TOXIC MASCULINITY &
THE LOOMING DANGER
OF SOCIAL MEDIA
TOXIC MASCULINITY IN THE
Typically this editorial note is where I introduce our publication’s theme and describe the process The kNOw’s reporters took to get to it. But, as usual, the reporters can say it better than I ever could. Below, Enrique Little explains what toxic masculinity is and why it’s so important to the youth of Fresno and the rest of the world. Here I have just one note to add: Toxic masculinity is dangerous to all genders. While most of the articles contained in this issue focus on the typical gender binary, it’s important to note that it is just as impactful - if not more so- on those who exist outside of the gender binary. Their stories could fill an entire publication of their own, and I hope that the articles you read here inspire you to seek them out and continue to unlearn the harmful mindsets that toxic masculinity has taught us all.
Kody Stoebig Program Manager & Editor
What is Toxic Masculinity? To some, the titular phrase will leave people scratching their heads. However, toxic masculinity is not too complicated. Toxic masculinity is the idea of men imposing the stereotypical role that comes with their gender, either amongst themselves or other genders. This is very ingrained in cultures all around the world. In American culture, many popular euphemisms such as: “real men say or do…” or “it takes balls to…” or calling more effeminate, less “macho” men “girls” or other more vulgar names serve as evidence to how deeply rooted toxic masculinity really is. While toxic masculinity is an easy issue to comprehend, it is remarkably difficult to combat. Many men, myself included, often have trouble drawing the line between politeness and chauvinism. It’s hard to unlearn what society has taught us. Men who aren’t taught to respect women often see them as objects or inferior, which is a huge part of toxic masculinity. However, sometimes men who are taught to respect women, myself included, are often taught that this respect is shown by helping and caring for women. The problem is that this can often become paternal. In 2018 we know that women are capable of the same things as men and I know that they don’t need men’s help. It is time to build a new way of being caring to each other. The stories in this issue help to give us answers on how to unlearn toxic masculinity and embrace a better way to be human. Answers that are most necessary in 2018.
Enrique Little Reporter The kNOw Youth Media 2911 Tulare Street Fresno, CA 93721 thekNOwfresno.org
THE KNOW (WOMEN)
Editorial Support Johnsen Del Rosario
Translation Paulina Rojas
Program Manager & Editor Kody Stoebig Program Associate & Reporter Miguel Bibanco Layout & Design Danyeal Escobar Cover Art Ruben Diaz
YouthWire Statewide Manager Alhelí Cuenca YouthWire Executive Director Tim Haydock YouthWire Network We’Ced. The kNOw. VoiceWaves. Coachella Unincorporated.
Published by YouthWire, a project of Community Partners, with support from The California Endowment.
Dismantling the Silence by Peekay Gill Weigh In: Toxic Masculinity by Gabrielle Rivas How Children’s Media Perpetuates Toxic Masculinity by Bryanna Rivas Mask-ulinity by Patrick Antunez A Global Issue by Maya Vannini A Learned Behavior by Rocky Walker The Looming Danger of Social Media by Johnsen Del Rosario Reimagining Masculinity by Patrick Antunez Channeling the Artist We Need by Raymart Catacutan
DO’S AND DONT’S
My Father by Zyanna Maynard Making A Man by Gabriel Cortez Toxic Masculinity In The Gay Community by Rocky Walker The History of A Toxic Trend by Ruben Diaz Be A Man by Maria Torres
Photo by Jarrett M. Ramones
Dismantling the Silence: Toxic Masculinity & Mental Health Care Peekay Gill
He left a world that didn’t give him a chance. Being raised in a Punjabi-culture environment void of nurture or love, he grew up to learn that to be a man was to be stoic, unemotional and strong. But that became too much for him when the depression hit. Expecting him to be the head of the house and breadwinner, no one acknowledged
and expectations in the typical household. While the mold is breaking as more and more Punjabi families are becoming open-minded and understanding, there is still a long way to go for men to be able to value and take care of their mental health, moving away from toxic masculinity. According to The Good Men Project, toxic masculinity can be defined as:
In my experience as a Punjabi woman, terms like mental health and toxic masculinity are non-existent, let alone acknowledged. The man in the story was not able to seek help because acknowledging the reality of the situation wasn’t an option. It will take more than just one story to dismantle this blind eye for toxic masculinity, and then dismantle toxic masculinity itself, however,
“In Punjabi culture, the term ‘toxic masculinity’ exists in silence through all the patriarchal traditions and expectations...” the mental health issue, or that perhaps a medical solution could help him. Instead, the typical Punjabi alcohol addiction became the answer, resulting in violence and abuse, and eventually in suicide. This is the story of a man, kept anonymous upon request, who carried the weight of a fixable problem, disregarded due to toxic masculinity. In Punjabi culture, the term “toxic masculinity” exists in silence through all the patriarchal traditions
04 | Summer 2018
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.
