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Katie’s Musings: Toxic

Cassie Williams
September 28 2018

I made it through about 3 minutes of Dr. Ford’s testimony before I had to turn it off.  I don’t need to hear the details.  I believe her and can only aspire to the kind of courage she showed in those minutes.  If I’m honest, I don’t really care about the party affiliation of any of the people involved, or the politics (though they are important).

Not really.  Not in this moment.  In this moment, I care about the women I know personally who have endured sexual assault and trauma and never felt like they could come forward.  I care about the women who have come forward but were ignored or told to shut up and sit down because “boys will be boys.”  I care about the moments in my own life with men, moments I didn’t think were important enough to mention but were important enough to place me on my guard or question my own worth or whatever because “boys will be boys.”

That phrase.  “Boys will be boys.”

I work with boys.  And girls, too, of course, but I wanna talk about the boys for a moment.

Sweet.  Kind.  Hilarious.  Occasionally acting out, occasionally really poorly behaved.  But never vicious.  Where do they learn that?  Where is that exhibited?  Is it inherent in all men?  Cause yesterday I hung out with 3 toddlers – one of whom was a girl – and watched them share their toys kindly with one another.  One of the boys even politely offered the girl a cup of pretend juice from the kitchen he’d poured himself.  There was no gendered-squabbling, no demeaning of one in favor of the other.  Just 3 kids playing with their toys together and having fun.  It’s something I’ve witnessed over and over again, both as a minister and in my previous occupation as a nanny:  children understand compassion and respect for humanity.  Division and disrespect in all of their forms are wholly learned behaviors.

“Boys will be boys” is a lie.  It’s a lie we’ve told ourselves to make ourselves feel better.  Because we have a need to excuse things in our past about which we feel shame.  Because it’s easier to think that than imagine we may be culpable in the furthering of the lie.  Because, like most lies, it’s one we tell ourselves to avoid the harder question.  Well, questions….

1) What if our nation and maybe our world has been carefully crafted by toxic masculinity?  (Note the word “toxic.”  It’s super important.  All expressions of masculinity are NOT toxic.  Just the violent ones with the express purpose of having and wielding power over another being that is viewed as “lesser.”)

2) How does that show up in my life?  (potential answer:  EVERYWHERE.)

3) What kind of badness does it cause?  (sexual assault, misogyny, degradation of women and men, mass violence and murder, etc… etc…)

4) How could we go about dismantling toxic masculinity as the rule of the land?

Those questions are harder, but necessary.  They are scary, particularly if you are one who has benefited from the rule of toxic masculinity… but necessary.  They are profoundly troubling, particularly for those of us in the Christian church, weighed down with a heck of a lot of toxic masculinity over the years.

These questions are really difficult.  And the answers will take some time.  But finding them and doing this work, this holy important work of ridding ourselves of “boys will be boys” once and for all…. that’s worth it.  That changes everything.