The word ‘Feminism’ has become more familiar in recent years in Vanuatu. Many people assume that feminism means ANTI-MEN. In fact, feminism is ANTI-TOXIC MASCULINITY.
Before we explore what toxic masculinity is, let us define what feminism is.
What is Feminism?
Feminism is a social movement and ideology that fights for the political, economic and social rights for women. Feminists believe that men and women are equal, and women deserve the same rights as men in society.
While many people believe that men and women are equal, the reality is that women are treated not treated as fairly as men in Vanuatu. Vanuatu is a deeply patriarchal society – chiefs, who are men, are the leaders of their communities while men are the leaders of the parliament, the highest decision making body of the country. The male point of view is prioritized. The men are in charge of decision-making and women are not part of these spaces. This means that half the population is not represented when decisions are being made that may affect their lives.
For example, when a government is deciding how to use its budget, why isn’t sexual reproductive health a priority, especially given our high rates of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, etc? If 60% of inmates are sexual violence offenders, why isn’t there more being done to address violence against women and girls? While we may say that women and men are equal, why aren’t there more female bus drivers? Why are the majority of RSE and seasonal scheme workers men? Why is it that women are still solely responsible for household chores and childcare even in this modern age where women are also working too? When will that workload be distributed evenly and when will we recognize that housework is unpaid work that prevents many girls and women to reach their full potential because of these responsibilities? And why, when there is sporting events, are women’s teams’ cash prizes less than men, as we saw in a recent rugby event?
The feminist movement makes efforts to fight gender stereotypes and seeks to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men. Feminists do not think they are BETTER than men. They think they are EQUAL to men. Women and things associated with women have historically been given a lower place in society across the globe. Feminism is not about tearing men down and we are not asking men to LOWER themselves. Feminists are simply asking men to make room for women and that means LIFTING the feminine up and recognizing its value.
So that brings us to toxic masculinity. What is toxic masculinity?
According to the Good Men project, the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ is derived from studies that focus on violent behavior perpetrated by men, and—this is key—is designed to describe not masculinity itself, but a form of GENDERED BEHAVIOUR that results when expectations of “what it means to be a man” go wrong.
Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual—are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.
Discussing toxic masculinity is not saying men are bad or evil, and the term is NOT an assertion that men are naturally violent.
Toxic masculinity refers to harmful behaviour and attitudes commonly associated with some men, such as the need to repress emotions during stressful situations, and to act in an aggressively dominant way.
Maybe these words by social media poster Caleb Ziegeler will make it clearer for you:
Toxic Masculinity is NOT:
– Having a beer with the boys.
– Playing Sport.
– Taking the Piss.
– Enjoying traditionally masculine things.
– Having a beard.
Toxic Masculinity IS:
– Treating Women as sex objects.
– “Lad Culture” and “Locker Room Talk”.
– Resorting to violence to resolve differences.
– Using “boys will be boys” as an excuse for bad behaviour.
– Feeling like it’s not ok to talk about your emotions.
– Homophobia and fragility when males don’t display “typically masculine” traits (wearing makeup, wearing different clothes, dancing etc).
– Domestic Violence.
When we talk about toxic masculinity, we do so not to insult or to injure. If we can talk with our children as they are forming their ideas about gender, we can perhaps spare them from thinking that there is only one way to be a man—or any other gendered identity, for that matter—and give them the space to express their gender in ways that feel authentic and safe for themselves. When we talk about toxic masculinity, we are doing so out of love for the boys and men in all of our lives.
This article was originally published in the June edition of the Vanuatu Daily Post Life and Style magazine