Toxic Masculinity in Focus

By David Michael Newstead.

As part of an on-going series about Toxic Masculinity, I’ve been speaking to a number of women I know regarding their day-to-day experiences with men. Below is a conversation with Abigail (not her real name) on the realities of living and working in Washington D.C.

David Newstead: So, how prevalent are misogyny and sexism in your life?

Abigail: I don’t mean to laugh, but it’s basically everywhere.

David Newstead: Can you describe some of these daily run-ins?

Abigail: Funnily enough the amount of run-ins I had decreased quite a bit once I left my old job. But in general getting hit on or stared at if I wear anything “too” short or revealing, being told to smile by strangers, random sexist graffiti like on the metro.

At my old job, it came out a lot in job roles. Automatically being given “housework” tasks like setting up/food ordering/event planning. Men on my team and others being given a lot more platitude to fuck up or voice concerns while women were not. All while knowing that just about every single man was making more (usually much more) than women in the same position or higher. That doesn’t really happen at my new job, or if it does I don’t notice it.

But other things that are more general include worrying that if I don’t put on makeup to go to work I won’t be taken as seriously. Or when I was negotiating my offer the fact that I had to consider my boss’ “feelings” and make sure that I wasn’t being too forward in my time while I was daring to ask for more. But overall in my experience men are given more opportunities and are given a lot more room to fuck up before anything is done about it. Not just in work, but in all aspects of life.

I’ve been asked in a job interview if I was planning on getting married or if I was in a serious relationship. Men who hit on me only stop if I lie and say I’m married or have a boyfriend. I literally wear my mom’s wedding band on my right hand and switch it to my left when I don’t want to be bothered by someone. Getting honked at, followed in cars, cat called and followed down the street.

Oh and my favorite is guys at a bar who think their best version of an opening line is to introduce themselves and then start to criticize something about me. Then shortly thereafter ask my friend and I if we’ve ever made out. Again, funny enough, this type of thing doesn’t happen when I’m out with guy friends. And if a guy does try to hit on me while I’m out with male friends, he almost always asks one of them if it’s “okay” first. Because a lot more men than you wouldn’t see women as equals, but as means to an end. An entity that exists solely to support them. And if you aren’t supportive at all times, even to complete strangers, you’re a bitch or a whore.

I know toxic masculinity exists because it’s been ingrained in me to constantly be thinking about other people’s feelings. And horribly enough, even more so men’s feelings, to protect myself. I have to be polite and smile when I tell men I’m not interested because otherwise he could start yelling or turn violent. I’ve seen it happen.

It’s been happening basically all my life so unfortunately you get used to it. It helped that I went to an all-girls middle and high school, so the experiences didn’t really ramp up until college and post grad. I didn’t really have the terminology for it until recently to be honest. You kind of just accept it as how the world works. If I let myself get angry every time it happened I wouldn’t be a pleasant happy person. But when asked I can definitely tell some stories as you can see.

Walking home alone is not a thing, especially if wearing anything remotely close to revealing. Same with late night metro rides: not a thing. I mean I don’t get hit on every single day at least overtly, not counting silent stares or whatever. But I think that’s only because my commute is mainly other people going to work so everyone is focused on their phones or whatever.

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