
direct, personal ties to abortion and some of the other major parts of
reproductive justice is limited. I see
how reproductive justice gets at the importance of (for example) Black, female,
queer identified, working class women, and their issues.
I know virtually
nothing of a world where teenage girls might not go to school, because they can’t
afford disposable and/or reusable menstrual products. Part of my self-education is learning about
these types of issues.
One trap, I am
seriously trying to avoid! It is easy
to isolate myself in seeing “one answer” to the issues that I face. I can say, for example, that “the personal
work is the important thing”. I could
also (instead) say: “the political work
is the critical thing”, when the intersection of both of them is most important!
I can also say
that “racism” or “sexism” or “the patriarchy” – are where ALL my focus must
be. While perhaps, depending upon how
it is defined, “the patriarchy” may encompass much of this, climate change isn’t
directly related to the patriarchy. I
can and do try to support the work of others on climate change, while focusing
most directly on anti-racism and reproductive justice work with white men.
We can do a lot
more towards building a socially and economically just world! I find meaning in this work. I hope to reach others and work with them supporting
the efforts that so many others are already doing! Thanks!