A Shortened version of this article appeared at the DailyCaller.com
Whether or not you accept the validity of the concept of “toxic masculinity” or its previous incantation “testosterone poisoning,” it obviously refers to something real. Men, after all, are arrested for about 75 percent of all crimes and 90 percent of violent crimes. The vast majority of murders and rapists are male. And as many a feminist has pointed out, with only rare exceptions such as San Bernardino, mass shooters are male too.
Between the bookends of the horrific mass shootings by Stephen Paddock and Devin Kelley Harris, we’ve had a flurry of sexual harassment, assault and rape accusations leveled against high profile men in Hollywood, the media and government such as Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Kevin Spacey and many others.
It would seem that “toxic masculinity” is out in force.
Yet masculinity itself is a neutral or perhaps ambivalent concept that is associated with good things like strength and courage as well as bad things like violence and aggression. So one would think that the concept of “toxic masculinity” should be opposed to something on the other side. Namely, something good. In fact, I would argue that in so far as the concept is useful at all, it should be seen as a negation. A negation of “positive masculinity,” or some other term like that which would signify the positive characteristics that good men hold and that we should teach boys and men to aspire to.
So I will ask my humble reader, what is that term?
Is it “positive masculinity” or “healthy masculinity” or just “good masculinity?” What is it?
While you can find these terms used from time to time, as well as awkward, academic nonsense-phrases such as “a positive reconstruction of what masculine identity should pertain to espouse,” there appears to be no agreed upon term for this simple concept.
A Google trends search seems to make this point rather succinctly:
Jezebel is one of the most popular feminist websites online, so I decided to search for these various phrases. Here are the results as of this writing:
I tried this with a few other feminist websites and the results were fairly similar. I should note that the second entry under “healthy masculinity” was a duplicate.
The only article that came up under “positive masculinity” was an article titled “Monday Morning Misandry” which was just one paragraph, half of which read “There's a lovely piece on Medium about misandry and why everyone, especially men, should be on board with it.” As we follow that link, we find an article titled “Men, Get on Board with Misandry” by Jess Zimmerman. The subtitle reads that the “Believe it or not, the man-hating movement loves you and needs your help. Here’s why.”
In this confused mess of an article that takes 373 words to arrive at the sentence that finally explains why men should love hating men, Zimmerman describes how it’s not men who are evil, but the “concept of masculinity” that needs to be “taken out and shot.” As she tells us men who may not hate men yet,
“Once you see through that horrible joke that patriarchy is playing on you, individual men start hating men-as-a-group in the same way that feminists hate them—not a way that encourages automatic hostility towards members of the group, but a way where you want to see the group disbanded and its charter destroyed and cast to the winds and forgotten.”
By the way, the term “positive masculinity” does not appear in Zimmerman’s article, it shows up in a comment in the article on Jezebel that linked to Zimmerman’s piece. A comment, I should note, that is rather prescient,
“I think part of the problem is that lots of people stop at ‘kill masculinity’ and don't talk about replacing it with something. One of the reasons a lot of guys [get] upset with the term ‘toxic masculinity’ is that it's so rarely contrasted with positive masculinity. So you have men being told all their lives what they have to do, then they see feminists say ‘don't do that’ and leave it at that.”
She is not specific regarding what men “being told all their lives what they have to do” involves, but presumably it includes raping, murdering, sexually assaulting and all sorts of other terrible behavior every serious ideology opposes and our society clearly proscribes. That being said, the problem ModestMoussourgsky highlights is the critical failing of the concept of “toxic masculinity.” It’s also a hard problem for feminists to solve outside of fluff answers such as being good, decent, respecting women and the like.
Other than the relatively small group of radical feminists who see men as some sort of subhuman, genetic mistake, most feminists see men as otherwise decent people who have been infected by the dreaded patriarchy. In other words, feminists see men and women as effectively the same (when not talking about how there are actually 57 different genders, of course), it’s just that evil patriarchy thing that causes men to be so terrible and oppress women so much.
