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Even men are tired of toxic masculinity

Interview with Mask.You, who wants to deconstruct it from within

Even men are tired of toxic masculinity Interview with Mask.You, who wants to deconstruct it from within

Every time we talk about femicides and violence, gender discrimination, and what can be done to improve the situation - to deconstruct the patriarchy, to dismantle the existing power system and create a better one - there's always a gap, or rather a chasm, where men and those who identify as such should also act. We talk among ourselves, try to carve out a space for action and reaction, and what about them? These men, while we take to the streets and mourn our victims, what do they do? Some actively engage in defending the system, like soldiers terrified of losing their power, their money, and their protections, while others found very young and promising groups, to lend a hand to themselves and consequently to us and a society that needs to be rethought. We asked questions to one of these collectives, Mask.You, born in Brescia from the idea of three friends and now ready to start a series of meetings, to understand how much work still needs to be done.

A Word from Mask.You

"Mask.You arises from the need, found throughout the national territory, for spaces dedicated to men where gender stereotypes can be deconstructed. Our project is extended to all individuals who identify as men and feel the need to question the standards of masculinity they grew up with and want to emancipate themselves from, to imagine a different masculinity free from constructs and cages," explained Carlo, Vale, and Edoardo, the founders. With a focus on intersectionality and inclusivity, but also on personal awareness. "We found ourselves reflecting on our role as men within the trans-feminist movement and how we could contribute significantly to the cause. We started from those nights of reflection to create a space as safe and inclusive as possible where we could openly discuss, facilitating dialogue among men."

Patriarchy Also Harms Men

"Gender stereotypes play a significant role in reinforcing the idea of strong males from the earliest moments after birth. This can happen on different scales due to the influence of society, reference educational figures, through the behavior of parents who reward behaviors associated with traditional masculinity, etc.," they add. "The man (or those perceived as such) who, for example, pays for dinner for their partner, who does not help with household chores, and who does not emotionally educate their children often expresses anger, does not fully express their emotional component, suppresses it."

What Does Deconstructing Toxic Masculinity Mean?

"What we try to do in Mask.You is to make men aware of all aspects of problematic masculinity so they can genuinely listen" and then deconstruct, which "primarily means freeing oneself from all ideologies linked to the successful, impenetrable, secure male that prevent one from having and expressing their own identity. Deconstructing primarily benefits men and those who identify with the gender and embody all its categories, but in reflection, it benefits the entire community, because imagining a different masculinity and without models generates healthier interpersonal relationships." And women? It might seem controversial, but Mask.You has decided, at least in an initial phase, not to include women in participation in the meetings. The reason is very simple. Firstly, it's a matter of responsibility: "As men, we have two duties: to recognize that we have toxic constructs to deconstruct and privileges to dismantle. The responsibility for these actions must necessarily belong to men as women have borne the burden of oppression until now. Men and women can fight together, but it's time for the former to take responsibility for educating themselves." Secondly, it's a matter of acceptance and trust: "The group we envision must be a safe space where men feel free to express their doubts about this issue, without any judgment and without risking offending the sensibilities of those who experience the daily discrimination perpetuated by a patriarchal society. By creating such a space, we can encourage all those men who feel the need to educate themselves but currently lack the tools for self-deconstruction."

With the Help of Feminism

"Most of the personal, relational, and professional problems that men have come from the same system fought by feminism. Through the latest wave of feminism, that of intersectional feminism, the battle against the patriarchal system for achieving gender equality embraces all identities, and the struggles become transversal, rejecting any form of discrimination, leading to the liberation of men from the macho cage in which they grow up. Trans-feminism has laid the foundations for our training and allowed us to structure our values." Not just words. Meanwhile, an Instagram profile, and soon also events. "Our first activity, which will start from April of this year, will develop through a series of meetings led by one or more mediators already close to the themes of feminism, gender identity, and equity during which we will talk about: health, relationships, body image, gender equality, current affairs, gender roles, social pressures, and much more." It's not easy: "What we're talking about is a complex process that requires commitment at the individual, social, institutional, and global levels. What Mask.You aims to do - born as a direct consequence of feminism - is to involve men by educating them about male privileges, promoting a positive and non-violent masculinity."