Must We Always Take the Blame? (Toxic Masculinity and Violence)

Easter Sunday a man by the name of Steve Stephens murdered Robert Godwin, Sr., live on Facebook.   This murderer randomly targeted Mr. Godwin and made him say the name of a woman who we later discovered was his ex, before shooting him dead.  The entire act was shown live on a now deleted Facebook video.  This man, who ironically works as a case manager with a children’s behavioral health agency, went on a rant and proceeded to blame his ex for his actions.  His ex is in protective custody and the coward committed suicide this morning.  Many people ponder why someone would do such a heinous act. Many believe he is mentally ill but I’m just not buying it.  To make matters even worse, there are quite a few who blame his ex-girlfriend.  I cannot tell you how disgusted I have been reading the comments on social media.  It’s easier to blame this on a mental illness than address the elephant in the room.

Toxic Masculinity…

Toxic masculinity is the socially constructed and widely disseminated perception of men as dominant, violent, and controlling of the feminine. This type of masculinity sets men up to hate women, fear the LGBTQ community, and harbor an especially violent and vehement hatred for Trans women and gay men of color.  The prevalence of toxic masculinity does not imply that all men are inherently violent. In fact it suggests the opposite: that men (or anyone of any other gender) are inherently neutral, and social and cultural conditioning creates violent men. This version of masculinity is unemotional, sexually aggressive, and heterosexual by default. As Amanda Marcotte writes, "it is a specific model of manhood geared toward dominance and control." It is everywhere we look, yet it is rarely named or explicitly discussed as cause for our social ills. Toxic masculinity is closely tied to rape culture, homophobia, gun violence, and domestic abuse. – Emily Price (Toxic Masculinity: Why aren’t we talking about this epidemic and its role in violent crimes? Xojane.com 6.24.2016)

These are just a few of the women murdered at the hands of ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands in the past few months.  Just last week in Chicago, a judge was murdered and it was revealed today that his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend is being charged. According to reports, the suspect stalked the girlfriend for several weeks before the attack.

CALL A THING A THING…

This toxic idea of masculinity, therefore, pressures men to view women as inferior, perceive sex as an act of conquest, and see violence as a way to establish dominance over others. Toxic masculinity isn’t only harmful because it condones only one way for men to behave; it also contributes to domestic violence by leading men to believe that they must establish dominance over women, and that they can do so through violence. Toxic masculinity hurts male domestic violence survivors as well. When men experience domestic violence, they often face very little support and resources. Toxic masculinity keeps men in perpetual fear that they might seem soft, weak, or emotional. It stigmatizes men who cry, denigrates men as “pussies” if they show emotion, and teaches men from a young age that it’s not manly to show weakness. As a result, male survivors of domestic violence are unlikely to report their assault, and even if they do report, they are often not taken seriously by the authorities—especially if the perpetrator was a woman. In this way, both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, and both men and women are hurt by unrealistic and violent standards of masculinity
— The Harvard Crimson 9/22/2016

There is a pattern in this case that doesn’t involve mental illness; it involves men who are narcissistic and driven by a deep hatred for women and the need to control them.  It is the mindset of an abuser and a predator.  According to domesticviolence.org, there are several common characteristics among batters, they are controlling, manipulative, often see themselves as victims and believe that men have a pre-ordained right to be in charge of all aspects of a relationship.  It’s all about power and control and it’s not always physical. Batterers use sexual abuse, verbal abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, economic abuse and social abuse to control the people they are in relationship with. Domestic violence happens frequently with 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men who have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner.  Over 1500 women are killed each year by husbands or boyfriends. The consequences of leaving an abusive partner can be deadly.  Those are alarming numbers!!!  For those who survive, they often live a life of fear, constantly wondering if they are being stalked or wondering if they will ever be truly safe. The court system offers little to no comfort, as abusers frequently ignore orders of protection.     Abusers are rarely penalized for their actions because society looks at domestic violence as a personal issue. In addition, many do not understand how a person could allow someone to manipulate and control them in that manner. So instead of compassion, there is plenty of judgement and disdain for victims of abuse. We let abusers off the hook and blame their victims instead.