So, for example, this year Hollywood provided us with The Battle of the Sexes which depicts how in 1973, the 30-year old Billy Jean King proved women are just as good at sports by beating the 55-year old Bobby Riggs in tennis. You’ll find countless articles on the myth of the male and female brain, like this one. (Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.) James Damore was pretty much fired from Google for merely suggesting such differences in an internal memo just as Larry Summers was forced to resign from Harvard some years ago for a similar “infraction.” And of course, you’ll also see plenty of action movies with 115-pound petite women beating the daylights out of some muscular, 250-pound man.
Everything must not just be equal, but the same. We must have the same number of male and female politicians, scientists and CEO’s (but not inmates, of course). Norway even introduced a quota that 40 percent of company directors must be female.
Therefore, if feminists generally believe men and women are effectively the same biologically and that men are infected with “toxic masculinity,” then the answer to the question I opened this article with is self-evident: There is no such thing as “positive masculinity.”
It would appear that androgyny is the goal. Indeed, one feminist professor laid this out neatly, noting that “the problem is not toxic masculinity; it’s that masculinity is toxic.”
This, unfortunately, does not seem to be a particularly unusual sentiment.
However, in between the Paddock shooting and the Weinstein scandal, an annual award ceremony was held that usually garners some attention. The Nobel Prizes were announced. Nine prizes in science were awarded. Nine men won.
As of 2015, men had won 825 of the 871 Nobel Prizes since 1901, or 94.7 percent. In physics, the ratio is 199 to 2. Yes, there have obviously been institutional barriers for women in the past, but all such barriers have been removed. While discrimination may still play a roll, even in the 2010’s, only 11.1 percent of the awards went to women; mostly the Literature and Peace Prize.
But what does that mean? Well, as one might expect, feminists berated the Nobel Prizes as being “sexist.” This highlights the above problem. While it is not a contradiction per se, it does seem that the prism through which feminists view the world mandates that men are somehow bad no matter what. If men do something bad, they have “toxic masculinity.” If they do something good, that simply proves that men are discriminating against women as there’s no way men could do something better than women without oppressing them.
I would not be surprised if there is still some sexism in science. Although the Cornell study showing that in STEM fields, women’s resumes were preferred over identical male ones by a ratio of two to one, makes me think any discrimination is unlikely to be endemic.
Women also tend to value status and wealth in a mate more than men (who are even more superficial in this regard), giving men a greater incentive to strive for achievement. And the simple fact that women are more likely to drop out of the workforce when they have a child than men would make it very difficult for women to reach the upper echelons of achievement with any frequency.
But these discrepancies may also have something do with the widely found phenomenon that while men and women have a similar IQ, men have a higher variance. This puts more men at the top (where Nobel Prize winners are found) and bottom. These differences—which feminists often deny—also would explain, at least in part, why men cause more societal problems. But then again, even that isn’t as simple as one might expect.
For example, DomesticViolenceResearch.org has analyzed almost 2000 studies and found that domestic violence is committed by men and women in roughly similar proportions. Regarding sexual harassment, an AAUW study in 2006 found that 62 percent of women in college and 61 percent of men had “experienced sexual harassment.” While “both male and female students are more likely to be harassed by a man than by a woman,” the difference aren’t as large as many would think. According to the study, “Half of male students and almost one-third of female students admit that they sexually harassed someone in college.”
And further, as The Atlantic reported, “sexual victimization by women is more common than gender stereotypes would suggest.” Indeed, the oft-quoted “1 in 5 women are raped in college” statistic comes from a CDC study which has a weird category under “Other sexual violence” called “Made to penetrate.” One would think that forcing someone to have sex is rape, but who am I to say? Anyways, here’s how men and women answered for 2011:
The vast majority of the men who were “made to penetrate” were by women.
I must admit that I’m not really sure what to make of all this. Some of it doesn’t shock me, such as domestic abuse perpetration. But with regards to sexual assault, it sounds rather unbelievable to me. Although, as many have noted, the questions that have routinely been asked for such surveys are so mushily worded as to be all but useless. The counts for both genders are too high and the overcounting for men is probably much more significant.
