Toxic Masculinity: Raising Kids in a Patriarchal Society
You are NOT mum and dad... sounds harsh right, but please don’t misconstrue me. I’m not telling you that you’re not doing a good job, I’m just saying that you are a single parent who is having to do it all.
Right, now we’ve got that clear let’s talk Toxic Masculinity. According to The Children's Society toxic masculinity is “a popular term for stereotypically male behaviours that are harmful to men and society as a whole.” For me toxic masculinity is telling your son he must not cry, a girl must have a kitchen or barbie whilst boys must have cars and power rangers.
If it is to be believed that there are many single mothers raising kids without a dad then it is only fair to say that we (women) are creating this toxic masculinity which is being banded about everywhere. Are we taking a view of what we think a man should be/act/think like and purporting this onto our kids....yes I said kids because the levels of toxic masculinity does not mean we are only putting it on our sons. We are also showing our daughters this is what they need to link up/lay down/make babies with.
I put this to you; I grew up in a family where the males ran street, smoked, walked around (the house) in their boxers and did not a lot yet got food first. Females had to keep their legs closed, learn their book and be more understanding of the males around us. Fast forward however many years when we then partnered with males that looked/acted/sounded like the males in our family we were reprimanded about this. This also lead to relationship issues not being supported, leading to keeping secrets (DV, cheating etc.) or the relationship breaking down altogether. You are then left to raise the kids by yourself and herein starts the cycle.
Remember though, we don't have to play a part, we don't have to be actors within our own lives, we can be the beneficiaries but most of us are not raised this way.
We are a broken set of characteristics that are on a journey.
I'm not pretending to have all the answers but I will say this... I give my boys cuddles, we bake cakes together, we also play power rangers, cars and watch movies. We talk about their day at school/nursery and how they're feeling on a regular basis. This provides safety, openness and an awareness of how they're growing. If we really break it down this is all any of us want as humans regardless of gender, so why do we believe we need to push a particular way/style of being, onto our children?
Let's look at the Patriarchal system, (this is a system run by men with the betterment of men not mankind, as the top priority).
As women we can feel stuck in the trap of this system and be constantly worrying about the issues our children face in today's world. We then feel the pressure to toughen them up or feed them things about how they should behave. But ask yourself this.... what's really driving your parenting ideas, what's really creating that pressure???
For me, my youngest went through a stage of asking me whether he could wear my underwear and my clothes when he got older. I went through a level of despair about this wondering whether I was allowing him to be him, I didn't want to push anything on him but also didn't want to disregard his feelings. Finally I just decided to ask him why he wanted to dress like a girl etc., and he said "because when I get older I wanna be strong like you mum, you are the best person in the world".... beyond my heart melting it also helped me get a good look at my son's perception on things. He saw strength as being a feminine thing because barring his brother all he saw was women; my sister, my nieces, my mum. At the time their dad and I were not together, so apart from my best friend I didn't have any males around them and I wasn't in a rush to just push any male into their lives.
Therefore, I decided to go to source - their dad, he definitely wasn't my favourite person at that time but he is the other half of their genetic makeup, so I sought a truce for the sake of co-parenting. He works night shifts and was doing all the over time that God sent but he was down to spend any extra time with them that he could. So every Monday he would come over, have dinner with them, do reading/homework, play, do bed time whilst I attended a class and then every Wednesday or Thursday he would come over and just spend time.
Now they didn't just start adopting his style or mannerisms but what it did give them was a sense of belonging outside of my female dominated space.
When children have two sides to their journey, it has a profound impact on their views, perceptions and consumption of the world around them.