here are a few tips that might reach the core of this issue. Here’s what you can do, as someone who is a victim of toxic masculinity or sees it around them: 1. Allow vulnerability. “Stoic” is an ancient concept we often attribute to men, the heroes of our epics, like Aeneas from Virgil’s Aeneid. Many times, our ideal version of the best men are those who are able to put their emotions aside and protect others, to fight for the greater good. We need to understand
that all humans experience emotions, good and bad, and that these emotions need a way to be expressed—through vulnerability. Take time to really understand these three words: it is okay. It is okay to be vulnerable, to be emotional. Just be what you need to be to help yourself and protect your mental health. This, too, can be considered a fight for the greater good. 2. Call it out, have a conversation—in a respectful and insightful way. As I have gone through my education, I can see myself being more outspoken on issues that directly affect my household or close relationships. I have learned that, yes, I can call someone out for having a toxic perspective, and I can do so with facts, compassion, respect and open-mindedness. Understand their place, talk to someone about toxic masculinity like you might talk to yourself.
What would you need to say to yourself? What are some ways they can change their thinking to see the reality of how toxic masculinity has negative effects? And don’t forget: compassion, respect and understanding are key to holding these conversations. 3. Stop succumbing to stereotypes. “Boys will be boys.” “Grow some balls.” “Be a man.” Just a few of the phrases we might have heard that represent the face of toxic masculinity. Take a look at these, and think about how these can be destructive to the development of boys. They put a whole group of people into a small box, no room for complexity or originality. Dismantle, dismantle and dismantle. Stereotypes in general do not do much good, but in this case, they have the power to break men, like the one in the story.
4. Understand the complexity of human emotions and struggles. The other side of dismantling stereotypes is understanding human complexity. Just as the world is home to countless cultures, ideologies and perspectives, the human mind too is home to these complexities. We overcome struggles, celebrate victories by acknowledging and working towards what works for us. Mental health should be the same. You are complex, and that is okay, it is human. Do not put yourself or others into boxes. Rather, embrace your and others’ complexity and stand up against anyone who tries to belittle it. The man in the story is just one case in thousands. He did not get a chance, but we can give chances and accept chances. Wherever we see toxic masculinity emitting its silent destruction, be there and don’t give it a chance.
The kNOw (Women) Weigh In: Toxic Masculinity Gabrielle Rivas
Editor’s Note: In this issue of The kNOw, youth discuss the presence of toxic masculinity in their lives. Women all have stories where they have felt unsafe or objectified by men. For young women, it is toxic living in a world where men feel they are able to stare, judge and make advances uninvited. This behavior creates an environment where women feel unsafe to walk in their own neighborhood. The young women of kNOw where asked about times when they felt the presence of toxic masculinity directly and were asked to share an experience when they felt unwanted sexual attention from men. Scan our QR code for more weigh ins from The kNOw youth!
theknowfresno.org | 05
How Children’s Media Perpetuates Toxic Masculinity Bryanna Rivas
It is easy to see the harmful effects of toxic masculinity in our society. The socially constructed version of manhood has created a culture of repressed emotions, misogyny and violence - evident in the recent deadly shootings carried out primarily by men, typically by those who felt like they did not achieve success in the way society has defined their manhood.
more gender-equal. Last year, it was announced that Thomas and Friends would undergo changes as part of a partnership between the United Nations and Mattel, Inc. Later in 2018, two lead female characters will be added - replacing two male characters - to the leading lineup of seven trains. These characters will represent
Casper (1995) Everyone’s favorite friendly ghost may actually encourage unhealthy social ideas about relationships. Casper essentially becomes obsessed with Kat Harvey after seeing her on TV and wants to “keep” her, making sure that she stays at his house and even gets jealous
However, when we think about how our society has created a culture of toxic masculinity and what can be done to eliminate it, we often forget to look at the influences present during our childhood. It is surprising to see how prevalent toxic masculinity is in children’s entertainment, specifically television and movies. A child is most impressionable during the first five years of their life, making these years crucial to the development of the person they will become. During their formative years, children unknowingly mimic the behavior they have been exposed to. So if we hope to eliminate the effects of toxic masculinity, we need to stop the initial spread of its ideas. To be clear, examples of basic masculinity in entertainment are not inherently bad. The natural differences between the masculine and feminine traits are not something that should be denied. However, when children are told by the media how they should conform to or live out these traits, it can create a lifelong struggle with identity. Thomas and Friends (1984) It is no secret that Thomas and Friends has historically been a male-dominated program. With only one female engine, the show has perpetuated the idea that the engineering world belongs to men. Further, the female characters have little personality and depend largely on the other trains. In fact in one episode, Thomas wins two female passenger coaches as a prize after helping a train get back on the tracks. Afterward, he happily drives around his trophies and gets a “beep, beep” from another train. This encourages the idea of women as objects to be won and possessions to help men achieve happiness. This can be especially harmful to gay or asexual boys who may feel that they will not be successful men unless they are linked with a women. Recently there have been efforts to make Thomas 06 | Summer 2018
different cultures and offer more to the show than a shiny accessory. Mulan (1998) This classic is actually an example of a breakthrough for the traditional princess movie. The strength, courage and independence of Mulan transformed the
© Creative Commons when she wants to hang out with other boys. He may be a sweet child-ghost who is just looking for a friend, but he does so in an aggressive manner. Casper basically picks the girl he wants and gets her through a sneaky scheme. This gives boys the false pretense that they can get any girl they want, by any means necessary.
