On ‘Toxic Masculinity’

Recently, the subject of “toxic masculinity” came up and I thought I’d write something about it.

Photo by Lauri Heikkinen
Photo by Lauri Heikkinen

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, “toxic masculinity” is a term used in feminist circles used to describe traditional ideas of masculinity.  In particular, it exists to discourage men from urging other males from embracing such ideas as traditional masculinity.

But what is the term really used for?

Modern feminism has long since pulled away from its roots of calling for equal treatment from society.  Today, it appears that what modern feminism really wants is an inversion of gender roles from decades ago.

One feminist wiki states, “It refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.”

Sounds a bit harsh, right?

That same wiki presents “examples” of so-called toxic masculinity such as:

  • The expectation that Real Men are strong, and that showing emotion is incompatible with being strong. Anger is either framed as the exception to the rule, or as not an emotion.
  • Men are just like that: the expectation that Real Men are keenly interested in sex, want to have sex, and are ready to have sex most if not all times.
  • Emasculation: the idea that there is a range of feminine interests and activities a Real Man would not hold, and that disprove a man’s masculinity regardless of his other actions:
    • interest in one’s personal looks, cosmetics, dressing up, fashion
    • being emotional, expressing emotion, crying
    • appreciating “frivolous” things such as sugary “girly” drinks, romantic styles, cute animal videos, romcom flicks
    • understanding women, being sympathetic[1]
    • being silly, giddy
    • needing help, not-knowing
    • and so on.

Quite a list, isn’t it?

It’s hardly surprising that a feminist would compile a list like this.  And this is without me including the blatantly strawman arguments presented.  Here are those:

  • Though not reinforced much in fictional media, in real life it is widely expected that a man would abandon his pregnant girlfriend, and is incapable and/or unwilling to take responsibility.
  • The pervasive idea of male-female interactions as competition, not cooperation.
  • The myth that men are not interested in parenting, and are inherently unsuited to be single parents.

Now these don’t fit any man I know.  In fact, it can be argued (and I do argue it) that any man abandoning his pregnant girlfriend and is unwilling to take responsibility isn’t much of a man.

With that said, let’s look at some of these arguments presented by this wiki — and shared by plenty of feminists — in detail.

The expectation that Real Men are strong, and that showing emotion is incompatible with being strong. Anger is either framed as the exception to the rule, or as not an emotion.

Men have always felt emotion.  What they didn’t do was let emotions dictate things.  Emotions were personal, private.

In times of difficulty, men are expected to be the rock on which the family leans.  We have to be stable or else the whole thing falls apart.

As for anger, I’m not sure where this site is getting their information, but anger is an emotion and men are often expected to clamp down on their anger as well…unless anger is warranted.

If a man lashes out at someone for no good reason, he has expressed anger.  However, other men will look at him and shake their heads.  That isn’t right, and we all know it.

Anger may be warranted, and yes, traditional masculinity does call for us to show this emotion at times.

However, it’s also important to understand why.

You see, anger is almost always present right before any man is about to unleash violence upon another.  Being angry, and expressing that anger, serves to warn another man that he has crossed a line.  It’s up to him to either apologize and back away or to take the challenge.

It’s not that anger is somehow better than other emotions, or is a non-emotion.  It’s that anger is useless unless it is expressed where others can observe.  Many other emotions can be expressed later and to a far more limited audience.

Men are just like that: the expectation that Real Men are keenly interested in sex, want to have sex, and are ready to have sex most if not all times

And?

Men, as a general rule, are just like that.  Feminists don’t have to like it, but it’s true.  Now, I’d say that a man who isn’t just like that can still be a real man, but I’ve talked to countless men in my life, and it’s rare to find one that isn’t ready for sex.

Of course, the stereotype of men’s obsession with sex doesn’t come from men necessarily.  Women tend to believe men are always willing to talk sex no matter what.

Emasculation: the idea that there is a range of feminine interests and activities a Real Man would not hold, and that disprove a man’s masculinity regardless of his other actions:

  • interest in one’s personal looks, cosmetics, dressing up, fashion
  • being emotional, expressing emotion, crying
  • appreciating “frivolous” things such as sugary “girly” drinks, romantic styles, cute animal videos, romcom flicks
  • understanding women, being sympathetic[1]
  • being silly, giddy
  • needing help, not-knowing
  • and so on.

And now we get to the meat of the issue.

By arguing that men should be permitted to be as feminine as they choose and still be deemed “men”, feminists are attempting to dictate who is actually masculine.

This opens the door up just enough that feminists hope for an inversion of gender roles from their historic norms.

Don’t believe me?  Well, look at any online discussion between a male — particularly a white male, but any male will often do — and a feminist regarding any matter pertaining to social justice or feminism.  No matter how calm the man, the women will display significant anger.

If a man does so, he’s immediately attacked, but women are permitted to be as angry as they choose.

Now, go back up and look at the examples of toxic masculinity.  Note the first one about how anger is supposedly the only appropriate emotion for a man to express?  They are embracing and internalizing this trope based on a faulty understanding of masculinity.

The reality is the term “toxic masculinity” is nothing more than attempt to pain anything that traditionally defined masculinity as wrong.  They’re wrong for men, that is.  But not for women.

However, feminism fails to understand a key factor about men – which is ironic because one of their tenets of toxic masculinity is, “The pervasive idea that men cannot truly understand women, and vice versa” — is that most men want to be this way.  We grew up choosing to idolize the men who embodied this concept, and as such, we wanted to be just like them.

If anything is toxic, it’s the idea that men aren’t free to choose their own definitions of masculinity but must ask a woman to define it for them.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s