The Oxford Word of the Year 2018 is… toxic. The adjective is defined as “poisonous”. The upsurge of the phrase toxic masculinity has given us a peek into the culture and mood for 2018. On the world stage, the #MeToo movement, for example, was key in highlighting “poisonous” relationships”. Thus, we aim to understand some of the drivers of toxic masculinity in the Namibian context. It is imperative to note that toxic masculinity and being a man are not necessarily synonymous.
Cultural Norms practiced continue to define manliness through a limited lens of violence, aggression, hypersexuality, and status. Sex is measured as one of the components of how in everyday culture your status as a man is reinforced and or taken away based on the amount and or lack of sexual conquests.
It is further disguised in humor to “minimize” the stench.
Culture including tradition penalizes vulnerability of men, telling them to be strong, not cry and or behave like girls.
It is imperative that we do not minimize the power of language to shape culture, power, and identity.
Language blends into the background precisely as a result of its ubiquity.
We find that there has been a more nuanced view of gender and language in the last few years.
This viewpoint recognizes that most men do not spend their time scheming how to dominate women.
However, men are both active in partaking in a system of social practices that privileges them.
The gendered-ness of language uses some aspects of femininity to minimize manhood, e.g. “you speak like a girl”. Thus, gendered insults continue to shape part the discourse.
There are common factors that continue to reinforce toxic masculinity. Media both new and traditional, continue to implicitly amplify some of the negative behavior.
The tv shows, movies, and entertainment that we engage, overtime normalize and sometimes legitimize different forms of toxicity.
We justify the violence that we see on tv as only entertainment without interrogating the psychosocial impact in shaping worldviews of children both girls and boys.
Socialization from the formative years already begins to shape how girls and boys absorb the world and their roles in it.
Socialization is primarily done within a family context, mothers being primarily care givers act as a first reference and lens through which children experience the world.
Girls and boys are taught how society expects them to conduct themselves and children are reprimanded if they do not reflect the norms taught.
This can directly further reinforce patriarchy and other harmful norms without realizing it.
Human beings are multi-dimensional, complicated and undeniably intense. The issues we face are not singular but are layered. The environment we are in is equally dynamic.
Thus, it is incumbent on us to recognize our own prejudices in framing issues of violence with men and boys exempt as victims of a system they may benefit from.
Introspection is important to recognize how much of society influences our worldview and parenting.
Additionally, we need to call out the violent language for what it is. We must be ready to face and manage the backlash as a result of the disruptive change.
The systems as they are benefit some thus, when we disrupt, it is sure to destabilize the status quo.
We can no longer pacify the oppressor, for the violence by the oppressed is for liberation.
Steven Bernardus Harageib