“When children are told by the media how they should conform to or live out these traits, it can create a lifelong struggle with identity.” genre and gave inspiration to young girls everywhere. Even with the gender-positivity of this movie, it is still influenced by the societal construct of masculinity. The song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” plays off the idea of an aggressive macho man. While it serves as irony to Mulan’s achievement as secretly being a woman and thriving in the army, it is an indicator of society’s dangerous expectations of men. Mulan demonstrates how toxic masculinity has become our main form of masculinity and taken the role of dictating what a “man” is.
The Little Rascals (1994) The Little Rascals (1994) is the movie adaptation of classic shorts that aired on television between the 1920s-1940s. The original TV show itself was actually very progressive, featuring the antics of a group of poor neighborhood kids who equally represented boys and girls as well as multiple prominent AfricanAmerican characters. While it may have brought the laughs of the original, the movie adaptation fails to give full equality to the genders and actually encourages male dominance in way that puts down both boys and girls.
The relationships between boys and girls in the movie promotes misogyny in subtle ways and flirts with the idea of males as the superior sex. The film centers on the group of boys who are bonded through their “He-Man, Woman-Haters” club, bringing to mind the hyper-aggression of masculinity that exists solely to prove to others that one is masculine.
lack of interest in a girl’s individual personality. This supports the idea that women are accessories to the male experience, the same idea that plagues the entertainment and almost every other male-led industry.
We can change what we see in entertainment, but if we are not changing what tomorrow’s generation sees, they will be pulled into the same pattern of toxic ideals that are ruining our men.
Throughout the movie, the boys taunt Alfalfa for expressing his romantic feelings for Darla and ridicule him as unmanly, threatening to kick him out of their club. Discouraging boys to express their emotions has long been an aspect of toxic masculinity and is used to train boys to be “manly”. This is especially evident when Alfalfa’s best friend Spanky calls him a “sissified Tweety Bird,” associating Alfalfa negatively with a femininity that contrasted with the “He-Man” mindset. In addition, the boys’ interaction between girls indicate that there are only two ways the sexes can interact: as enemies or lovers, no in between. The boys are against any contact with the girls at the beginning of the movie, but even when they realize girls aren’t so bad and make their club co-ed, the boys are each coupled up with a girl in an implied romantic way. Further, the personalities of the girls are simply reflections of the boys, indicating a general
© Universal Pictures
Toxic Mask-ulinity Patrick Antunez
Toxic masculinity is a mask That weak men wear; That is kept on in fear. The mask has ugly powers; Hiding your true identity; Stuck in an idea of who you ought to be. Keeping it on is fitting in, In a world that is competing to kick you down, As that is what toxic men do. And when you’re down, There is no change to your mask, Because emotion is weak. But, realizing you are not a masked man; But of passion and true strength. To say that you are not truly strong. For, There’s contentment in being hidden; It’s comfortable, It’s easy. Making it a war within to take mine off. Each day, inching my fingers slowly off my face; Becoming more happy of who i am and will be. theknowfresno.org | 07
A Global Issue Maya Vannini
Over a year ago, I covered a protest at Fresno’s City Hall on International Women’s Day. Among a diverse sea of women, a few male heads bobbed through the crowds. One such head radiated familiarity -- his South Asian appearance, activist t-shirt and warm smile immediately drew me towards interviewing him for the piece I was writing at the time. As we spoke, he proudly declared his selfidentification as a feminist and anti-war activist in a comforting, Pakistani accent my grandparents led me to love. These proclamations captivated my interest and curiosity and, a year later, I jumped at the chance to interview him once more, this time on toxic masculinity. Dan Yaseen is a cofounder of Peace Fresno, a local organization calling for “action for social justice and alternatives to war”. Stemming from the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, Peace Fresno was born after the rise of warmongering following 9/11. Yaseen grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, the same place as my mother, and came to America for graduate school, just as my mother did. Many people assume that Pakistani and other Muslim cultures go hand-in-hand with toxic masculinity, and while that assumption is based on some inescapable truths,Yaseen is an obvious
Photo by Kody Stoebig Yaseen recounts his earliest subconscious notions of feminism as a child growing up in Pakistan. He says that in Pakistan, many men believe that women are less intelligent than men, meaning that they are physically and mentally incapable of certain tasks. Despite being submerged in these ideas,Yaseen recognized the intelligence in the women around him in school, though they were few in number.Yaseen himself doesn’t see this as a rejection of a societal norm, but instead says he never accepted these norms in the first place. He came to his own conclusions about women and their worth, disregarding the
“American toxic masculinity is rooted in and encouraged by militarism, war and violence.” exception to this sweeping generalization. Yaseen has the remarkable ability to not take any societal norms at face value, whether Pakistani or American. Toxic masculinity is perpetuated by the blind acceptance of what has always been done or what one has always been told. With increasing globalization and modernization, many cultures find holding onto archaic values an avenue of preservation, and while tradition can provide positive outcomes, byproducts of intolerance are inevitable. It is a well-established fact that the biggest influences on social and economic values are one’s family and culture, and it takes a strong-minded person to defy these enormous authorities. 08 | Summer 2018
