Exposure to toxic masculinity starts early, in subtle ways that might not seem important. It’s in our words, our expectations, and what we say to and around our children.

What does toxic masculinity sound like?

I took my two-year-old son to an indoor play space today. There were several Flintstones-style (climb in, sit and push with your feet) cars. At one point, my son tried to climb into a car that was already occupied by a slightly older girl. She didn’t say anything, but her wide eyes told me she wasn’t comfortable with the situation. I gently restrained my son, preventing him from climbing into the car, and said, “She is using this car right now. She doesn’t want to be climbed on or squished.” He tried to climb in again. “You want to get in the car, too. We need to give our friends space and respect their bodies.” And then the girl’s caregiver shrugged and said: “That’s just how boys are.”

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