Abuse is not an accident. It doesn’t happen because someone was stressed out, drinking or using drugs. Abuse is an intentional act that one person uses in a relationship to control the other. Abusers have learned to abuse so they get what they want. It may be physical, sexual, emotional and psychological. They often have low self-esteem and do not take responsibility for their actions, frequently blaming the victim for causing the violence.
— Domesticviolence.org

A Culture of Victim Shaming

Chris Brown beats Rihanna and I see meme’s cracking jokes about it and then the slew of questions like, “well what did she do to make him so upset”? Evelyn Lozada gets head-butted by Chad Ochocinco and the victim blaming continues, “well she fights with women on that show, so you know…Karma?”, Columbus Short and his now ex-wife have a domestic incident and celebrities such as D.L. Hughley slam her for “messing up his money and putting their business out in the street”. Floyd Mayweather serves time for domestic abuse then “slut shames” his ex on social media posting information about her abortion and we laugh about it. The first video of Ray Rice dragging his now wife out of an elevator unconscious had folks like Stephen Smith say women should be careful not to provoke a man to attacking her. Solonge attacks Jay Z and men and women mock him for being a punk for not hitting her back? Ceelo green tweets comments about rape saying is it rape a woman can’t remember? Sandra Bland is murdered and people question why she felt the need to “speak up” to police.  A young girl is gang raped on Facebook Live and people are questioning if she was a runaway or a child with issues instead of the sick bastards who raped her and broadcast it on social media? Now this, a man has murdered another human being and I see “She should have just called him” or “she should have slept with him”.

Seriously? WTF!!!!

I’ve seen some of the most ignorant statements regarding the horrific murder of Robert Godwin, Sr., but none more disturbing than the idea that somehow his girlfriend could have stopped this crime from occurring simply by “calling him” or “giving him some”.   When dealing with an abusive individual, there is no pleasing them. You can do everything they ask and still find yourself in harm’s way.  Abuse is the act of controlling another person and exercising power over them and it doesn’t stop when you “do what they want”.  I know from experience.  I spent 10 years of my life walking on eggshells, trying to be the “perfect wife” for someone who sought to silence and control me.  Even when I left, it didn’t end. The threats, the intimidation, and the manipulation continued. Quite honestly, 8 years later, I still deal with this.  My life has never been the same. This is my “new normal”.    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think he may “pop up” or “reappear”.   They (abusers) act like their actions are acts of love but they only want you to return so they can control and manipulate you again.  It’s never about wanting you; it’s about the desire to control another person’s life. The idea that this woman could have prevented anything is absolutely insane and ignorant.  The fact that this murder specifically said, “Say her name because she is the reason this is happening to you” lets me know that this man was completely sound in his decision. It’s an ultimate act of manipulation; he wants her to think that this is all her fault and that she made him do this. In his final act of manipulation and control, he leaves his girlfriend with the lasting idea that, ALL OF THIS WAS HER FAULT!   It's the ultimate act of cowardice from the mind of a narcissist.   The fact that there are men and women who actually perpetuate this ridiculous idea is disgusting!  He made a conscious decision to end an innocent man’s life because he lost control and power.  HE DID THIS! NO ONE ELSE IS TO BLAME!

When does it end?

A woman's life choices, decisions, style of dress, and/or character flaws do not make it ok to abuse her in any way!!! When do we deserve the right to exist as we are and be looked at with some humanity? Where are the men defending our right not to be hit, our right not to beaten, our right not to have our bodies violated against our will, our right not to be violated and publically humiliated? Why are we telling our daughters, how not to get raped or abused (as if there is such a thing) instead of teaching our sons to not rape and not abuse?    Why are we constantly telling women how emotional we are instead of teaching men how to manage their emotions?    WHERE ARE YOU?  When did it become the norm to blame the victims instead of the perpetrators?  The current trend of “victim bashing” pushes more and more victims in the closet to suffer in silence. Victim Shaming takes the focus away from the real problem…the abuser

We really need to do better. It’s time to address the idea that toxic masculinity and violence are deeply related. That’s the real issue we should be discussing.   Victims of abuse of any kind aren’t ripping the hearts from family’s across this county, Toxic Masculinity is, and if we don’t teach our sons and change our mindsets about what being a man is all about, this horrific cycle will continue and more lives will be forever changed for the worse. 

It’s time to deal with the real….TOXIC MASCULINITY CAN BE DEADLY.

Until next time,

Take care of yourselves and one another

D. Sanders