toxic masculinity around him entirely. He told me he judged people based on their ability, not on what he’d been told. Yaseen brought something to the table that I had overlooked: the idea that American toxic masculinity is rooted in and encouraged by militarism, war and violence. In his own words, these three factors breed the worst type of masculinity. “Military worship,” as he calls it, defines masculinity in the United States, and this in itself is toxic. Many people, including myself, think of rape culture and machismo when toxic masculinity is mentioned, completely ignoring the influential authority that is American military worship. If masculinity in America
is based on something as violent and aggressive as the glorification of war, boys will grow up with the belief that to be a man, they must be violent and aggressive. As Yaseen said himself, the military is untouchable in America. Neither political party ever comes close to limiting the defense budget or speaking out against America’s imperialist actions. Because Yaseen was able to not take the romanticization of militarism as a given, he was able to see and resist the biggest perpetuator of toxic masculinity in this country. Once one realizes the role that the military plays in the construction of American ideals of masculinity, one can begin to see how domestic violence and other violent crimes are committed overwhelmingly by men, in part because violence is considered masculine. At the end of our conversation, I asked Yaseen why more men don’t identify as feminist. While he acknowledged the role Abrahamic religions play in the establishment of the patriarchy, he also emphasized that the cultural shift to the right in recent years has made feminism a bad word. Yaseen’s views impressed me not only because of his background as a Pakistani man, but as an American man as well. From him, I learned an obvious truth. Education and independent thinking are key to overcoming any problematic religious or cultural norms, particularly toxic masculinity. Dan Yaseen has thought independently from societal norms throughout his life; he embodies the exception to every stereotype of masculinity and lives at the level of consciousness we all hope to achieve.
Toxic Masculinity: A Learned Behavior Rocky Walker
Toxic masculinity is a learned behavior, passed down from generation to generation as well as taught within social groups. The culture today is that this toxic behavior of ‘machismo’ going overboard is acceptable, but it only became acceptable through social conditioning and sexist overtones in modern day culture. There are many variables that cultivate the development of toxic masculine principles in men. One that is very prevalent is the common practice of parents, particularly fathers, teaching their children these toxic thought processes. Many boys are told at a young age that ‘boys don’t cry,’ and if they are vulnerable, they are being weak or are ‘acting like a girl’. This instills the notion that being emotionally open is bad, weak and shouldn’t be done. Girls, on the other hand, are told that they can’t play
with ‘boys toys’ like action figures or toy tools. The term ‘tomboy’ at a young age is given a negative connotation. Girls are additionally told that they need to learn to cook and clean at a young age or they’d be seen as undesirable as they get older. This provides more pressure for different genders to be seperate in actions and taste. With a child being taught this certain belief that these gender roles and norms are the only appropriate way to be, they then enforce it on their peers. This causes children whose parents didn’t force this toxicity on them to be exposed and taught gender roles and what is and isn’t appropriate for a male/female to do. The Media’s Role in Teaching Toxic Masculinity The media has been a long standing problem when it comes to perpetuating toxic masculinity to the masses as well as the continuing of its acceptability in the public sphere.
One way the media maintains the sentiment of toxic masculinity is the constant story arch of the typical ‘super strong hyper-masculine hero saving his damsel in distress’. This continual and unchanging plot creates a precedent that women being the ‘damsels in distress’ and men being the ‘strong hero who can do anything’ is what’s acceptable. This sustains these toxic and confining gender roles. Another example is the portrayal of non-traditional feminine men and masculine women as jokes or as strange characters. A typical storyline is men being laughed at and portrayed as less than because their wives are making more than them, fixing things or doing anything even remotely masculine. This creates an attitude of invalidation towards actual individuals who don’t meet their gender’s traditional demand for masculinity and femininity. This invalidation and label as bizarre for non-traditional people feeds into the public notion that these people are not normal or should not be trusted, which adds fuel to the fire of toxic masculinity in the public. Since the media is the gatekeeper of what goes into the public sphere, their actions have a higher impact than any normal individual because they tell the people what is and isn’t acceptable. The preservation of these toxic beliefs validate the millions who still view the world in such a black and white way. With the many views on gender roles and their enforcement, most people can agree that the application of them into our lives is a belief that is taught. People are not born racist, homophobic or hyper-masculine. These traits are instilled in them at a young age and are validated as they mature. The validation and continuing of these opinions is largely done through popular culture which is mainly influenced by the media’s enforcement of hyper masculine views.
