I witnessed my then 29 year old brother kiss his two year old son on his lips and it made me cringe. I genuinely felt uncomfortable seeing it. Shortly after that I reflected on why something so pure made me uncomfortable. It was then that I confronted the fact that I had been infected by toxic masculinity and that this talk of toxic masculinity has real merit. For a while, I thought it was a lot of academic mumbo jumbo and that the Gender Studies Department was part of a global agenda to blur gender lines, feminize men, butch-er femininity, and completely uproot the sanctity of what is left of the nuclear family.
I objectively reflected on why I viewed this fatherly kiss with malaise. Ultimately, I concluded that I was afraid that if my brother showed that kind of affection to my nephew, he would turn out to be gay. I am ashamed to say that but acknowledging my folly is the first step to being detoxed of the cultural toxins fed to me by society.
If fathers show too much affection to their little boys they will be too soft and feminine. Jamaica is known to be a homophobic society. This ascription to Jamaica is quite enigmatic because many of the vanguards of homophobia wear their pants below their waist, exposing their underwear and buttocks for public male and female viewing. They wear tight pants that they reportedly have to use plastic to slide into; pants fit for a specie in need of no room for hanging testicular sacs and a dangling rod of supposed dominance. They wear hair extensions. They consume themselves so much with how light and colouring book-pretty their skin is that they bleach. They wear flamboyant colours and prints commonly worn by women. They do all of this but frown upon men who show affection to their sons. These are the new-age homophobes though.
The old school homophobes are traditionally masculine and less controversial in how their operation and decorum harmonizes with their sexuality. They are more serious vectors of toxic masculinity. They grow their boys with love but show little affection. They care for their children by providing for their needs, nurturing and training them to become respectable men. However, “I love you”, hugs and kisses are rare or non-existent. These are men who in most cases love their sons but refuse to express partly because they live with the toxins.
Fathers must be rough and harsh to their boys to raise them as men. Fathers view it as their responsibility to toughen their young boys and prepare them to be integrated into a society that labels them as "fishy" if they respond rationally and avoid conflict. In the Jamaican popular culture, men characterize masculinity by aggression and violence. The more aggressive and violent you are, the more manly you are. Manhood is asserted by who has the louder, crasser, and more forceful response. Fathers who prepare their youngboys for the Jamaican arena by speaking harshly to them, hitting them for small mistakes and encouraging them to respond to conflict with force are inherently wrong but their preparation is guided by love. They are trapped in a cycle which they perpetuate but feel they must feed their boys these toxins to protect them from being called gay and to help them establish their manhood.
Within low socio-economic spaces where literacy is low, men shun other men who speak standard English and wear business attire. It is a collective buffer erected by men who have low levels of education against educated men who have been elevated by education. Citing spoken English and business attire as “fishy” [Jamaican slang for gay] is a strategy to reduce the subject of their ridicule from his earned elevation by emasculating him because as a Jamaican man, his masculinity ought to be highly prized. By doing this the group doesn't feel threatened because "him a fish".
Popular culture says men need to sound and behave rough and tough. The opposite is soft and “gyally gyally” [girly girly] which puts into question one's sexuality.
Leave affection to the boy’s mother. I’ll keep this one short and just say fathers preserve their own masculinity by leaving the show of affection to the mother. In some cases, even then there are fathers who discourage it.
This opinion is not a blanket opinion of all Jamaican men. There are father's who do not show affection to their boys for other reasons. Even within the socio-economic strata where it is prevalent there are men who have been detoxed. Clearly, my brother has received the antidote. He needs to share it with me.