The Solution To Toxic Masculinity Is Not Telling Men To Put On A Dress

The Solution To Toxic Masculinity Is Not Telling Men To Put On A Dress

That some men misunderstand masculinity and misuse it is not justification for broadly rejecting broad shoulders, stubbly chins, and horsepower competitions.
Denise Shick
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Our culture seems to be increasingly falling prey to the scourge of assertions and even legislation based on false dichotomies. For example:

  • Either you support sending more troops to the Middle East or you are America’s enemy.
  • I can either stay at my current job or I can quit and live in poverty.
  • If you oppose America entering a war, you hate the military.
  • If you support America entering a war, you hate people who don’t look like you.
  • If you do not donate to a charity that helps orphans, you hate kids.
  • Either you love and support my candidate, or you love and support the opposition candidate.

I’m sure you can think of many others. Did this one ever cross your mind? “Either you support men wearing dresses and high heels, or you hate people with gender-identity issues.”

Perhaps the invention of binary code for computing fueled this rapid increase of binary thinking. Every decision now comes down to zero or one, with no room for any other choices. I have news for those whose views are so narrow: Life is more complicated than that.

I do not support the trend of men dressing as women. And I do not hate people with gender issues. My father had gender issues, and I loved him. I did not approve of many of his choices, but I never wanted harm to come to him. And wishing harm on someone is what hate is all about.

When my dad was approaching the end of his life, living mostly alone and confused, I spent many hours with him, talking with him, crying with him, and praying with him. I never told him I agreed with his choices, but I told him I loved him.

I was deeply saddened and cried when my daddy departed this life. But that was not the first time I’d cried so. I’d sobbed so many times before, when I saw that the man I’d admired the first nine years of my life was still there, but he was no longer dad. He was, according to his wishes, my other mother.

I didn’t want two mothers; I wanted Mom and Dad. So did my brothers and sister. That’s the desire built into every child at birth.

Yes, kids are—or can be—resilient. Yes, many kids grow up and prosper with just one parent or with two mothers or two fathers. I have not fallen into the false dichotomous view that one must have one mother and one father in order to function properly. But in a world full of family-relationship varieties, one type has historically proven to be the best at providing for children’s physical and emotional needs. It is not bigoted to acknowledge facts.

I propose that the reason our culture has found itself questioning—and sometimes even condemning—masculinity is that binary thinking has taken such a hold. Sure, some men have done and do many cruel and corrupt things, often fueled by mistaken notions of masculinity. Sometimes testosterone fuels stupidity and greed rather than strength and self-sacrifice. So the binary reaction to such degeneracy in some men—the false dichotomy—is that either you label masculinity toxic and reject it outright or you hate defenseless women and children.

That some men misunderstand masculinity and misuse it is not justification for broadly rejecting broad shoulders, stubbly chins, and horsepower competitions. Many men—probably most—learn how to reign in their competitive natures. They understand that true power need not be on display. They appreciate the value of their inherent strength with no need to flaunt it.

Yes, society sometimes needs to step in and administer a dose of restraint for some men who, perhaps, did not get the parental guidance that would have tempered their aggressive proclivities. But that does not mean that we need to swing to the other extreme and promote male crossdressing to correct those exceptions. Swapping one type of gender confusion (out-of-control masculinity) for another type (outright delusion) is not a legitimate solution. Life is more complicated than that.

As a culture, and especially as families, we need to help young men really understand that their masculine power is at its best when it is controlled and used for community service rather than for self-service. Please don’t tell men that they must be either masculine or gentle. Wearing dresses does not transform gruff men into gentlemen.

Denise Shick is author of “My Daddy’s Secret,” “When Hope Seems Lost,” and “Understanding Gender Confusion.” She serves on the academic council of the International Children's Rights Institute and directs Help 4 Families Ministry.

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