Illustration by Ruben Diaz
Until these views are no longer taught and perpetuated, this toxic perspective in different personality types will continue. theknowfresno.org | 09
Toxic Tweets: The Looming Danger of Social Media Johnsen Del Rosario
Social media is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal today, and it’s readily available with the touch of a screen. It has the power to connect people, break news as it happens, create change, start national movements and even identify people faster than the police can. But despite all the good it can do, it’s also a place full of trolls and hate. With the ability to hide behind a screen, social media becomes a place where users feel free to say whatever they want without consequences, often leading to posts that promote toxic masculinity. In October 2017, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was captured on camera crying, not once, but on two different occasions during a game against the Los Angeles Chargers. During the third quarter, Beckham got emotional on the sidelines and started crying. The reason behind the
strenuous process to unlearn it. Later that same game, cameras panned on Beckham crying again as he was being carted off the field with what was later confirmed as a fractured left ankle ending his 2017 season. That’s when social media went on frenzy -- and it reeked of toxic masculinity. The ridicule Beckham received for crying on the field -- even after a season-ending injury -- is just one example of the role toxic masculinity plays on social media. We are exposed to more toxicaly masculine tweets and posts than ever before, especially with today’s political climate. Donald Trump and his
tears are unknown, but then-teammate Brad Wing, who also played with Beckham at Louisiana State University, was seen consoling him from behind.
administration uses their online presence to spread toxicity, whether on purpose or not, especially when their masculinity is attacked or diminished.
Like clockwork, people took to social media, mainly Twitter, and began criticizing Beckham for being overly-emotional, calling him a “little girl” or “p****” and telling him to “man up”.
Earlier this year, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un threatened the United States, suggesting that the U.S. was within range of their nuclear weapons and had a launch button always ready on his table.
As children, young boys are taught by their parents, the media and institutions that boys don’t cry, and if they show any sign of emotion or vulnerability, they are considered weak and are told to “stop acting like a girl”. And once you’re taught something, especially when you’re at your most susceptible age, it can be a 10 | Summer 2018
How did Trump respond? By tweeting this:
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump taunting Kim Jong-un saying his button is bigger and more powerful is proof that toxic masculinity may get us all killed one day. Comparing whose is bigger and more powerful takes me back to the boy’s locker room in high school. It’s childish and immature, except now, it could get people killed. But as we all learned from the interview with Billy Bush, Trump loves his locker room talk.
With a president that is the perfect embodiment of what toxic masculinity is, it’s no surprise that people will follow in his footsteps in this sense too.
Mass shootings, rape culture, domestic violence -toxic masculinity is the common theme and it is killing us. To these men, if they don’t have or are losing power and control or if they feel their Back in April, Twitter user @MagaFrank2 (whose manhood is being questioned, account has since been suspended), tweeted videos and threatened photos of himself using a giant picture of David Hogg’s or attacked, they resort to head as a target practice at a gun range. violence in order to reaffirm their masculinity and women, If you are unaware of who David Hogg is, he is a children and other men -- they survivor of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida pay the price. that killed 17 students and staff earlier this year. Hogg, along with other classmates, have made names for And with social media, this themselves as gun-reform activists, going after and toxicity becomes more demanding change from politicians and organizations widespread, reaching more like the National Rifle Association (NRA). people than just the intended audience. These words, photos How bruised does your ego and masculinity have to be and videos can become for you to use an effigy of a teenage survivor of a mass detrimental to one’s mental shooting as target practice and somehow think that health and physical safety. that’s okay?
Social media is a powerful weapon to have in our arsenal, but depending on how it is utilized, it can also be one of our greatest weaknesses.
