Patriarchy with a capital P and that rhymes with T and that stands for Toxic

Patriarchy with a capital P and that rhymes with T and that stands for Toxic

Kansas City Chiefs kicker, Harrison Butker, gave a college commencement address where he said: “I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolic lies told to you. Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

Butker added that his wife’s life “truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and a mother.”

He wasn’t finished. As if there was any doubt about his Christian-based patriarchal conservatism he went on to say: “As men, we set the tone of the culture, and when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction and chaos set in.”

Butker then added that the LGBTQ community, the media and a woman’s right to choose are symptomatic of moral decay and at the root of society’s ills.

I would like to thank Mr. Butker for his thoughts. He has eloquently stated what the right wing is riding on and could win with. His articulation of the status quo he and 40 million others are working hard to establish makes clear where our counter positions must be focused.

Also rife on right wing social media are compatible posts to the “Butker Doctrine” telling men to “return to being men.” There is a loud movement answering the left side of this debate (who gave voice to non-binary gender and non-traditional sexuality) with a call “back to manhood.” Meaning quite clearly the concept of manhood that preceded the #metoo movement.

It is a call back to when masculine toxicity was not even questioned. How, you may now be asking, could people be so tone deaf in 2024?

Five years ago the #metoo movement directed attention toward the behavior of men and boys that was rooted in toxic masculinity. The message spread fast and it was correct. Changes in behavior and awareness had to take place. There was no playbook, however, and directions took a hard left turn. In an article that was often shared, a woman praised her boyfriend for having asked if he could hold her hand, if he could place a first kiss and when the relationship could progress in any fashion. They warned anything less is “abuse.”

That is only anecdotal evidence of a larger call to erase what many would call traditional behaviors in order to stop aggression from men. Many people, myself included, applauded. But conservatives found a foothold in such restrictive definitions and the Butker’s of America started to rise and build their momentum into the platform of modern conservatism. The modern conservatism that harkens back to the way things were; to “make America great again.”

Change by decree is temporary. Old ways will always resurface when there is conflict with compliance. Lasting change occurs when a new idea answers those conflicts with a compatibility between customs and new consciousness.

In other words, if the direction of change is putting holding hands and a first kiss into the bucket of toxicity that goes too far for a lot of people. And I understand why. I thought about my own sons; thoughtful, kind, young men navigating the waters of relationships, and I wondered: “Are we sure that permission for every step is the way to move forward? Could that be creating parameters too fuzzy to follow? Could that be equating an innocent gesture with an act of aggression and ultimately castigating even good men?”

And could that be enough of an opening for the conservative movement to say “Enough!” and to plant their standards with antiquated stereotypes? You know…their “return to greatness” when everything was allegedly easier?

To illustrate my concern I shared publicly an experience I had as a young man:

“I dated a girl in college who made it clear she was going to be (in her words) ‘hard to get.’ One evening after a third or fourth date I leaned in to kiss her. She pulled away.

Later she asked, “Aren’t you going to try again?”

“No!” I replied.

“Well, you’re gonna have to surprise me.”

Did I become an “abuser” when on another night I did surprise her with a kiss without permission at that moment? Was she absolved from that predication of non-permission-surprise?

Slow down if you were quick to admonish me for asking such a question. I do not condone even the palest gradation of physical aggression toward a woman. The issue of systemic patriarchal abuse is real and it had not been adequately challenged until the emergence of #metoo but we do little to advance necessary change if we don’t distinguish between what is toxic masculinity and what is not.”

Patriarchy created a cliché social construct that views masculinity as violent, unemotional and sexually aggressive. Many boys have observed (even been taught) those stereotypes as a rite of passage. The result is toxic. But participation in a social construct is not necessarily where culpability lies. Not until this societal awakening creates and accepts a redefinition of masculinity.

Central to this cause must be to continually address systemic malfunctions; racism and sexism have no place in a society founded on our precious tenets of freedom, justice and equality. Something I’ve learned in business, however, is that there can be no expectations of compliance to any objective without clarity. If we fall short on giving clear instructions, then our expectations are not valid.

Great strides in awareness of the victimization of women are being made and this is where we can separate enlightened men from the history of patriarchy that replicates toxic masculinity. Such as what Butker so proudly promotes with sugar coated goodness as a “woman’s true vocation” and a man’s place as cultural scions.

Boys and men need to elevate their consciousness of abuse and sexual discrimination. Change will result from that ethical demand to do so and from the clear communication of responsibility.

That does not place blame on victims; no one is responsible for being abused, but solutions lie beyond merely stated expectations. They lie in how we teach and demonstrate our principles. That, itself, is a vague instruction but there are values that can be clear: Respect. Humility. Truth. Equal justice. Non-violent resolutions.

Those are the values I demonstrated to the “kind, thoughtful, young men” I mentioned earlier.

Butker’s patriarchal view is fuel in the machinery of toxicity and he is unequivocally wrong. Being a wife and a mother is a choice as is the choice to be single. Or to become a pilot, a doctor, a senator or a candlestick maker. Or to be any combination in the fulfillment of personal goals without being determined by anatomy or stereotypes.

Men do not set the tone of culture. The tone of culture is set by enlightenment, awareness, and distinctions learned from dismantling definitions. And new definitions will be revealed from a vigilant examination of…freedom, justice and equality.

Put that between your goalposts, Mr. Butker.

Published by gary1164

I'm an advertising executive and former actor/producer