Monday, January 23, 2017

I Object To The Term "Toxic Masculinity"

I don't even know where the term "toxic masculinity" came from. But, tt seems to have now crept into common usage in social justice circles. I hear it more and more, and I find it problematic, and here is why.

The way I see it, the term is vague, yet loaded. What exactly is this "toxic masculinity"? How is it determined and by whom? How much "masculinity" is one allowed to show before being accused of displaying "toxic masculinity". And, for that matter, what the hell IS "masculinity" in the first place? In order to determine what it is to be masculine, one must fall back on stereotyping to even define what it is. There isn't a clear definition of what masculine is, yet, we have the term "toxic masculinity"? We've added a negative word onto an ill defined word to come up with a term that is even more ill defined. And, as these terms have been known to do, I fear that this is going to be yet another term used to shut down free and open discussion and to label people or their behaviours. With no clear definition it's not going to be that long before this term is abused, if it isn't happening already. Words employed by those deeply invested in social justice have this tendency to be misused and abused, I've noticed.

In my quest to find out what the heck "toxic masculinity" is, I'm met with a variety of often odd answers. One I have heard frequently is this idea of a narrative that tells boys that they shouldn't cry and the use of phrases like "man up!" is part of "toxic masculinity". Now, I DO have a problem with these ideas. Boys should feel free to cry and I believe that many actually do cry openly and are not ashamed. I hate the phrase "man up!" but my association of it is less to do with other men telling men to "man up!" but from Sarah Palin who seemed to love that phrase.

More generalized ideas like domestic abuse, rape and violence seem to be categorized as "toxic masculinity". There is no doubt these things are terrible and we must, as a society, fight against them. But, sadly, we see domestic abuse, rape and violence in both women and men, which raises the question if it is really a "masculine" trait or behavior, and more the behavior of certain types of people regardless of gender or sexuality?

Yes, sadly, men are statistically more likely to commit acts of violence. Why this is so is complex, and not being a sociologist or anything I can only speculate. One reason that I have read about is the evolutionary reality of some men being powerful and violent, traits needed to hunt and protect. So, we take an animal, which a human is, and within a short time frame of a hundred years or so, jam that animal into cities where they no longer have to hunt or use energy to search for food, and some issues will happen. Our intelligence and our ability to shape our society evolved a lot faster than our brains, it would appear.

So, the question is, if certain humans have certain evolutionary traits designed to keep the human and the species alive, is it really "toxic"? Obviously, in society in general, we must work to keep these traits in check, but obviously, we aren't succeeded as much as we would like. But, this is one way where the term fails us.

When we connect a term like "masculinity" to the term "toxic" we really are creating a connection between men and horrible behaviour, and although it would be argued that all men are not guilty of "toxic masculinity" the name implies very differently. It links being a man with bad things. This is problematic. This makes the term a loaded one.

Interestingly enough, we don't ever hear a term like "toxic femininity". Why? Are there not traits, stereotypically or in reality, that women can possess that are damaging to society? Well, I already mentioned that there are indeed women who tell boys that they shouldn't cry and man up and therefore are pushing this "toxic masculinity". So, would that be a case of "toxic femininity"? Is the fact that a common trait amongst SOME serial killers or violent people the fact that they have an overbearing mother an example of the damaging effects of "toxic femininity"? When women go to hockey games and cheer on hockey fights, what is that all about? It's very common at a hockey game to see women practically frothing at the mouth wanting one player to beat the crap out of another player. And what about women who are UFC fighters? It's not a sport I like because of the violence, yet there are women who participate and women who are fans. What role are these women playing in the issues that the term "toxic masculinity" is supposed to address? Are these women plagued by "toxic masculinity" as well?

And, does things like telling a boy not to cry really lead to negative outcomes? No. Not always. I don't agree with the idea that boys shouldn't cry, but it also does not necessarily mean that the male won't have empathy or will head down a wrong path. I think there is great stereotyping in there and assuming a connection between one behavior and another that isn't necessarily as pronounced as one thinks it should be.

I argue that instead of using a, dare I say, "toxic" term such as "toxic masculinity", we call out the behaviour in both men AND woman that are problematic in our society. And, yes, we must never pretend that all the ills and problems we face are due only to men or "toxic masculinity" which is an idea too often pushed along with the term. Women seem exonerated from responsibility while it is all placed with men. Why?? That, dare I say, is indeed, sexist, and close minded.

If we are against violence, be against violence. If we are against domestic abuse, be against domestic abuse wherever and whenever it happens. If we are for societies where people feel free to express their emotions, that's great, but do it through encouragement instead of guilt or loaded terms like "toxic masculinity". If we are against rape, be against rape, no matter who perpetrates it and for what reason. But, to equate all of these ills with "toxic masculinity" and then not even discuss the role women play or the damaging behaviours they can take part it, is not really doing a service to anyone. It perpetuates stereotypes using a vague, ill defined, but very loaded term.

No comments:

Post a Comment