Reimagining Masculinity Patrick Antunez
With the election of a president who displays some of the worst qualities of being a man - sexually aggressive, dismissive of women, bullying the vulnerable and aggressive towards criticism - the conversation of masculinity must be discussed as we continue heading backwards in social evolution. Masculinity is not historically toxic, but has evolved that way in our culture, forming into this tough knowit-all view of being a ‘real man’. The type of man that only has the emotional expression of anger fueling his thirst to be the alpha male, creating a platform for more toxic behaviors to evolve. The evolution has established a harmful environment that is problematic to everyone. Domestic violence and violence in general increases with behaviors such as bullying, hypercompetitiveness and reducing women to body parts and sex. Brock Turner sexually assaulting an unconscious woman is a clear example of how toxic masculinity manifests. With all of this toxicity from a subsection of masculinity, we must shift from our preconceived notions of what masculine and feminine should look like. Men, like women, have their own strengths. Men are stronger in some aspects and women are stronger in
most aspects. But having people categorized as “masculine’’ or ‘’feminine’’ based on anatomy is confusing to those who don’t fit that role. Realizing this could be the first step in reimagining the stereotypical know-it-all tough guy and tackling toxic behaviors. Breaking the anatomically-based gender buckets that is forced upon people would do away with this because men and women would be able to define themselves without the pressure of societal standards and all the dissatisfaction it brings. Masculinity, not generalized to a gender, has many great qualities such as independence, confidence and passion, which are not toxic and positively impact to everyone. Without the frustrations of fitting into a social construct, masculines would be free and not have to resort to violence. Breaking these anatomical based categories is a start to tearing down toxic masculinity. It would give individuals the power to define masculinity in their own right; reimagining masculinity that is true to the individual and positive to everyone. theknowfresno.org | 11
Frank Ocean: Channeling the Artist We Need Raymart Catacutan
Lately, it’s become harder to find male artists for audiences to identify with without feeling guilty about it. The discussion has constantly been on how to separate the art from the artist as it seems more and more male artists don’t have a firm grasp on their platform. In June 2018, we had people on all social media platforms arguing over alleged domestic abuser XXXTentacion after his death. We had 50 Cent mocking Terry Crews for his sexual assault claims against WME executive Adam Venit. When this much controversy over artists’ lifestyles and opinions translate to real issues that people go through everyday, it’s hard as consumers to feel as if the actions of certain musicians represent and define our own experiences.
positive role model in the music industry, which was dominated by misogyny promoted by male artists that had always existed and will most likely continue to exist for a while. Ocean’s reclusive nature remains today, which itself is a powerful statement that fans are attracted to. His stardom and sexuality do not clash as they are shown
Frank Ocean is one of the most reclusive figures in mainstream music today, yet he has one of the most important roles in it. For a man who has a common motif of bright colors on album covers and titles, Ocean is not too fond of the limelight, and that’s a huge selling point.
Frank Ocean did not exploit himself at that moment, rather he stepped out of his reclusive nature to deliver a powerful confession between the artist and the audience. There was a strong demand for a 12 | Summer 2018
Frank Ocean has proven the industry wrong. Blonde was released on his own label Boys Don’t Cry and he continues to release music on his own merit with little to no promotion. Ocean’s success stems from audience demands for an artist they can relate to without all the bells and whistles. His bravery with his sexuality is portrayed in music that isn’t limited to an LGBTQ+ audience. The importance of his role in the music industry is how he serves as an idol without having to succumb to misogyny, abuse scandals and the “macho-man” persona that most male artists today condone.
But we don’t have to elect certain artists to do that for us.
Frank Ocean opened up about his sexuality before the 2012 release of channel ORANGE. The positive support and response from artists in the music industry was a telling moment in time as his critically-acclaimed album catapulted his career to the Grammy stage. The statement itself was powerful because his sexuality had never been used as a selling point, even afterwards.
itself. Stories of heartbreak and love were told through Ocean’s music. Regardless of race, sexual orientation and age, the music on Blonde was a powerful statement that many connected to and it showed that love was still a universal language.
There continues to be an issue with audiences attacking or “cancelling” artists for scandals, yet supporting other artists with similar situations simply because their content is more enjoyable for the consumer.
to be everyday aspects of his life. Many artists tend to exploit their lifestyles with the common phrase “all publicity is good publicity”. Ocean’s music is allowed to speak for itself. The R&B market in recent years has become over-sexualized “radio” music. Frank Ocean’s discography may not boast the most radio hits, yet within four months, his 2016 release of Blonde had generated 620,000 equivalent album units according to Billboard. The demand for the music being made was the content
Frank Ocean continues to break the mold by releasing quality music that people across all borders can enjoy. His bravery has allowed artists like Kevin Abstract and Steve Lacey to openly discuss their sexuality while also attracting audiences from all over simply by the quality of their content. There are positive and talented artists out there that we can find comfort in without feeling forced to stick by their side in the face of accusations and headlines. As consumers, our listen experience is more meaningful knowing the backdrop to our lives has been provided by creators we trust who let the product speak for itself.
Zyanna Maynard My father has always felt a lot like my depression, but my depression has been there more than he has They were waves that came crashing over my life and eventually I got used to the idea of drowning My father has always felt more like a lost object and I never seemed to have the time to hang up posters, But usually I didn’t want to Prison walls felt more like resting periods, I was finally able to catch my breath He was finally forced to think of his actions, like the fact he had neglected me for so long. My dad only knows 3 things about me My name My age And the fact that I’m his My dad told lies like it was his first language Like “I’m going to do more for you kid” Or “I’ve never done anything wrong to you” It was like he was trying to throw out life preservers made of stone My dad never liked me And he barely knew how to love me I was his black sheep child that no one got to know about My grandmother didn’t know of this beating heart in a shell of a body that looked so similar to hers I was a secret in a bottle set adrift in a vast ocean of excuses as to why they didn’t know I didn’t know that my father would be my first heartbreak I never knew that the idea of drowning would one day be the same as breathing, how my father would be a persistent heartache in this life. How could a girl love her dad when she wanted to breathe and all he wanted her to do was sink.
