Covington Catholic High School Teens Are Poster Children For Toxic Masculinity

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"[T]here is a steep price society and individuals pay for expressing this type of masculinity." —Alex Yarde

Alex Yarde of “The Good Men Project” found a great deal more than mere disrespect of one’s elder in the recent incident involving students from the all-boys Covington Catholic High School taunting Native American veteran Nathan Phillips.

He saw disrespectful teens making a foolish mistake, but he also saw boys on their way to becoming men who have been failed by the elders in their own lives — their fathers, mothers, and society at large — leading them to the brand of masculinity that many in modern times have concluded is toxic.

In making his point, Yarde noted a recent piece by Melinda Wenner Moyer, titled The Boys Are Watching, in which she argues that men who are offended by the notion of toxic masculinity need to hear the message more than ever.

She writes: “Kids learn by watching what we do, not by listening to what we say, and boys in particular absorb a lot from their fathers as well as from male public figures. They watch prominent men in their lives stick up, or not, for victims of bullying or sexual harassment. They watch how men treat their girlfriends and wives and interact with women in public. Many boys watched one man, the President of the United States, publicly mock a woman who testified to Congress that she was a victim of sexual assault. Many also heard him brag about grabbing women “by the pussy.”

Yarde asks: “Is it really that hard to fathom why these young men, wearing Trump Supporter “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats, felt justified in mocking an elder at prayer?”

The President of the United States, who was charged with civil rights violations in the 70’s for not renting to black people, who publicly mocked a disabled reporter, smeared over a dozen female sexual assault survivors that accused him, regularly threatens and bullies detractors, called Mexicans “rapists”, is ok with the separation of desperate, asylum-seeking families, caged brown migrant children in kennels, and belittled Sen. Elizabeth Warren by sarcastically using a noble historical Native American hero’s name, Pocahontas, as a slur.

There are as many ways to express masculinity as their are men. Positive ones like championing the weak, valuing women, showing empathy, practicing self-control, and respect for others. And, the negative “toxic” behaviors that support a hegemonic view of masculinity, highlighted in the first part of the Gillette ad above, where non-conforming men or outliers are ridiculed as “Snowflakes” or “betas”, for example.

These hegemonic, “toxic” traits of masculinity as Trump exemplifies, need serious counter-programming to combat the legitimization of powerful men’s “dudebros” culture and male hegemonic position in society. Justifying subordination of the common male population, women, and other benevolent marginalized ways of being a man is the Patriarchy you’ve read about, but as white, straight cis-males in particular, may even question its existence.

Yarde concluded with the Cherokee “Two Wolves” legend:

Two Wolves: A Cherokee Legend

A grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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