Are toxic masculinity and violence acceptable now?
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
I, like most of you, did not watch last week’s Academy Awards; however, just like most of you, I have seen the video of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock a million and one times. As the video spread like wildfire across the internet, everyone and their grandma had to throw in their takes, and I was quickly shocked to see the amount of approval for Will Smith’s actions displayed online.
Anecdotally, I saw posts ranging from “This is what defending a black woman looks like” to “Comedians just got put on notice for how we will be responding to their hate and disrespect.” And I had to wonder if I had missed the part where we suddenly approved of violence and toxic masculinity. It seemed to me that not that long ago, the idea of a man lashing out and publicly fighting for his women’s “honour” was considered disrespectful. A short time ago words were the ultimate violence, but now those same people are applauding violence violence? What happened here?
It is lost on me how all of a sudden, Chris Rock who has largely been loved by audiences and generally avoided media hatred can suddenly be deemed an acceptable figure for a public assault. Even if I did buy the argument that the joke went too far—which I don’t—the idea that that joke warranted a slap is crazy. If that level of joke is deemed offensive enough to fight someone over then we are welcoming chaos in our midst.
And that begets my next issue: have people thought about the consequences of okaying slapping people who make jokes? Do we want to see a world where female comedians who make jokes about men get slapped for it? How about a white audience member slapping a black or Hispanic comedian for making a joke about white people? If we think those moments would be wrong then why are we seemingly accepting the slap Smith put on Rock?
Some people may try to argue that we aren’t really accepting Will Smith’s behaviour, but I can guarantee that if an average human being slapped a coworker at a work conference they would be escorted out and fired. Will Smith got to return to his front-row seat and prepare for his speech later that evening. Hell, he even got a standing ovation after his award.
But it makes me wonder if a section of society has changed its mind on toxic masculinity and bad behaviour. I remember when the idea of excusing two boys fighting as “boys will be boys” was considered a horrific and unacceptable vestige of patriarchy and male supremacy. There was a time when violence was supposed to be something nearly inexcusable and that men had to learn that. I am not sure how or why that view of violence no longer exists or when that happened, but it seemed to change overnight.
However, I am consoled by the fact that this like all Hollywood hooplas is unimportant and destined to fade as the next Hollywood scandal appears. Much like the Janet Jackson nipple slip before it, we won’t forget this but it won’t remain an important thing beyond a month. But for that month, I will enjoy all of the jokes at Will Smith’s expense that are coming. He deserves at least that much.