Saturday, July 23, 2016
Toxic Gender Roles
I read the following article on Father's Day. Dear Fathers: Let's talk to our Sons. I was glad to be spending the day with my not toxic, nor aggressive father. I figured it wasn't the time to share the link since I'm not a father and don't have children so I was making off-topic unnecessary commentary.
However, I'm still thinking about the article. In fact, it was harder to find again because of all the articles written in the past couple of weeks on how toxic masculinity contributes to mass shootings.
Maybe I'm not off topic then. It's certainly on the minds of plenty of people.
I'm white, I grew up in a protestant household, raised by educated parents who were still married to each other. I had a lot of advantages and I'm happy to recognize that. From as early as 5 years old, I started to reject stereotypical gender roles at a time when kids normally narrowly define themselves by their gender. Being a boy just seemed more adventurous, free, and dynamic. Being a girl seemed itchy, prissy, restrictive, boring, and powerless.
As an adult I became much more willing to accept and embrace female power, confidence, and my sexuality. It was this search that led me to alternative religion. Even in an environment that is seeking to re-balance gender roles and worship Gods and Goddesses, I found that I was questioned. During my initial interview to join a coven, it was mentioned that I had found Paganism through a Goddess Spirituality Group. I was aware, that there are Gods and men in this Tradition. Is that okay? Of course, I said. I love the men in my life. At the time, I found this question confusing as I was functionally heterosexual and was more comfortable around men than women. Later, when I was starting my own coven, I was told by other female leadership that if they granted me permission to start this endeavor, I was not allowed to get pregnant within the first year or two of it's founding. These two examples show how pervasive control of women's power and sexuality really is across the board.
15 years later my perspective has deepened. I have been told that I'm a man hater because I want to be independent and can take care of myself. Or because I don't enjoy performance femininity. I have had very intelligent men tell me that while I am attractive, fascinating, interesting, and dynamic, they wouldn't want to date me because I might be smarter than they are. My dad thought that particular response was comical. His response? "You snagged the interest of someone who has talents greater than yours in some areas? Score!"
I have spent countless hours learning communication styles and techniques, body language, listening skills, and mirroring. Yet, at least 3 out of 5 of my major relationships have ended with criticism, bullying, smear campaigning, and sheer cruelty because I am willing to stand up for myself to the face of aggressive and sometimes violent malignant masculinity.
Why is it that standing up for myself hurts more than cowering and being berated? Some of it may be the culture that tells me I am being a bad woman for claiming my power or holding my boundaries. Some of it is that while I have stood up for myself in such situations, it didn't change the problem or even make a dent in it. The only good I did was that I ended my acceptance of and involvement with said malignant, detrimental, toxic mistreatment.
My open book honesty is threatening. I am unwilling to shut up and put up or put out for that matter. It's much more difficult to isolate, gaslight, or victim-blame a person who won't shut up. My main goal with my outspokenness is that other people find their voice, see there is another way, and know they are not alone. Nothing is more affirming and gratifying than seeing someone gain confidence in themselves.