Men Who Take Baths
One time I experienced toxic masculinity within myself. It was a lesson for me.
I was raised by a woman. My dad was around but he didn’t have the biggest influence on me. That allowed me to connect with my feminine side and find more friends with women.
What does it mean to be in touch with your feminine side?
I think we all experience femininity. I acknowledge that. I wouldn’t be ashamed to express femininity. I could be judged for talking in a feminine way. My day actually has a really high-pitched voice, and on the phone, you might think he is a woman. I’m not sure if that keeps him in touch with his femininity, but having that in my life and seeing it as normal and not anti-masculinity, allows femininity to feel like it’s part of my life.
What does being a man mean to you?
Male toxicity is anything to do with the gender role and doing something just because you think it’s manly to do, rather than because it’s right or wrong. I’m not going to ignore that there are strengths and weaknesses to being a man. I fit in a role where I naturally want to be a provider and use my strength to protect people. I would fight for someone if I had to protect them. People might take advantage of people who are weaker than them. To be a man is to honour your strength but not exploit others.
Why do you think a term like “toxic masculinity” came to be?
I think there are traits that are so prominent in men alone, or predominantly. Maybe they were raised a certain way or felt they had to subscribe to “gender norms” and behave a certain way in society.
Can toxic masculinity be upheld by women too?
A woman can just as easily say to a man, “you’re a man, suck it up,” or hold the belief that the man should automatically pay for the bill, or that he is less of a man for not owning a car. She is upholding toxic masculinity through the belief that because he is a man he should be a certain way or have a certain thing.
It’s tough. A man who is seeking a woman might learn to be less vulnerable in the relationship because of what society is setting as the standard for what “manliness” is supposed to look like. But what she wants and what he wants is different than these “roles” that we are assigned to play.
I feel like open conversations and being honest about what you want are the most important things. As long as you’re open and you’re being honest about your needs, I feel like the other person might feel more comfortable saying what they want or need too. Maybe she doesn’t want you to “stick up for her” if a guy looks at her. Or maybe she doesn’t actually care how much money you make. I think we have to make changes relationally, as in, within our most intimate relationships, before we can look outside to the bigger picture of society. We have to move from what we think is expected of us into a place of honesty and expressing ourselves without fear of judgment. Or, expressing ourselves in spite of our fear of judgment.
I do things to make other people happy. That puts a block on my ability to be me. For example, the child who is constantly corrected for their behavior can eventually be broken down and changed from being themselves in order to avoid that feeling of letting someone down. I’ve been in many situations where, whether it comes to work or a relationship or a friend, I might back-peddle if I think they don’t agree with what I’m saying, only to reflect on it later and be like, but that was me, and what I was doing wasn’t wrong, and I hold what I said as a reflection of who I am. I find myself fighting that urge as much as possible because when I do something true to myself, I’m happier for it even if it can feel awkward.
I have noticed that many of my friends who have traits that could be labeled as “toxic” grew up with a father in their life. I don’t know what it is. When you’re detached from the feminine side of yourself and think only of women as something to be obtained and not even friends, then–
–well, maybe I can put it this way: all men are different but sometimes it’s like men inherit toxic traits.
I feel strongly about women. I am attracted to women. But I don’t have the urge to objectify them. One time I experienced toxic masculinity within myself. It was a lesson for me.
There was a girl walking down the street and I was super attracted to her. I felt the need to talk to her. I said “wow, you’re so great.” She said “great at what?” and I said “moving your ass while you walk.” She seemed happy that I was talking to her until I said that. This is such an embarrassing memory…but I remember saying that to her and she made a face and kept walking. I stood there thinking, “what did I say that was wrong?” Then I realized that I could compliment someone without objectifying them. I scolded myself. I was 15 or 16 and promised myself that I would never do that again.
Every single time a friend catcalls a woman, something should be said. You can ask “do you think she likes that?” just to give that man an opportunity to think about the experience from the woman’s perspective. I don’t think a lot of men take time to self-reflect. You can be that voice for someone, and you can do it in a loving way that doesn’t turn them away. It’s embarrassing to get checked by our friends, but that’s the benefit of friendship. We can help each other be better people.
Do you feel that you can talk to your male friends about the hard things that you’re going through?
A lot of people throughout my life would expect me to fight about something or be mad. However, I have the ability to step back from a scenario and make sure that I don’t perpetuate more damage. I try not to act from a place of emotion. Peace and love are more powerful than anything. As strong as I think I am, I will be hurt one day, either physically or mentally. I don’t have to fight my way out of that truth. I don’t want to.
I have a few really close friends that I’m able to talk to. Women have the ability to form deep connections of support, whereas guys lack that. We’re bred not to talk about our emotions. Not being true to yourself to the point where you’re morphing yourself to fit a mold gets you further from what you actually want. A lot of the time, it's a connection we crave.
How would men benefit from more intimate male friendships?
They would benefit so much. It took a long time for me to realize that I could be endearing to a man. The first friend who ever said they loved me, shook me. I almost felt…insulted. Maybe we need “bro groups” where it’s all about love. I was once invited into a group that I thought was more like a cult but it was probably just a support group and I was defensive. I called it a cult at the time. I think men should get involved in intimate groups and friendships.
Do you tell your friends that you love them?
I do. A lot more than I used it. There are times when I believe it’s the right time to say I love you, bro. It doesn’t have to only be in a time of hardship. My dad used to tell me he loved me and I would tell him to shut up. To this day, I still think it’s overkill. My dad is a really affectionate guy. But it did teach me that loving a man isn’t wrong. I think it’s important to remind one another that we are capable of giving and receiving love.
Has there been a moment in your life that has had a profound impact on who you are?
The one thing that comes up right away was when my friend was murdered. We were twenty. Looking back at the things in his life that led to that moment was profound for me. He had quite a few men come into his life who didn’t treat his mother correctly. That changed him. He became a toxic person. He developed these “macho” traits in order to protect his mom, but it ultimately ended up hurting his family and leading to the end of his life. He thought he had to impress certain people and make a certain amount of money.
What lesson did you take from that and how have you embodied it?
Seeing the way his mother was treated by men was a big lesson. He said something to my mom, actually. I was a professional dancer at the time, and he said, “all Khary does is dance.” He was saying that it was artistic and wasn’t making me any money. But it made me want to dance even more. That was a big moment because I was making the decision to be true to myself. I could have taken a blow from that and decided to dance less or do something more “serious.” I’m still really connected to dance today.
When do you feel most powerful?
I feel the most powerful when I’m realizing that something I’ve done is impacting someone for the better.