Men have gotten a lot of slack in the last few months for their increasingly frustrating refusal to look inwards and ask better of themselves and the men in their lives when it comes to issues of gender, sexuality and oppression. This is an argument that is especially true of black men, who are quick to point out the oppression and marginalization they face because of their race and then turn around to oppress women and gender minorities when they do have opportunities to exercise privilege. It is tiring, and the oppressed are done with trying to coddle and explain to men why their allyship is necessary if we are going to really fight rape and assault and homophobia. This is why men like Deandre Levy are a breath of fresh air.
The last place you’d normally expect to see a man stand up for women is the locker rooms of the NFL. The American National Football League has a long history of extra violent men, protecting those violent men because of their athletic skill, their economic value and the fame and prestige both brings them. There have been cases of men beating women unconscious in elevators and dragging their unconscious bodies across a hotel lobby, of men killing their wives, rape is as common place as water coolers. But Linebacker Deandre Levy has taken some time to think about this toxic bubble and the things that allow it persist and has distilled his thought down to one concept; masculinity. He posits that our cultural obsession with masculinity across the world has made us demonize femininity in all its forms and punish anyone (women especially) for embracing this weakness. When was the last time you saw someone speak so honestly?
The dehumanization and objectification of women are not issues that are specific to male athletes. They are societal problems. But they tend to be more associated with athletes in part because we are often idolized because of our athletic ability. In many ways, we’re considered models of masculinity, which is at the very root of a lot of these issues. So in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I want to use my platform as an NFL linebacker to discuss how we talk about rape and sexual assault — because not enough men are.
What elevates Deandre’s essay is that for once, he is asking men to do better, to be better. He is asking them to investigate the things they have come to accept as ‘normal’, the same way he has in his own life. He is asking them to change their behaviour instead of expecting everyone else to bend backwards to accommodate them. He is affirming what women and gay men have said for decades, that our obsession with hypermasculinity affects everyone, especially the men expected to live under such unrealistic standards. He explains as plainly as possible the idea of consent, and charges men to teach this to their friends, their brothers and their sons.
Here’s a link to the full essay, I hope it is as insightful to you as it was for us here at The Sexuality Blog.