Photos by Zyanna Maynard theknowfresno.org | 13
Making A Man Gabriel Cortez
Imagine being 10-years-old when your parent tells you, “From now on, buy your own school supplies.” This happened to me in the fifth grade. So, with a bag of stickers and sweets that I sold, I bought my own notepads, erasers and pencils. Two years later, I began to work cutting grapes during my summer breaks. This time, I was working for my own clothes, since I didn’t have many that fit right. Everything I needed, I paid for or did for myself. My mother told me it was because men have to work to support their wives. My father just said, “Don’t you like having money?” What my father told me always made sense to me, but my mother’s reply is what first made me question gender roles.
Photo by Gabriel Cortez I wasn’t interested in dating, and that made me a target for ridicule and defamation. Rumors and lies about my sexuality didn’t bother me as much as male peers pointing out how I’m a virgin who “can’t get none”.
My sister stayed home during her summers. She never had to worry about where her clothes would come from, since my mother, aunts and grandmother took her shopping every other week. I never thought much about The feeling of male inadequacy that festered inside of me was also accompanied by the stoic toxic male selfhow different I had it until it became every other week sufficiency my parents had instilled in me. of the summer to every day. Nine hours under a torrid summer sun, seven days a week for two months out of my year made me wonder
For years, I bottled up feelings and ignored my better judgement. I got involved in perilous situations in an
uncle’s life lessons talk. He reminded me about all the good things I did growing up based on what I thought was right and how I never wanted to be recognized for it. I’ll never forget what he said to me. It really put things into perspective for me. He summed it all up with, “Don’t ever let people make you second guess your identity.You alone know how much salt to sprinkle on the steak boy. Don’t let them tell you otherwise, ya feel me?”
“The feeling of male inadequacy that festered inside of me was also accompanied by the stoic toxic male self-sufficiency my parents had instilled in me.” why I had to work while my sister had things handed to her. Now, when I think about where I picked up toxic tendencies – aside from the media – I realize my mother was one of the main people who instilled gender roles in me at an early age.
attempt to prove myself as a man. Until the day came. I was standing on a corner up to no good, when a friendly felonious face from elementary school saw me and approached quietly, staggered by disbelief. He spoke non-stop for what seemed like hours, scolding me about how I was supposed to turn out better than him and his scofflaw brothers.
Since then, I have put all of those experiences into a positive perspective. I’ve come to this conclusion: my experiences made me overly self-reliant and selfconscious about my masculinity, making me stray from the more open and empathetic person I used to be, but they also instilled good qualities like an excellent work ethic.
Questions like, “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” or “When are you going to get a job and pay your rent?” and “Why don’t you get a girlfriend to cook for you?” always made me question my manhood and become defensive about whether I was masculine enough.
He invited me to the house he just bought down the street for a gourmet meal. Afterwards, we go up to the balcony to catch up. Turned out, he changed his life and became a chef for a hotel downtown and had put crime behind him. He gives me the equivalent of a drunk
I’m still working through the good and the bad from my past and, if people don’t always understand my masculine mannerisms, I’ll just tell them to imagine being 10-years-old and having your parents tell you, “From now on, buy your own school supplies.”
14 | Summer 2018
Toxic Masculinity In The Gay Community Rocky Walker
The gay community is one of the most accepting and open-minded group out there, but toxic masculinity has still seeped its way into this group of people. Members of the gay community already face an onslaught of negative comments and connotations given to them by others, but now, there is unneeded judgement coming from within its own supposed safe space from ridicule.
turning point of the gay rights movement. With the condemnation of these people who do nothing but have a form of self-expression and art, there is an undermining of the efforts of those who
This judgement causes them to adhere to the beliefs that those who ridiculed them strongly instilled through relentless taunting. This adherence is caused by the person not wanting to face such abuse again, which in turn caused them to see effeminate men as weaker or less than and perpetuate the abuse themselves.
A prime example is the widespread idea of ‘no fems’ which completely undermines and disrespects queer men who don’t meet the normal behavior of a typical straight man. While some use the guise of this ‘masc4masc’ (masculine for masculine) idea as a preference, there is a big difference between preference and the judgement of someone with a different personality than your own. This judgement is toxic masculinity at its finest, disrespecting a large margin of your own community for their mannerisms and personality types. This puts feminine people in the gay community in a box of being undesirable because traditionally masculine mannerisms and attitudes are the only ones that are deemed attractive.
