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How to Train Toxic Masculinity OUT of Our Boys

Adam Fields recently published an article at The Good Men Project called, “An Open Letter to Women and Girls Everywhere.” In it, he was representing all the good men out there – the men who have never sexually assaulted a woman.

Fields talked about how he and other men like him were just as dismayed as women that a judge was confirmed to the Supreme Court after a hearing failed to hold him accountable for his past.
He talked about how vital the concept of Consent is to sexual health. He capitalized Consent to show that Consent means more than just giving permission.

Adam acknowledged how the trauma of being sexually assaulted can be compounded by living in a society that shames and disbelieves the victims of that trauma.

I deeply appreciate knowing that we women do have allies among men. I think the most important part of this open letter, however, is where Adam talks about how those male allies can best support us:
“But the biggest contribution we can make is to teach our sons, grandsons, nephews, friends, neighbors, and students what it really means to be a man and what never to do to a woman.”

Toxic Masculinity and Violence Against Women Are Linked

I agree that it is vital to re-think how we train boys to become men. Misogyny (and the violence against women that is part of this attitude) can only be truly dismantled by a mass awakening to the effects of toxic roles on all people, regardless of gender.

Just last week, the U.N. released a report showing that of the 87,000 murders of women worldwide last year, 58% — MORE THAN HALF — were a result of domestic or family abuse.

The National Organization of Women lists statistics pertaining to violence against women here in the U.S. They say, “In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.”
Women are subjected to incredible amounts of violence, sexual and otherwise, by men, often their partners. This needs to stop.

Jaclyn Friedman, writing for The Guardian, said, “We have to get a lot more deliberate if we want to transform masculinity into a healthy identity that doesn’t rely on the subjugation of women. It would be a whole lot easier if we started at the beginning, teaching boys that being strong includes being able to embrace their own vulnerable emotions and that girls aren’t teacups or trophies or aliens from Venus but fellow human beings who are pretty dang interesting.”

What Can We, As Parents, Do To Help Our Boys Become Models of Healthy Masculinity?

Model the behavior you want to see. Stop laughing at rape jokes. Stop all forms of slut-shaming (including commenting on how a woman’s clothing choices might give some indication of her willingness to have sex). Stop using phrases such as “be a man,” “man up,” “you don’t have the balls,” “don’t be a sissy,” and “you throw like a girl.”

Divvy up household chores in ways that don’t support traditional gender roles. Demonstrate that all people, regardless of gender, experience the full range of emotions, and that those emotional responses are valid, no matter what.

Talk to your children (of all genders) about how they can play with any toys they like, and wear clothes they enjoy. Let them know they can grow up to have whatever careers they work toward.

Teach your children how to handle conflict in ways that don’t require violence. Show them how to identify their emotional landscape and how to deal with upsetting emotions.

Teach them respect for people’s bodily autonomy. Don’t force your children to hug anyone, even relatives. Stop tickling them when they cry “Stop!” even if they do it with laughter; teach them that “No” and “Stop” should always be respected.

Don’t stay silent and teach your boys not to, as well. When you see a man disrespecting a woman, say something. When you hear jokes meant to demean and belittle women, say something. When toxic masculinity shows up in our politics, on the television or movie screen, or anywhere else, have a conversation with your kids about what is wrong that depiction of men and/or women and encourage an open dialogue.

There’s so much more that you can do. I encourage you to do some research on how to dismantle toxic masculinity. And have conversations with your friends, your family, your partner, and your children.

And thank you to writers like Adam Fields, and other men like him, and websites like The Good Men Project, who remind us that there are good men out there, that most men want what we want, that we are all rooting for each other.

Thank you.

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