As some of you may know, I’m an avid music lover and vinyl collector. As such, I’m a member of several online music and vinyl groups and communities. The following conversation took place on a post in one of those groups on Facebook. The OP had made a comment that as seen as elitist, arrogant and condescending to quite a few of the members of the group and when this was brought to his attention, he decided to own what he had done and posted an apology to the group in a separate post. Most, if not all, of the comments made on his apology post were completely disgusting, dismissive and incredibly toxic and hurtful. Men shaming him for feeling the need to apologize, calling him a pussy and a wimp. Telling him he should stand by his words and move on cuz that’s what “real men” do. when they’ve been called out. It goes on and on but suffice it to say it was the typical bullshit men face all the time from other men when trying to own our shit and take responsibility for our fuck ups.
Needless to say, I found myself compelled to post a comment about it and the following is the conversation that ensued afterwards. There were several men involved in this conversation and their names have been changed to avoid being identified.
Me – “Quite a few of the responses to this man owning his fuck up are downright disgusting. Talk about toxic bullshit masculinity. It’s no wonder with comments like this that men don’t feel safe sharing their feelings and owning their shit! I was hoping to find community here, instead I’m finding more of the same damaging and hurtful behavior I’ve had to tolerate my whole life. Fuck, we need to do better than this. We need to support our brothers when they’re willing to apologize or take responsibility for their behavior. And if you don’t, stay quiet instead of shaming them with your criticism and negativity.”
J.T. – “ I’m guessing it’s more about them and how they see themselves than anything else really. Bullies tend to have some pretty big insecurities and when they see others owning their shit, it can be a reflection of the work they need to do but aren’t willing to do..and instead of owning that, they shit on others as a way of coping with those uncomfortable feelings.”J.T. – One of the few who recognized this for what it was as well
A.I. “Greg Million LOL not trying to start more drama, but Can you explain to me how people not accepting the dudes opinions or apology represents toxic masculinity? To me it just seemed more like he expressed an unpopular in a rude a way, apologized for his language but I guess people thought the damage was done and people didn’t want to hear it.”
Me – “A.I. I appreciate you asking and this is a great question! The easiest way to answer this is to ask you, how would you feel if you made a mistake and then attempted to own it and we’re met with being told to shut up, accused of being a drama queen or called names and shamed for simply trying to take responsibility for your behavior or language? I imagine you might feel some shame, embarrassment and perhaps even feel unsafe. And if it happens often enough it can and does lead to a shutting down and unwillingness to express those feelings again. So…it’s toxic because it’s more of the same bullshit behavior that attempts to keep men inside of the man box where only certain behaviors, ways of thinking and feelings are acceptable in traditional masculine perspectives. Owning our shit requires a level of vulnerability that is seen as weak so when we show weakness, we’re shamed and made to feel inferior in some way. I hope I’ve answered your question. And again, I appreciate you asking.”
P.W. – “He shot his mouth off with bravado, got cussed then tried to backtrack! Really don’t work. It’s like calling someone a cunt and then saying I’m really sorry never meant that, really does not work!”
Me – “P.W. Thanks for your perspective. I’m not completely familiar with all of the details but I did see his original post and I found it offensive and rude too and I almost made a comment about it but chose to refrain from adding my voice to an already crowded group of very vocal critics. I also know I’ve made similar mistakes in my life and done my very best to own them when I’ve been called out for it. And I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this group who’s been called out for being an asshole. We all fuck up, we all say and do shitty things. My question to you is…what would you have us do when we fuck up? How does owning that look to you? How are we expected to grow from these mistakes if people are just going to keep perpetuating the harmful and destructive narrative that we all need to be belittled and shamed when we try to own our mistakes? It’s toxic as fuck! Life is too fucking short to be an asshole to someone who’s willing to recognize his shit and own it.”
P.W. – “Greg Million personally I’d just say nothing, fade into the background. One cannot recover a fuck up.”
Me – “I can see how your decision to try and avoid conflict would help you cope with the uncomfortable feelings associated with it. He made a different choice, one I respect him for… even if I don’t like what he said. And he was ridiculed and shamed for it. So, I can totally understand why you wouldn’t want to put yourself out there in the same way. It’s seriously scary to put yourself out there, especially in this community.”
I want to make it clear that I don’t feel like all men are like this nor do I feel that all CIS male metalheads are toxic assholes. In fact, most of the ones I know are quite the opposite. I do feel this is a huge problem in society and it tends to more prevalent in certain communities where there’s a desire to be seen as hyper masculine and not show weakness through vulnerability.
In the interest of taking responsibility for my actions and the damage they’ve caused others… I can’t count the number of times I’ve been the one doing the humiliating and harassing because that’s what I thought made me a man from all the programming and damaging messages like the ones above. So to anyone I have wronged or caused harm, I apologize to you for my damaging, hurtful and toxic behavior and/or words. I am sorry for the harm I have caused you.
No more of this bullshit!! Let’s continue to bring awareness to this insidious and toxic behavior, own our shit when we need to and keep the dialogue going around how we can do better as humans.