One of the key causes of toxic masculinity in the gay community is internalized homophobia. This internalized homophobia is typically due to the trauma of being judged for being LGBT+.
Sadly, like in many scenarios, a person’s defense mechanism is in itself toxic. This toxic defense mechanism has caused the individual to become that way also, rather than just protecting them from future emotional harm. have given their lives to gain the very rights the younger generations take for granted. This maltreatment of gender stereotype nonconforming individuals makes many not want to do drag or come out about their trans identities, which could completely erase the next Marsha P. Johnson from fighting for the rights that are still taken away from the LGBT+ community.
Toxic masculinity is not just a belief pushed by heterosexual cisgendered men, which is the typical vision you see when thinking of toxic masculinity. It can be pushed by the gay man that no longer wants to be taunted, or just doesn’t want to deal with the diversity of other personality types. While one may have a very good reason for believing in or enforcing these extreme gender norms, that does not make them okay. The gay community has and will always be on the frontlines of the fight towards free expression to be whoever you want, but, to keep strong in the fight for freedom, we need to be united as a community. This chastisement of people who don’t conform to gender normative behaviors causes a rift in the gay community, which only weakens us as a whole.
“One of the key causes of toxic masculinity in the gay community is internalized homophobia.”
Another example of this toxic ideology is the outright condemnation of drag and gender-bending activity. This condemnation is actually a backstep in the progression of acceptance of all members of the LGBT+ community.
While some in the gay community adhere to their toxic views of masculinity, they are already going against it by being queer.
Drag queens and trans women have always been on the frontlines of the battle for equality in the gay rights movement. These members of the LGBT+ community have contributed so much in the fight for gay rights, sometimes even being the loudest voices. Just look at the Stonewall riots, which is seen as the
Toxic masculinity is the abhorrent boxing of norms of gender and masculine behavior, which being gay doesn’t stick to, since it is the exact opposite of a heterosexual mans ‘normal’ behavior. Therefore, they are being hypocritical since they are inherently breaking the rules they’re enforcing.
Hopefully as time goes on, this toxic belief system will no longer be prevalent in the gay community so we can continue making great strides towards the equality and freedom we all want and deserve. theknowfresno.org | 15
The History of a Toxic Trend
Be A Man
Toxic masculinity isn’t new. With recent events like the #MeToo movement and the scandal involving Donald Trump’s comments during an interview with Billy Bush though, toxic masculinity is something that is being talked about publicly more than ever. But like I said, it isn’t anything new. In fact, toxic masculinity is something that can be traced back to Rome and Ancient China where women were considered lower than men. Women’s place in Roman society was always dominated by men. Even though they were considered citizens under the law, they didn’t have rights that were aimed to help women because the laws they followed were made by men, for men. One example of this is the way Roman marriage was treated. A woman’s father and perspective husband would decide if the marriage happened and divorce was only allowed if the husband chose it - women had no say in it. In ancient China, being born female was dangerous. If someone was born female, there was a chance they would be rejected by their parents and left to die. And when it came to marriage, the women of ancient China were forced to live with husbands who took multiple wives. If it came to a point where one wife was jealous of another, of her husband’s concubines, she was told that she would
Kenwood Chef Food Processor ad (1950) 16 | Summer 2018
be treated poorly in the afterlife. And since ancient Rome and China, toxic masculinity can be traced throughout history.
Be a man.
In the original 13 colonies of America, women had little-to-no rights and were uneducated because they were taught that a woman’s role was to do chores around the house. At the time, men didn’t consider women to have the capability to vote or understand politics, so women couldn’t hold public office or vote. Women had to fight for their rights and weren’t even granted the right to vote until 1920. Fast forward 30 years to the 1950s and toxic masculinity was at full power. Advertisements, magazines and many other forms of media depicted pictures of women in kitchens and subservient to their husbands. You wouldn’t recognize a lot of these brands today, but some brands never lost their toxic views. To this day brands like Van Heusen, Pepsi and Hardee’s (or Carl’s Jr.) employee the same advertising tactics. With a simple search, you can find many vintage ads that show toxic masculinity, and unfortunately, this is a trend that is still used today even with the public often condemning them for it. History is meant to teach us the error of our ways. Hopefully we’ll eventually learn to get rid of toxic masculinity for good.
Horton’s Furniture ad (1971)
Men can’t be sexually assaulted, They can never be the victim. Men don’t cry, Not even at a family funeral. Be a man. Men are strong and brave, Not weak or frail. Men don’t hug other men, And never show emotions. Be a man. Men don’t play with dolls Men don’t have long hair Long hair and dolls are for girls. Men use products that specifically say “For men.” Be a man. Men are big and strong, Not little and scrawny. Men should man up, Men should be men. Well actual men don’t follow these rules. They just be who they are And do what they want to do.
Burger King European ad (2016)