Why ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Is A Toxic Concept
Whether or not you accept the concept of “toxic masculinity,” it obviously refers to something real. Men, after all, are arrested for almost 75 percent of all crimes and 90 percent of violent crimes. The vast majority of murders and rapists are male. And as many feminists have pointed out, with only rare exceptions such as (half of) San Bernardino, mass shooters are male, too.
Between the bookends of the horrific mass shootings by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas and Devin Kelley Harris at a Baptist church is Texas, 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.
But shouldn’t the concept of “toxic masculinity” should be opposed by something on the other side? Namely, something good. For example, in between the Paddock shooting and the Weinstein scandal, 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, the Cornell University study shows that, in STEM fields, women’s resumes were preferred over identical male ones by a ratio of two to one.
As one might expect, feminists berated the Nobel Prizes as being “sexist.” This highlights the 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.
However, there are other, more convincing explanations for men’s disproportionate share of Nobel prizes than discrimination. For example, women 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. Women are more likely to drop out of the workforce when they have a child than men are, which makes it difficult for women to reach the upper echelons of achievement.
Regardless, one would think that winning Nobel Prizes and moving humanity forward would be a credit in men’s collective account. Therefore, in so far as “toxic masculinity” is a useful concept 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 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 incredibly simple concept.
Jezebel is one of the most popular feminist websites online, so I decided to search for these various phrases on its site. Here are the results as of this writing:
Toxic Masculinity: 871
The only article that came up under “positive masculinity” was an article titled “Monday Morning Misandry.” The article is just one paragraph and links to a Medium article titled “Men, Get on Board with Misandry” by Jess Zimmerman. The subtitle reads: “Believe it or not, the man-hating movement loves you and needs your help. Here’s why.”
In this confused, mess of an article, Zimmerman describes how men should hate men, not because men are evil, but because the “concept of masculinity” is evil and needs to be “taken out and shot.”
The term “positive masculinity” does not appear in Zimmerman’s article. It shows up in a comment by ModestMoussourgsky in the article on Jezebel that linked to Zimmerman’s piece. It notes that “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.” Good point, ModestMoussourgsky.
This highlights the critical failing of the concept of “toxic masculinity.” 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 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.
Yet, as noted above, men and women are not the same and men do plenty of great things that should be lauded. And such achievements should not be taken as further proof of male malevolence. In addition, women are by no means incapable of being “toxic.” For example, there is a wide array of studies showing that domestic violence is committed by men and women in roughly similar proportions, although women are hurt more often. Furthermore, the worst forms of so-called “toxic masculinity” are found in places where there are few if any good male role models, such as fatherless homes in poor and crime-infested areas.
Masculinity should be seen as a positive thing in and of itself and men should be lauded for meeting a certain ideal and condemned when failing to do so. Some men will be more feminine (as some women will be more masculine) and that’s fine. No broad category can apply to all. But “toxic masculinity” only takes one side into account. Men should not just be diagnosed as “toxic” because they aren’t androgynous.
The longingness to strive, create, build and innovate while tempered by courage, wisdom and kindness would make for a solid description of such “positive 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.
Andrew Syrios is a freelance writer.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.