Late last week, I was extremely saddened to hear about the murder of Ohio State student Reagan Tokes. My heart aches for her family and everyone that knew and loved her.
With that said, I think this very sad and unfortunate event, among too many others before it, requires me to address the male privilege, for lack of better words, I face in this community, and the world at large.
Yes, I have parked my car more than once at this very same location and have left Bodega, where Reagan Tokes worked, at the same time or later as when this horrible crime happened. I love being out and about and driving around at night. Getting around Columbus and exploring, no matter what time of day or night, has been a great stress reliever for me over the past year in my very busy and stressful life. It’s an unquestionably necessary part of my love for cities and communities. As an urban planning student and busy professional, it’s quite often the only time I see the communities I’m directly impacting near and far. But I can do so because I feel mostly safe and wouldn’t think twice about being out and about at night.
It saddens me that we live in a world that because of one’s gender or sex, there is a dichotomy of freedom and safety. This most recent incident, along with countless other incidents before it, really leaves me wondering what can be done about the role of toxic masculinity in today’s world — which we see coming from a level as high as our world’s biggest leaders, to individuals we know and encounter in our daily lives.
I know as a male I possess an unfortunate and unequal power, but I also feel a lack of this power in our culture to facilitate change in the hearts and minds of so much I see in our community and around the world. The world is a broken place, and it’s going to be very hard to put it back together. I know I need to try harder to be the change. I know I haven’t done enough in my own life to address the many aspects of toxic masculinity, and throughout the past year, my eyes have been opened by thinking differently and much harder about these things.
Unfortunately, the discussions and actions needed to address gender inequality bring an unneeded stigma, have extremely large political implications and are not regarded as a “cool” or “manly” thing to discuss. The truth is, we still live in an extremely gendered world — one where many majors and degree programs are made up of a student enrollment of over 90 percent male students, but more importantly, one where women don’t feel safe to simply be who they are or do want they want to do in life.
Men can do so much to bring change, and it’s time for other men like me to speak up and bring a culture of change and equality for women in everything we do. Be fearless in support of everything you can do to create a safer and more equal world, because every woman should have the same power and abilities as I possess without any fear.
Graduate student in city and regional planning