Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Toxic masculinity" isn't completely crazy

"Toxic masculinity" is a term that has been around for a while. This article says it's been around since the 1980s and that matches my experience. it goes on to say that the term does not originate in any academic work but is simply a derogatory term that became common in grassroots feminism of a certain kind.

Important digression: If you set out to create a movement to ban music-playing ice cream trucks you'd attract some people with serious arguments and some people who just hate children. Man-hating feminists are real. No, not all feminists but some of them. "Toxic masculinity" was probably the product of feminists who just hated men at its origin.

In addition, it's a stupid term. Much like the equally odious "testosterone poisoning" it was originally used to suggest that maleness and masculinity are problems to be fixed. You see that attitude everywhere. Contrast the horrid Good Men Project with the very good Art of Manliness. And you'll get some notion of what I mean.

The term "toxic masculinity" should be abolished. And yet, somewhere along the line, there was an attempt to put some meaningful content to concept. Again, from the article I began by quoting:
For example, one book that seeks to raise awareness of issues that men face, titled “Man Enough: Fathers, Sons, and the Search for Masculinity” (1994), highlighted one of the earliest examples of toxic masculinity in the literature. 
“Without a “father in residence,” [men] may go through life striving towards an ideal of exaggerated, even toxic, masculinity” the author of the book, Frank Pittman, said on the topic of young men without fathers.
Pittman chose his words badly. He should said, "Without a “father in residence,” [men] may go through life striving towards a parody of masculinity." For that is a very real problem. Boys without strong men as role models tend to seek role models in other boys or in superhero fiction. And there is something toxic about that. Think of the Crips for example.

Perhaps not so obvious, though, is that there are other parodies of masculinity out there. Far more pervasive than the the dominant, woman-hating variety is the parody of manliness you get when men turn to women to help them define their masculinity instead of other men. Again, I refer you to The Good Man Project.

A question for you to ponder: Is there a tension between what women you know say masculinity should be and what they actually respond to in real life? Or, if you are a woman, is there a tension between what you admire in the abstract and what you respond to in your life? I'm not saying that one side of this tension is all wrong and the other side is all right. Just notice that it's there and ponder it.

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