There’s a term that’s being tossed around these days that’s really been bothering me the more I think about it. The term is “toxic masculinity.” The reason that term bothers me is because, frankly, it does not exist. It’s not real. And, to perpetuate the term is to do injustice to what it means to be a man in the first place – which is probably why it’s pushed with such a heavy hand.
I think there’s a growing movement to undermine masculinity and the term, “toxic masculinity (and others like it)” is just one way to spread the propaganda that somehow masculinity is bad, or evil, or toxic. It just isn’t the case. Masculinity, by its very nature is good. It’s strong. It’s assertive. It’s productive. It’s caring. It’s compassion. It’s charitable. And, I’ve even go so far as to say it’s loving.
Look, a situation or man can either be “toxic” or “masculine.” Not both. The term “toxic masculinity” would be like saying “It’s light outside but kind of dark.” Or “My boss is a really nice, jerk.” Or “That guy is really wealthy but in a poor kind of way.”
They’re polar opposites and cannot possibly work in harmony or unison. Sure, all men have the capacity to be both. I’ve been an arrogant, prideful a-hole at times in my life and, separately, I’ve used masculine virtues to create productive outcomes for myself and those around me.
But never once have I displayed “toxic” behavior while simultaneously utilizing my masculine virtues. They don’t work together.
Besides, toxicity is gender neutral. It is neither masculine or feminine. If it were, the term “toxic femininity” would also be used. But it isn’t. A woman who is overly caring, kind, and compassionate (to a fault) wouldn’t be considered “toxic.” She would be considered naïve (another gender neutral term).
Not even the behavior of third-wave feminists is considered “toxic femininity.” I would consider many of the rants and ideologies as bitter, resentful, and angry but I would not categorize some of the behavior I’ve seen as feminine at all.
Oh, and I can hear the nay-sayers now. “Ryan, what about these macho guys that go around treating everyone like garbage and manipulating them to get what they want?” Yeah, what about them? That isn’t masculine behavior. It’s childish and evil but certainly not masculine.
I’ve even had people say “I guess it depends on how you define masculinity.” I suppose that’s true but no one in their right mind would define masculinity as bad. And, I guess that’s the problem, isn’t it? Many people believe that masculinity, by it’s very nature, is not good for society. To hammer the point home, these people are not in their right mind. They’re damaged. I say that not to antagonize or belittle them but to paint the picture that these people have been hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally. Or, they’ve seen others hurt. And, in order to protect themselves from future pain, they’ve created a false reality that all men – not just the ones who hurt them – are bad.
But let me explain something that many people seem to overlook – correlation does not equal causation. Just because an evil individual happens to be male does not make all males inherently evil or, only males evil. That sounds absurd even saying it but there are thousands and thousands, if not millions of people, who believe they are.
I hope, by this point, we’re all on the same page here because it’s critical we, as men, unite in an effort to share with the world all the good that is masculinity. We have allowed a few to damage the very idea of masculinity for all of us.
So, how do we do this?
Very simply, it starts with you. It starts with the way you show up in your family, your business, and your community. The fact is, there are people looking at you and watching you. They’re modeling your behavior. And, they’re framing their opinions based on how you, as a man, interact with the world.
The way we reclaim what it is to be a man is to behave like the men we’re capable of being and show to our families, our employees, and our neighbors how righteous and honorable men step up to serve others. Service is the foundation of what it means to be a man. Protect, provide, preside: all three represent a level of service to others.
There’s this growing movement to “redefine” masculinity. That’s not the problem at all. The problem is that it’s already been redefined by those who have either been damaged by men or, for whatever reason, have created a false reality about the way we as men are designed to operate with our time here on this planet.
Masculinity does not need to be redefined, it needs to be reclaimed. It won’t be found in the boy who never learns what it means to be a man. It won’t be found in the women who try to teach us what they will never fully understand. It won’t be found by the man who has created an unhealthy response to his life’s circumstances. It won’t be found by the man refuses to own his thoughts, behaviors, and actions. It will be found by you, the man who works hard to provide for his family. The man who wakes up early and stays up late to help his children do their homework. The man who risks his livelihood to create a business that will bring a product, service, and jobs to the marketplace. The man who coaches his children’s and community sports teams. The man who helps a neighbor mow their lawn. The man who loses himself in serving and lifting others up. That is what it means to be a man. And, that is what we need to reclaim from the boys who disguise themselves as men and those who are out to undermine the value we provide in our families, our businesses, and our communities.