Living Respect! Questioning Toxic Masculinity

How did we get to a place where it is ok to consider women's bodies a symbol of weakness and fragility? When for most of us it is our passage leading to existence in the game of life. I love basketball, and think that for those engaged in playing the sport, we learn and teach many lessons. When Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors put his finger in LeBron James’s eye during one of the most watched games in this sport, the finals, instead of apologizing, he called him (LeBron) a derogatory term referring to the female genitalia. One does not have to be a father or a husband to think of this as problematic and endemic to one of our many dilemmas, “toxic masculinity”. 

We men have been taught behavior and vocabulary that’s toxic and violating to our communities and when this toxicity is left un-interrogated and unquestioned, it festers and gets handed over to the next generations of men, our young boys. With this said, I think it is easy to see how one of the most famous athletes in the world can have the power and advantage to extend these lessons at an accelerated and bigger scale. Can you imagine how many young boys around the world were watching that game? Is it still surprising why more people report of being violated by men and boys in many communities?

At B-SAFE this year I will be using all the tools I have as an Applied Drama and Theatre practitioner to lead a series of workshops with young men at both St. Stephen's and at Epiphany. Our curriculum is titled Live Respect, and it states clearly that toxic masculinity is not to be considered a right of passage into manhood. Our goal in these dialogues is to have this challenging and less-discussed topic, masculinity, broken down and questioned, in a safe, brave and well resourced environment. As a father and a theatre practitioner, I am a firm believer that participants/young people are not empty vessels. The young men are teaching each other what they have learned thus far in their young lives. They must learn to question themselves and their peers about the "Box that Men are Placed in", the rules of subscribing to this box, and how can one negotiate a way out of the biases and stereotypes of being male members of the community.

I think we got to this place by not having these difficult conversations about how we refer to woman’s bodies as symbols of our humiliation. I think we got here as men through being dehumanized ourselves and made to feel disempowered, making us also want to dehumanize and disempower others in our communities who seem less strong, less important, not as physically strong as some of us might be. So when Draymond acted in the ways he did, he wanted to dehumanize LeBron and hope that everyone else considers him (LeBron) less of a man, less brave and less strong as he (Draymond) is.

By Butana Molefe

Butana Petros Molefe started working as a community developer in his teen years after he successfully completed his Grade 12 in Orange Farm, a township south of Johannesburg-South Africa. In his work as a Facilitator/ community mobilizer he has had the honor to meet and converse with global statements such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the beloved Reginald Desmond Tutu. His areas of research are HIV/Aids, LGBTQ, Sexual Health, Community Enhancement, Gender, Sexuality, Social Justice and more. Recently, through his work Butana travelled to countries such as Botswana, Taiwan, and the US. Apart from his professional work, Butana also volunteers his skills as a theatre maker, theatre scholar, an applied theatre practitioner, a community developer to organizations such as the Soweto Kliptown Youth Foundation, Tshulu Trust and the Hillbrow Theatre, to mention but a few. Butana also holds a Masters Degree in the Arts, and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Divinity with the leading seminary in the world, Harvard Divinity School.