I don’t think men are doing okay right now. Last week, I corrected my own grammar during a conversation on a dating app. I wrote your and meant you’re and I’m just as ashamed of myself as you are of me. In response, I was told I was being “stuck up” about myself. Unmatched. Two weeks ago, a local business owner and professional man, emailed me to say I had offended him. “It appears to me that everyone is upset with the white man because he has succeeded despite all of the challenges he has faced,” he wrote in a screed that contained sentence fragments, multiple misspellings, and enough all caps words that I didn’t know if he was writing or having a stroke.
Plus, he’s not the only one emailing to comment on my face, my shorts, my oppression of men. If I outed one, I’d have to out them all, and then this state would see a divorce boom it has never seen before. I want every woman to be free, but I’m not sure our GOP-gutted health care system could handle so many people on the open market.
On Sunday, during one of the president’s regularly scheduled Twitter temper tantrums, he called actress and model Chrissy Teigen a “filthy mouthed wife.” If FDR’s fireside chats were a new model for the presidency to assure a nervous nation, then our president’s Twitter meltdowns are a new model for pushing us to the edge of a nervous breakdown.
And David Brooks wrote an entire column about how men aren’t okay, because no one taught them to be men. Or at least, that’s what I think it’s about. It’s hard to tell whether he was writing a column or transcribing a malarial dream and apparently the New York Times has no quinine.
I’m concerned because whatever this illness is, it’s killing us. An investigation by Mother Jones found an incontrovertible link between toxic masculinity and mass shootings, noting, “In at least 22 mass shootings since 2011 — more than a third of the public attacks over the past eight years — the perpetrators had a history of domestic violence, specifically targeted women, or had stalked and harassed women.”
I’m concerned because it infects our politics, as we pass law after law tightening our hands around the collective uterus. I’m concerned because it’s a voice that even after our #MeToo reckoning still feels like it can shout at me from a car window about my body while I’m walking to the library with my kids.
And I’m concerned because all too often the answer to this fever on the forehead of American masculinity is to soothe it — step aside, be quiet, let these angry men voices in. But that would assume that those voices were ever out. That there was ever a moment we weren’t listening or could ever not listen. But of course I listen. I listen even as I go to bed at night. I listen when I don’t want to out of self-preservation. To blame the internet, cancel culture or #MeToo for this disease is to miss its origins in the DNA of our nation.
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So no, men are not okay. There is no cure for this. It’s terminal. The screams of a patient being operated on with only the anesthesia of patriarchy for comfort. And I’m not sure how to solve it except that I know the silence of the filthy-mouthed wives, ex-wives and humans isn’t the answer.
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