When I started The Masculinity Detox, I sought out a diverse group of people who I respect for advice and thoughts on how best to support others in reducing toxic behavior. One such person was a long-time friend and a former colleague in Denver Public Schools. As a non-white married lesbian with a school-aged son, she has lots of experience both personally and professionally in helping, specifically men, to “unpack” how they treat women. It was this expertise that I was calling upon in asking her for advice.
One thing that she said was that even though I was starting “The Masculinity Detox,” a portion of my work would need to be in listening to and supporting people of all genders who are most directly impacted by the toxic behavior of men. This would likely mean that even in reflections on my own toxic behavior, many women would see themselves within my stories. They would see their husbands and their friends. They would see their work colleagues and men in positions of power. While they might cheer me on as I build this community, they would likely need something different, especially as they didn’t see an entry point for the men in their lives to start or continue this journey.
I took this advice to heart and attempted to make videos that were inclusive and supportive of those masculine folks I’m most trying to reach, but also those people who love (or struggle with) them too.
So, when my last video was seen by over 45 thousand people and started receiving hundreds of comments by women and other folks impacted by toxic behavior in their lives, I knew that her advice was absolutely right.
Some of the commenters wished that they could send my video to their husbands or that they had a way to help them to do the kind of self-reflection and attempts at growth that I was undertaking, without them getting defensive or lashing out.
Others despaired that the men in their lives would never see emotional and domestic labor as something that they should be engaging in themselves or even recognized for the essential work that it is.
And it is to those commenters and the hundreds of new followers of this account that I address these words now:
First, your words and experiences are valid. They describe a desperation, one that I feel too, for a better type of masculinity, one that is confident enough to seek out growth and change. Your experience with those who have forced you to hold the cognitive load of childcare or undergone the emotional labor of caring for other’s needs is as upsetting as it is commonplace. You do not need my confirmation to know that you have a right to be angry or forlorn. But, I am giving it anyway. I give it because I want you to know that there are men who are fed up with the game of lowered expectations and who believe there is a better future of gender equity should we just have the courage to work for it. It is not your responsibility to change these men. It is ours. And we are working on it. Not fast enough and not enough of us, but know that we are out here.
And second, I do not claim to have “the answer” for how to help all who engage in toxic behavior. I believe that the only way forward, is through community. It is the reason why I started a community site at masculinitydetox.org instead of building a content farm of “expert opinions.” It is also the reason that I want to return to the idea of listening to women as a source of strength for how to make these important changes.
So, while I already host monthly calls on important topics like vulnerability, mental health, and failure, up until this point only those who were socialized and raised as men have taken part. I would also like to invite others who have been impacted by toxic behavior to take part in the community too. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I’d like to start by hosting an initial meeting of what I will tentatively call a “harm reduction council” where we talk about toxic behavior from different perspectives. If you are in any way interested in taking part in this, send me a message or leave a comment, and we can start planning the session. I want to be extremely clear, though, that you are not responsible for changing others. They must own this work for it to really have an impact. And I do not think as a white man with a significant amount of privilege that I am the one who is best suited to lead. Rather, I am looking for partners, for those who want to be a part of a conversation about change is authentic and meaningful to your own experience.
And before I end this, I do want to say thank you so much to everyone who took the time to watch and engage in this important work. I feel incredibly supported and it gives me hope that we might just be able to create movement toward a more equitable world.