Another Look at Toxic Masculinity

Hey, guys! I haven’t posted in a while because a.) grad school is hard and b.) I haven’t been overly inspired to comment on any recent events. I can only be sarcastically unsurprised about the wacky antics of my fellow man for so long. I need to start talking about stuff I like. . . . So Record Store Day was a thing that happened recently. It’s the first time I’ve participated in that event and it was a fun time. I got a Freddie Gibbs limited color pressing vinyl that’s pretty sweet. I live in Indiana, so I didn’t even have to try that hard. No one in Indiana was gonna stand in line for three hours and then fight me over a hip-hop album. Yay, capitalism! Oh, and I recently discovered Souls of Mischief, which is a hip-hop group from the early 90s that definitely deserves more credit for being a precursor to jazz rap, and I know I’m a good 30 years late on that hype train, but I’m on it now.

Alright, enough of that. I’m well aware of the internet’s low tolerance for hipster shit.

Let’s talk about toxic masculinity . . . again.

A while ago, I wrote an article called Let’s Talk About Toxic Masculinity. I actually don’t agree with everything I said there anymore. My overall thesis statement –“If prototypically gendered traits can be toxic, it stands to reason that toxic femininity exists in addition to toxic masculinity.”– is one I still agree with. I also haven’t changed on my stance that third/fourth-wave feminists oftentimes pathologize “maleness” as inherently domineering and oppressive, therefore making “toxic masculinity” an inescapable state of existence that doesn’t seem to have much to do with a man’s actual behavior but his mere presence.

That said, I’ve been trying to separate the worst actors of feminism from its base ideas, and while there are many notions about how the world works from feminist theory that I still fundamentally disagree with, “toxic masculinity” isn’t one of them. In my previous post on the topic, I called toxic masculinity “fictional” and said that “explicitly gendering negative behaviors and traits is useless.” Let it be known here that I don’t agree with those assertions anymore. After discussing the topic more with my fiance (who is not a feminist) and many male friends (some of whom consider themselves feminists, but who are all very reasonable humans irregardless of labels), I’ve come to believe that there is a very real case to be made for why addressing toxic gendered behavior is a thing that should happen.

I think attributing certain negative behaviors/traits to a particular gender is useful when we’re speaking of them in the context of social upbringing. The fact of the matter is that boys and girls are, more often than not, raised differently and disciplined differently, and that difference in treatment does lay the foundation for “gendered” traits that can potentially be more negative than positive. This isn’t me saying that girls can’t be stoic because that’s not a “girl” trait. It’s me saying that stoicism is regarded differently in women than it is in men, and men are more often than not raised to value it as an admirable trait whereas women aren’t. So when we’re talking about boys growing into men who aren’t comfortable expressing their emotions even when doing so would be helpful, you have to address that the reticence to express emotion stems partially from gender norms dictating how they, as a male, were raised. A woman being shitty at expressing her emotions is likely coming at that problem from a very different direction. Gendering stoicism as a trait, then, is actually somewhat necessary. Addressing the notion that they may have been brought up to think that talking about feelings “isn’t what men do” is a crucial motivation to go over if/when refusing to talk about their feelings is causing problems.

This is not something that “red pilled” people like to hear because they have, at least understandably, conflated any mention of “toxic masculinity” as an attack on men as a gender. I agree that feminists have largely dropped the ball on constructively addressing this *coughmaletearscough*

But it’s resulted in the red pill crowd essentially doubling down on defending gender norms, particularly in regards to men, in a way that I view as being actively detrimental. Take this article, for example. It’s from the Philly Inquirer, titled “Men’s cuddling group aims to redefine masculinity and heal trauma.” That is a clickbait title, by the way. The group, from what I can glean, is mostly about creating a space where men who are starved for human affection can be physically/emotionally affectionate without anyone calling them faggots for daring to be a guy who wants a hug. I’m okay with this. Babies from social species wither away from not being touched enough, and the negative impact of “touch deprivation” can continue into adulthood and have series psychological and even physical consequences. So if a bunch of guys want to get together to combat the very real stigma of it being “gay in a bad way” to want physical affection, I think that’s a good thing. What were some red-pilled reactions to this, though?

