At lunch with some colleagues the other day, some of the women—ladies in their 20s—were discussing how rare it is for men their age to step up, approach any feminine peers, and ask for a date, much less show any interest that could be seen as a move toward romance.
I asked them a half serious, half facetious question: “Isn’t it true that in this age of toxic masculinity and the Me Too movement that your problem is exactly the opposite—young men approaching you regularly and just taking what they want?” Their reaction? Eyes. Rolled.
They said the problem with masculinity today is not toxicity, but passivity. Full Stop. Yes, they recognize some men, a minute sliver actually, are apprentice Harvey Weinsteins. But real Weinsteins are generally older men who live in a whole other world, those who possess great professional or reputational power over others: movie producers, sport figures, television personalities, CEOs, university professors, and politicians.
Those sorts and most ladies don’t run in such circles. They are nearly never the guy next door or the one over the cubicle wall. Most women will never meet a truly “toxic male,” whatever that might be. The problem with the guys they come across is the exact opposite. They don’t approach with any intentions.
This has only gotten worse as more young men have fallen head-over-heels in love with the screens that deliver their daily dose of “Fortnite” and porn. It’s not that they’ve lost the ability to engage with an actual, living, breathing woman. Few ever developed such skills. The social opportunities open to women today are making them better catches and thus increasingly intimidating to too many young adult males, who approximate a mole. They live underground in the dark, seldom experiencing fresh air and actual sunshine upon their faces, and scrounge for anything close by that they can eat.
Men Are Prone to Passivity
It’s passivity, not toxicity, that is the real male problem today. Ask any young woman how she vets all the nice young men who approach to decide who will advance to the bonus round of an actual date. She will ask if you rewind your VHS tapes before returning them to Blockbuster, or just pay the fee.
It is vital that we understand passivity, as well as toxicity, as a male problem rather than a masculine problem. The two things are as different as night and day. Being a male is merely being born with certain body parts, XY chromosomes and learning how to live as such. It is not nothing, to be sure, but it is not more than it is. That much is just biology.
Masculinity, however, is totally different. It is not a biological thing, but a virtue that men must learn and demonstrate. This is why the term “toxic masculinity” is an oxymoron. Masculinity, properly understood, is a social good and necessity. Curiously, it’s not even uniquely male per se.
Harvey Mansfield, the esteemed Harvard political philosopher, wrote a book more than a decade ago entitled “Manliness.” (Mansfield was Jordan Peterson before Jordan Peterson was Jordan Peterson!) The first three lines of his book are as crisp and to the point as they are correct. He greets his reader with this: “This book is about manliness. What is that? It’s best to start from examples we know… Margaret Thatcher.”
Masculinity Is a Character Trait, Not a Biological Feature
Let me say it again: masculinity is a character quality that by its very substance cannot be toxic, and it is not natural to men or anyone else. It is a learned behavior that exists only in behavior. It requires demonstration, and we know it when we see it. It is the opposite of passivity, which we also know when we see it. Masculinity is a quality of character that all men must learn and strive for, for it is acquired.
Women like Thatcher can indeed show distinct masculine qualities. No one would deny Jeannie Leavitt’s masculine qualities. She is the U.S. Air Force’s first female fighter pilot, the first woman to command a USAF combat fighter wing, and a brigadier general. She’s a wife and mother, and all woman. She’s unapologetically feminine, while tougher than Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris combined. But no woman requires such qualities to be a real woman.
Being a female who can legitimately demonstrate masculine qualities does not include the, pardon me for putting it this way, “butch” woman. That kind of woman is resisting her femininity, her nature, and trying to be something she can never authentically be.
Of course, no woman requires masculine qualities, or anything close, to be a real woman. She is totally legitimate in her femininity. What else in humanity is more legitimate in and of itself? Unlike masculinity, femininity does not require demonstration. It exists most strongly in a woman’s essence. And, ladies, that’s the most powerful force in the world. Any good man knows this, but that is a whole other article.
True Masculinity Is a Desirable Trait
Back to the average single woman. She finally has a blind date coming up. She asks her friends who set it up what he’s like. They say, “Well, he’s masculine.” No woman responds, “Is he getting help for that?” She is intrigued by that, and not because she’s some swooning school-girl who doesn’t know any better.
Masculinity is not a character flaw. It is something we would wish every young man possessed if we can just forget for one moment the false tags elites tell us about such things. If the potential date could be described as “macho,” her girlfriends wouldn’t have set her up with him in the first place. We all know these two things are totally different.
The masculine male does the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons. He doesn’t shrink away. He steps up. Even the boy who acts masculine is demonstrating himself as a man. Mansfield explains to us that, “Manliness brings change or restores order at moments when routine is not enough, when the plan fails, when the whole idea of rational control by modern science develops a leak.”
I love his next line, for it says nearly everything about masculinity anyone needs to know: “Manliness is the next-to-last resort, before resignation and prayer… A manly man asserts himself so that he and the justice he demands are not overlooked.” Masculinity is the right action at the right time in the right way. It responds.
This is true of those great men who leapt to action without a moment’s notice on the fateful day of 9/11. Gender equity among the rescuers was on no one’s mind. It would have sounded ridiculous beyond imagination if anyone had called for it or complained about its absence.
We Need More Masculinity, Not Less
True and total gender equity only exists in some people’s make-believe imagination, and that takes nothing away from the matchless power of the feminine. In fact, ironically, the Democratic National Committee admitted just last week that true gender equity between men and women is actually sexist, and adjusted the requirement in their charter. Why? Because, they say, it’s prejudiced against the non-binary. Gender theorists increasingly have trouble keeping up with their own madness.
Masculinity doesn’t just show itself in extreme cases of rescue. It is also true in the everyday, of the man in this afternoon’s meeting who immediately stood to get extra chairs for newcomers who had just arrived to no room at the table. He springs to create a different atmosphere out of the insufficient one that currently exists.
Masculinity in any form never requires apology. Masculinity is a public and personal virtue, and every society, without exception, requires as many men as possible to learn it. There is no tipping point toward “too much.” It is the ill society that seeks to squelch it, the society that’s trying to deny what it means to be healthily human.
Rest assured, our problem today is not raising toxic males. It’s raising passive males. Those are males who are not even sure what the right thing to do is, much less possess the courage and assertiveness to know when to demonstrate it or how. Masculinity can only be taught, encouraged, and even demanded by the previous generation of both men and women. Men teach and call younger boys up into it, and women set before the young male what he must do if he wants a shot at them.
The culture that says, “We don’t know how to turn these boys today into men” is tragically passive as well. We need to be men, all of us, to hitch up our collective trousers and teach our boys what manliness is and what it is not and demand they act on it. If nothing else, there’s a whole generation of young women hoping someone will step up and do so.