I don’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “toxic masculinity” but it has stuck with me ever since. It’s not a hard concept to define or understand. Effectively, and simply, it’s a label placed on actions and behaviors attributable to “manhood” that are destructive, often violent, and naturally come with extremely negative consequences toward both men AND women.
By now, everybody is familiar with the story of Steve Stephens. He is the murderer from Cleveland (though his current whereabouts aren’t known) who brazenly killed Robert Godwin Sr., a man doing nothing more than walking home after Easter dinner. Stephens, while filming the entire thing on Facebook Live, approached Godwin, asked him to say the name of his ex-girlfriend, Joy Lane, and then blamed her for the act of murder he then committed.
Let me be very clear upfront: It is not Joy Lane’s fault.
Say that again: It is not Joy Lane’s fault.
In fact, let's all sing that together - IT IS NOT JOY LANE'S FAULT.
It is not Stephens' mother’s fault. It is not any Black woman’s fault that this monster committed such an act, ever. He acted on his own choices of his own volition and did the unthinkable. It takes a sick individual to find blame in a person just because her name was uttered in connection to an immoral act. But it has happened.
I’m also not going to be so quick to jump on the he has mental health issues bandwagon. I'm no psychologist, armchair or otherwise, and neither are most people with opinions on his state of mind. Some people just have evil in them and those demons surface. I do believe that all of us, especially Black people, need to engage in more self-care, ensuring our ability to manage in a world that is very hostile to our livelihoods, spirit, and bodies. That is important. You can’t help anybody if you cannot help yourself. Stephens may very well be an unwell person, his actions indicate that as a possibility.
But really, he comes off as a man who snapped and had no idea how to deal with the rejections he faced for various reasons and as opposed to dealing with his own problems in a non-destructive fashion, he did the most cowardly, morally bankrupt, nihilistic, and sadistic thing he could do, became aggressively destructive, took a life, blamed it on a woman, and begged for attention while doing it by filming it live. I do not wish grace or mercy on Stephens. My heart has no room for a man who could do what he did.
Robert Godwin, Sr., God bless the dead, could have literally been ANY OF OUR grandparents who did NOTHING more than decide to go home at that time. There was no way to stop that crime from happening. That’s what makes it the most heartbreaking; What could have been done? Once Stephens decided that somebody was going to die, the only obstacle was picking a person. He allegedly told his mother the day before that that particular visit was going to be the last time he saw her. Should his mother have called the police then? Maybe. But what could they have done? He hadn’t done anything wrong and unless he WAS a mentally unstable person and did something that the police COULD have legally stopped him for, and there is no indication that prior to this act there was anything on record to indicate as such, there would be no file or anything started.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that it is entirely possible to live a life in a way in which nobody can tell that you are suffering. His FB live video implies as much, but this is where toxic masculinity comes in. As opposed to trying to find a way to deal with it, he decided that destruction and chaos were the only ways to address his problem. Now a family is out a patriarch, a community is shattered, and his is now a life lost as well.
I don’t care what happened between he and Joy Lane. The fact that he attempted to place the blame on any woman for his actions is asinine. What he did to Robert Godwin Sr. is irredeemable. Just like any time a man has taken the life of a woman or anybody due to rejection, and violence due to rejection is far too frequent to be silent about it. This shit has got to stop. We have to hold our brothers, fathers, friends, and really ANYBODY accountable to the destructive actions and behaviors that exist, even if they haven’t resulted in extreme circumstances. Our culture is one rooted in this type of patriarchal behavior for which there is entirely too much access to information explaining why its toxic. Knowing better to do better is ALWAYS a possibility. If you have the pre-meditated wherewithal to make such terrible decisions, the entire onus for them is on you, not the woman who broke your heart.
I expect that Steve Stephens will be probably be killed by police, if he doesn’t kill himself first. Any person who is willing to go to the lengths he has has probably already decided how this is going to end. I will be surprised if he’s captured and sent to prison where I imagine his actions would be lend themselves to the most unpleasant lifetime sentence of all time, should he even make it that long.
I felt horrible for Mr. Godwin and for the family for having to find out that your father was mercilessly gunned down by a maniac with a vendetta. Watching the news story was heart-breaking. I’m afraid we’ll get more outrageous stories like this, and more of our family members will pay the price for a societal lack of addressing issues like toxic masculinity that have such negative impacts on our community.
I'm praying for the family of Mr. Godwin in this trying time. Rest in power, sir, and God bless the dead.