 

“We already have a men’s cuddle therapy; it’s called rugby, or for that more intimate experience, wrestling.”

I like how wrestling, aka the most homoerotic thing this side of Fast and Furious, is considered “manly” by the same people who scoff at the notion of men physically touching each other outside of a competitive context. Sitting close together and touching shoulders is too femmey, but groping each other’s ass and crotch-area is manly as fuck as long as you’re doing it in the context of fighting, I guess.

“Congratulations I guess? Doesn’t change the fact that this is not the way men typically connect with one another . . . and that’s coming from a gay guy. Point being, we don’t want your modes of engaging with one another.”

I love how men are treated here as a monolithic “we” that doesn’t want “your” gross, girly way of interacting with each other. Also, clearly some men do wish that they weren’t constrained by the gender norms of what constitutes an acceptable range of male affection. I agree with feminists like Christina Hoff Sommers, who point out that we shouldn’t be pathologizing many men’s preferred ways of interacting with each other. A man not being openly affectionate or not wanting to overtly talk about his feelings is not inherently negative; and a man not being as comfortable verbally/emotionally expressing himself as a woman is not automatically a sign of him being emotionally stunted. Having other, preferred means of working through emotional issues is fine.

That being said, there are certain situations where the typical man’s preferred way of dealing with emotions is not helpful (just like there are situations where the typical woman’s preferred way of dealing with emotions isn’t helpful). If this group of guys has decided that going outside to pass the football around isn’t sufficient for contending with their emotional/psychological needs, that is also fine. You are the same people who bite feminists’ heads off for not caring about male depression rates and male suicide rates. Clearly, the royal We of men isn’t doing that great when it comes to dealing with psychological distress, which logically should lead to the conclusion that, just maybe, the royal We should do some self reflection to see if his long-standing, preferred method of dealing with emotional issues could use some revamping.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” as people egregiously misquote Einstein as saying. If you care about the demonstrable problem men sinking into suicidal depression, maybe you should sit down and naval gaze for a few minutes to see if your “typical way of interacting with each other” is contributing to that problem even a little bit instead of looking at people who are at least trying to address the problem by trying something new and declaring it “too weird and not what ‘we’ do” by default.

I am grateful I am old enough to remember male bonding as getting drunk, and getting into trouble with my friends :)”

It’s still that. It’s not like being more openly affectionate sometimes precludes you from having drunken shenanigans. What world do you live in where feelings and booze are two circles that never intersect?

“Can we sing some gay songs too?😂😂”

“That’s another expression of their homosexuality”

Those are just two good ‘ole fashioned examples of 90s-style homophobia where we didn’t hate the gays anymore, but we did see the concept of gayness as a joke in of itself.

Knock, knock.

Who is there?

A gay guy.

Whaaaaaaat. That’s not what most people are! Fucking hilarious! 😂😂

“Why does masculinity need redefining? Do you hate men?”

See my above statement about how what your lot considers to be “traditionally masculine ways of interacting” don’t seem to be helping you all that much in the long run. I’m not saying you need to deal with your feelings “like women,” but clearly dealing with them “like men” could use a little redefining. Gender roles can and do change all the time, and not because evil feminists force them to. Masculinity is defined differently by different cultures at different times, and we seem to be in a transitory period in “the West” where people are coming to the realization that maybe “masculinity” can include more openly sympathetic behavior. Shifting cultural standards aren’t an attack of masculinity as a concept, even though loud internet armchair activists are obnoxious about it. You sound like the narrator from Money for Nothing who hates how “effeminate” glam rock singers are more successful than him, and the narrator of Money for Nothing is supposed to be a bitter asshole.

See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire

3 thoughts on “Another Look at Toxic Masculinity

  1. Tea Enthusiast says:

    My interpretation of toxic masculinity is any concept of masculinity that is defined by domination over women. (Aka, some men don’t feel “like a real man” if they haven’t had a bajillion one night stands or can’t outperform their girlfriend in a sport or some other task.) Traditional male hobbies aren’t toxic masculinity in themselves.

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