Much of what I've read in the aftermath of the Will Smith/Chris Rock slapping incident portrays it as an issue I have no right to comment about. "This is a great moment for white women to keep quiet," one post reads. "White feminists need to sit this one out," says another. "The irony is that white folks are saying violence is not the answer."

Yes, I'm a white woman, but I'm not writing to take sides, to declare who's right or wrong, or to wade into a discussion about how our society's systemic, inherent and omnipresent racism further complicates this jolting story.

However, with all due respect for Black perspectives, I'd like to switch the narrative a bit, and offer a point of view that's been, so far, not widely articulated: that this "slap felt 'round the world," as explained by Dr. Shaun Harper in a Los Angeles Times commentary, demonstrates toxic masculinity.

"Toxic masculinity compels a guy to go immediately into bar fight mode when someone says or does something disrespectful to someone he loves," Harper writes. "But what if slapping or fighting someone isn't what the disrespected person wants or needs?"

Harper, who is a Black professor at University of Southern California and executive director of the university's Race and Equity Center, writes that Will Smith felt "called" to be a protector, as he claimed in his hastily revised Oscar acceptance speech. So the very public act of violence, ostensibly, "was his way of protecting his wife."

My question is: What was he protecting her from? A hungry predator? A careening SUV? A gun-toting rapist? No. He was protecting her from … a joke. A joke made by a professional Black comedian, whom they both know, performing for a worldwide audience.

I don't think it's relevant that the joke was, indeed, hurtful, or whether or not Chris Rock knew about Jada's alopecia, or how much emotional baggage still lingers from last year's very public revelations about the Smiths "opening up" their marriage, which Oscar co-host Regina Hall had joked about earlier in the evening.

None of it is relevant, because Jada Pinkett Smith is a strong, capable and autonomous adult. She can defend herself. She doesn't need her husband to be her proxy and fight her battles. What Rock said to her, about her, had nothing to do with whom she's married to. And her expertly executed eye roll, caught on camera, was the most appropriate response.

The next morning, she could have followed up with a tweet, targeting @chrisrock, saying that jokes about hair loss due to medical conditions aren't funny. Then, she'd implore him to consider a generous donation to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF).

Jada should be the leading character in this story. Not the two men — neither the one who disparaged her, nor the one who made it all about him when he leapt to her defense. Why have so few seen it this way? Have we not yet evolved from a patriarchal belief system that assumes women are weak, powerless and irrational, and thus need men to intervene on their behalf? "The 'real men are protectors' expectation is firmly entrenched in toxic masculinity," explains Harper in his article. Just as Black culture has good reason to reject white saviorism, women must learn to recognize toxic masculinity when it's disguised as chivalry.

"Each time a woman stands up for herself … she stands up for all women," wrote Maya Angelou. We don't want or need men to do that for us.

Shari M. Danielson is a writer in Long Lake. She's at