By Frederick Loew
After reading Tom Maude-Griffin’s 2013 senior speech, “Balls, Balls, and More Balls!” I was left with not only a lasting impression of the hilarity of his speech, but also a deep feeling of connection with his words. His message was something I had been trying to put into words for years, “the love of manliness is taken to the extent of becoming feminine and homoerotic” (Maude-Griffin). Straight men spend a lot of time rejoicing in their masculinity, however, they seldom make the connection that their toxic straight culture is in truth… very gay. I mean, the sound of a straight-man-on-straight-man butt slap in the halls can be heard ringing throughout The Blake School during all hours of the day, yet nobody talks about these clearly homosexual shenanigans. It’s totally weird watching this traumatizing PDA unfurl at 9:00am on a Monday morning, but, what’s even weirder, is getting called homophobic slurs by these same men.
Straight men often hold all the power in their relationships and this leads to actions that largely go unchecked. I could give numerous examples, however, toxic masculinity as a buzzword is for the most part all-encompassing and everyone reading this can jump to their own conclusions.
Masculinity is socialized in America to be equivalent to power. Strong, bodily power and mental toughness both. This means that men are more often than not raised consuming media that pushes strength onto them, and through this men are shown that power and dominance are all that matter. However, all of us need affection and meaningful friendships, “emotional sensitivity and weakness are shunned as feminine”(Maude-Griffin). As men are often not encouraged to seek out these things, the only way to get them is through aggression and violence. Men are taught to seek friendship in the aggression of sports and build relationships with their teammates, bringing about the rise of the “jock” mentioned so many times in Maude-Griffin’s speech. They are only allowed to display their emotions and build relationships under the guise of teamwork, and this leads to strange ways of showing affection (ie. butt slapping, intricately designed and touch-stimulating handshakes, locker room happenings, etc.). Affection is seen as feminine and therefore “gay”, so the only way for men to fulfill their deep-seated human need for emotional connection is through jokingly showing their love. Often, this is followed by “no homo” in case anyone was unclear they were joking.
Personally, I find it a little bit entertaining to watch straight men stumble their ways through affection––but alas––it really isn’t healthy. As Maude-Griffin puts it, “to rid society of this sickness, the privileged perpetrators of this system must give up their power. Those at the top of the hierarchy of masculinity in high school, namely, jocks, must renounce masculinity”. It’s time we readdress this problem at Blake and reevaluate the harm these emotionally stunted men can do!