It does, however, show that without any doubt, men are not the only ones capable of being “toxic.” But it is even more complicated than that because again—unlike what feminists would have you believe—, men and women are not the same. The most obvious difference is size and strength. The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project notes that the results of physical abuse “were generally greater for female victims compared to male victims” despite similar rates of perpetration. That should surprise no one.
I myself was once rather egregiously groped by what we’ll call a body-positive woman (kissing me on the lips, grabbing my crotch, trying to put my hand down her shirt, etc.). All of this happened over several hours after I had been caught in the unfortunate position of “wingman” for a callous friend of mine. And while I’ve recounted this story several times, it hasn’t been to say #MeToo, it’s been as a joke. As disgusting as the actual experience was, one cold shower was all that was necessary to get over it. Since then I have never failed to get a round of laughs while recounting this affair and just how badly I wanted to wring my friend’s neck.
I don’t want to dismiss men who have been deeply affected by such experiences. I certainly think this problem receives too little attention and assuming it doesn’t bother men probably keeps a good number of men quiet. At the same time, I also don’t think we should get carried away as some Men’s Rights Activists have and assume these studies prove the problem is “gender neutral.”
I think my experience highlights a crucial difference between the genders. During that body-positive groping, at no time was I ever concerned for my safety. I knew both consciously and subconsciously that she could do no more to me than what I was willing to put up with. In the end, the experience was just gross, not traumatizing. A woman in a similar situation has no such luxury.
But if feminists were to look at these surveys honestly while maintaining that men and women are basically identical, wouldn’t they have to conclude that there is an epidemic of female-on-male violence that is only suppressed because society doesn’t allow men “to talk about their feelings?” Indeed, that perception surely hides some of the more egregious cases of female-on-male domestic abuse. But given the rates of injury, I suspect the main issue is simply that the same stimuli has a different effect on men and women, at least in general.
Maybe it isn’t fair, but I do think it should be considered worse for a man to hit a woman than vice versa. Of course, it should still be considered bad for a woman to hit a man, but not to the same degree in most cases. But if we’re going to hold different standards, we should acknowledge that men and women are different. That masculinity and femininity are valid concepts and that both can be positive and negative. Some individuals won’t fit neatly, but that’s always true for broad categories.
Turning back to the Paddock shooting in Las Vegas, several stories came out of men who covered their wives. Jack Beaton was killed while shielding his wife Laurie. Another man covered some young concert goers saying “I’m 53, they’re in their 20s. I lived a decent life so far, I’d rather them live longer than me.”
Women have certainly done similar things, such as Joann Ward who died shielding her four children during Harris’ rampage. But it’s usually regarding children. I’ve never heard of a woman jumping over her husband.
These stories reminded me of the Aurora shooting in 2012 when Slate ran an article by Hanna Rosin about three men who covered their girlfriends to spare their lives while losing their own. Rosin, an avowed feminist, asks “what does that mean?” She concludes that “…one thing I find consistently is the enduring need for men to think of themselves and women to think of them as the protectors.”
Rosin doesn’t seem to like this state of affairs, and I think it’s simplistic to boil it down to that. But somewhere in here lies a good starting place to finding what “toxic masculinity” is negating. Namely, positive masculinity; a trait many men have and that we should uphold as something to aspire to. It shouldn’t be surprising that we find the worst forms of so-called “toxic masculinity” in places where there are few if any good male role models, such as fatherless homes in poor and crime-infested areas.
Of course, some men will be more feminine and that’s fine. But on average, men and women aren’t the same and men should be lauded for meeting a certain ideal and condemned when failing to do so. “Toxic masculinity” only takes into account one side. Men should not just be diagnosed as “toxic” because they aren’t androgynous. Self-sacrifice is an extreme manifestation, but that longingness to strive, create, build and innovate while tempered by courage, wisdom and kindness would make for a solid description of such masculinity. Of course, this isn’t all or nothing. Women can have those traits too. But that description would certainly make for a positive conception of masculinity that we should uphold as an ideal for boys and men to aspire to.
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