The term “toxic masculinity” is en vogue now, from college campuses to Playboy. But the term implies there’s a problem with masculinity, and teaching our boys and men that their innate wiring is wrong, stupid, and even toxic creates far worse problems. If anything, society doesn’t need less toxic masculinity, we need more men embracing their natural masculinity.
The latest in the explorations and denigrations of toxic masculinity is the University of Regina, a school in Canada. They’re hosting a program called “Man Up Against Violence,” which asks male students to sit in a Catholic-style confessional booth and confess their sin of “hypermasculinity.”
What’s that? You weren’t aware masculinity, hyper or otherwise, was a problem? Well, universities want guys to own it and apologize for it—not just inwardly, but outwardly too. After a female colleague wrote about toxic masculinity, New Zealand’s Martin Van Beynen observed, “Toxic masculinity is the new male burden.” He is also trying to figure out what it means.
You then have to ask what aspects of manliness its accusers don’t find toxic. Surely they can appreciate the masculinity that builds cities and roads and fixes things. Maybe they could also find the hardiness associated with masculinity commendable and worthwhile.
Of course, some men do rape and beat up their partners and make excuses for rude behavior. But nothing suggests a rape culture is endemic to the male psyche—not anywhere close to the majority of men are rapists—and to stigmatize masculinity on the strengths of some bad attitudes among teenage boys and some men is simplistic, counter-productive, and unfair. Labeling masculinity itself as toxic is hardly going to change attitudes, particularly among teenage boys, or enlist the help of men who can make a difference.
Do the Actions of a Few Men Characterize Them All?
While I applaud that Regina University is hosting a “Healthy Relationships and Healthy Masculinity” workshop—who’s not for “healthy masculinity?”—I’m afraid the whole initiative reinforces the myth that men are toxic just because of their natural biology, not because they’ve done anything wrong. Man Up Against Violence says, “[W]e challenge mindsets and behaviors about the social construction of masculinity and its relationship with violence. We work together to bring light to the causes of all types of violence related to gender, race, socio-economic status, ability level and beyond.”
The phrase “social construction of masculinity and its relationship with violence” carries an assumption that some men, even all men, are violent. Some women are prostitutes too, but does that mean it’s healthy for society, particularly universities tasked with shaping young minds, to automatically equate females with selling sex? Of course not.
Even Playboy has started using the term. Earlier this month the publication said British singer Ed Sheeran had a “Toxic Masculinity Problem”: “[Sheeran] sometimes comes off as sad and out-of-control. And his attempts to own that—in both his music and his interviews—is what makes it feel like he’s dealing with a severe case of toxic masculinity, one that is continually fueled by binge drinking and sex.”
What this author describes isn’t a toxic male but an immature one. This kind of behavior has been common among musicians and Hollywood celebrities for a long time. In the 80’s, Eddie Murphy joked the band The Busboys made his fish stop swimming because of their propensity to, “f–k anything that moves.” But this says more about Hollywood culture than “toxic masculinity.”
One of These Things Is Not Like the Other
Even advocates of this thinking can’t agree on what “toxic masculinity” is, save for things men do that women don’t like. Of course, rape, misogyny, and abuse are toxic. Any civilized society should demand that criminal or abusive behavior to be dealt with as a legal and moral imperative.
But if the “We-hate-toxic-masculinity” crowd were just referring to this, they wouldn’t have a confessional booth set up on a college campus for the average male student, and abuse is more serious than that. Criminalizing manhood is a sure way to trivialize actual crimes by comparison by lumping two completely unlike things under the same heading.
Suggesting men confess a crime they didn’t commit, or confess to a crime that’s not even a crime (being a man) is progressive virtue-signaling in overdrive. Such a scheme is framed in such a way to deliberately hurt young men and thus our society at large, which benefits most from men meeting their masculine potential.
What We Need Is Healthy Masculinity
Our culture is so wrapped up in trying to blur the lines of sexuality, and women have become so obsessed with their warped concept of feminism, we seem dead-set on confusing, even hating, men for their masculinity. Equality doesn’t mean sameness. Yes, society should strive for equality between men and women, but no phrase, whether “cisgender,” “toxic masculinity,” or “gender binary attack helicopter,” will ever change that men and women are not the same. Nor should it mean men shouldn’t be as proud to be masculine as women can to be feminine.
Camille Paglia once said, “Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. None of their pain or achievement is registered in feminist rhetoric, which portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters.”
Masculine men are as much the bedrock of society as strong, nurturing women. Don’t think so? Read a bit of history about the men and women who traversed this country’s wilderness and winters with minimal belongings on horseback and in carriages during the pioneer era. Talk about the sexes working together. Without each other, they likely may not have survived. Even though survival is easier today, men and women still need each other. We both have unique and complimentary things to offer each other and society.
Because feminists are so clueless and careless about the differences between men and women they seek to emasculate even an “average” guy as opposed to calling out men who are actual misogynists.
Instead of teaching our boys to embrace a healthy masculinity that includes what at first glance appears to be trivial—such as holding doors, carrying groceries, or throwing a coat over the shoulders of a wife or girlfriend—society forces them to not only to eschew such chivalrous gestures but to repent of exuding masculine strength.
I have two boys and believe teaching them the value of healthy masculinity is as imperative as teaching girls it’s good to embrace their femininity. Even the simple truth that maleness is nothing to be ashamed of seems to be a radical concept. Healthy men and boys know their strengths, and instead of seeking to annihilate these traits, we need to encourage them to use their strengths for good. Society needs it far more than we need men to apologize for existing.