In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of renewed talk about toxic masculinity, particularly amongst viewers of Surviving R. Kelly and the legions debating the necessity of Gillette’s controversial ad asking men to be accountable. In all of these dialogues, perhaps what has been most striking is how many men instinctively equate masculinity with toxic behavior, as if the two are synonymous and inextricable. In other words, we have a lot of folks too lazy to do the work of basic discernment, let alone personal accountability.
But understandably, men invested in this definition of masculinity are threatened and angered by any suggestion their modus operandi is unacceptable. As a woman who loves and engages with men by preference, I’d argue that toxicity makes you less masculine, to my eyes. But what do I know? I’m just a girl.
But it occurred to me that maybe a visual aid was needed to demonstrate what masculinity looks like with a heavy dollop of toxicity on top, so, here you go:
This charming pile of tainted testosterone is better known as singer Chris Brown, who 10 years ago next month was put on blast as an abuser after a Grammy-weekend altercation between he and then-girlfriend Rihanna made international news. After any number of violent incidents, accusations and arrests in the decade since, Brown most recently faced rape allegations this January in Paris, France.
Rape accusations are nothing to scoff at and should never be leveled lightly. However, it should be noted that statistically, they’re false only 2 percent to 10 percent of time. Am I saying I believe Chris Brown is a rapist? No, that’s not my call to make. Brown may very well be innocent of the crime with which he was charged—though it’s not the first time such an accusation has surfaced, even within the last year. But Brown has maintained his innocence, was released Tuesday without being charged, and filed defamation charges against his accuser on Thursday.
So, case closed, I guess.
But what is Chris Brown definitely guilty of? Being a blatant and unapologetic misogynist, and the textbook definition of toxic masculinity, if you need one. Case in point: Clearly not satisfied with his vindication and subsequent defamation suit, Brown is now promoting a line of T-shirts quoting his now-deleted Instagrammed response to the incident.
“This bitch lyin’,” they read—over a picture of the Mona Lisa, no less.
Why is this problematic, some of you will ask? If innocent, doesn’t Chris Brown have a right to be angry? Absolutely. But what he does not have the right to do is promote, distribute and profit off of rape culture, the disbelief of legitimate victims of sexual violence, and misogyny in general. Besides, he clearly has low regard for the protection of women. Why should we believe he doesn’t regularly abuse their bodies with impunity?
Is this your king?
This type of trash-ass behavior is exactly what we’re referring to when we urge people to consider the difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity. This is also what it looks like to allow, enable, and encourage that type of toxicity, despite ample evidence of damage done. Because if you aren’t part of the solution, you may very well be the problem.
But those who need to hear this most won’t hear me, though. They’re too willfully ignorant to consider their role in perpetuating this dynamic and too scared to do the work of self-checking. Besides, they just found the perfect outfit to wear while steppin’ in the name of love.