Friday, November 10, 2017

Toxic Masculinity From A Man's Perspective — Let's Go There

Author's note: I've been wanting to write more about social issues and sexuality for a while now. And since I just wrote a long follow up to why I'm an atheist, I thought I'd give atheism a rest for a little but. So I'm going to be focused on non-atheism and non-religious topics for a bit.

Just about a year ago I became aware of the term "toxic masculinity." While I had not been familiar with the term, I was aware of the concept. It's something I've been dealing with basically all my life. So what is it?

According to Wikipedia,

The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects. Such "toxic" masculine norms include dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions.

According to Geek Feminism,

Toxic masculinity is one of the ways in which Patriarchy is harmful to men. It refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.

The "toxic" denotes a distinction between masculinity simpliciter. There's masculinity, and then there's toxic masculinity. In other words, some masculinity is good, and some masculinity is bad. (More on this later)

I definitely agree that there are common attitudes among men that are extremely destructive. I grew up in New York City and was exposed to the thug culture where you had to always be strong, never show any fear, and be willing to kick someone's ass at the drop of a hat if they disrespected you, otherwise you were a "pussy" or a "fagot." Now luckily I never went too deep into the thug culture, but I know from experience how utterly destructive it is.

Thug culture exemplifies the very worst of toxic hyper-masculinity. Every boy and man is trying to be the toughest muthafucka out there. No one's nice out of fear it will be confused with weakness. You can never show any emotion, vulnerability, or weakness of any kind. Women are to be used and abused to enhance the male ego and gratification. Homophobia is ubiquitous: gay males, or perceived gay males are to be bullied, harassed, mocked, and beaten up. The most aggressive, sexist, sociopathic male gets the most respect. It's insanity.

That was the culture I experienced growing up and I hated it. It was toxic masculinity on steroids. While other varieties exist to varying degrees, there are common threads: men must be strong, aggressive, unemotional, womanizing, competitive, and avoid doing things commonly associated with femininity. 

There are a couple of things to say about toxic masculinity as I see it from a male perspective. 

Women encourage it (unfortunately)

The first thing I notice about toxic masculinity is that many women encourage it, knowingly or not. I'm not a hardcore social constructionist. Men and women are to a large extent shaped by biology and evolution to have certain tendencies. Men have the tendency for competitiveness, aggression, and sexual promiscuity much more than women. This is because we're evolved apes, and if you look at the male gender of almost every species, the males are prone to aggressive behavior and sexual promiscuity. Males do not behave as stereotypical males because of purely social constructions; there is a biological factor there.

And women have biological tendencies too. They tend to go after dominant, aggressive, competitive alpha-male types. When you look at who attractive women tend to date and marry, it tends to be those kinds of men. This results, not surprisingly, in many men adopting those kinds of stereotypical alpha-male behaviors in an attempt to score attractive women. If women really didn't want toxic masculinity, they'd stop rewarding it by sleeping with men who disengaged from it.

The problem is that "women" are individuals. Some women will avoid stereotypical alpha-male types because they exude toxic masculinity, but others won't. I want toxic masculinity to end, but the thing is, so long as attractive women fuck rich, arrogant, alpha-male douchebags, toxic masculinity is here to stay. Women have no idea how much power they have in this relationship. If enough women (especially attractive ones) decided to stop dating or sleeping with men who exude toxic masculinity, it would end relatively quickly. Men (especially young men) will do almost anything for sex, and if shedding their toxic masculine traits will do so, they will do so.

Stop homophobia

Is it any surprise that the most homophobic cultures are also the most disrespectful to women? There seems to always be a strong correlation between the two. Homosexual male culture is associated with all the things antithetical to toxic masculinity. It's perceived as weak, feminine, and emotional. I know what it's like to be accused of being gay growing up, and my first reaction to such an accusation was to engage in stereotypical toxic masculinity: be aggressive, violent, and sexist towards women in order to "prove" what a man I was. 

This is what happens in extremely homophobic cultures. Every man is too afraid of looking or being perceived as gay, and so they behave according to what is commonly thought of as the opposite of this — which is what toxic masculinity is. If you look at many East Asian cultures, men are on average less masculine than their Western counterparts (according to general Western notions of masculinity), and they're less homophobic. East Asians have a very low rate of violence, in fact, the lowest in the US. If you look at African American culture, you see a high degree of relative masculinity and homophobia, and a very high rate of violence and mistreatment of women.

I don't think these are coincidences. High rates of homophobia are correlated with violence and toxic masculinity because homophobia encourages toxic masculinity. 

Toxic masculinity vs masculinity

As I mentioned earlier, there is a distinction between masculinity simpliciter and toxic masculinity. The former being good, and the latter being bad. However, some people who argue against toxic masculinity I think fail to make that distinction so clear, and it appears that they're arguing against all forms of traditional masculinity.

There is a movement by some feminists, particularly the extreme ones, who want to eradicate all male behaviors and turn men into women, behaviorally speaking. They argue that men should refrain from all sexually aggressive behavior, men shouldn't approach women in public to hit on them, and men should be as passive as women in all areas of life, not just romantically. In other words, they want men to adopt all the behaviors traditionally associated with women.

I have mixed thoughts on this. When it comes to sex and relationships, someone has to make the first move. Nature has made it so that the male gender is usually that one. It ensures the survival of the species. Even in lesbian relationships where there are no men involved, it's usually the case that someone takes on the traditional role of the male. If men are socially engineered to be passive, are enough women going to step up to the plate and begin initiating relationships and sex? I fear this goes against our ingrained biological nature. I have no problem with women being initiators. Heck I prefer it. But I'm not sure enough women will be capable of doing so. And this could unintentionally leave many heterosexuals single and lonely.

You cannot be a women and at the same time argue for the eradication of all traditional male behavior and still expect men to make the first move in romantic engagements. What could end up happening is that shy or sensitive guys more inclined to adopt the passive male roles will simply end up being single, while men who maintain typical male sexual aggression will end up getting all the women. This is what already happens in the real world, but it will only get worse if we encourage the eradication of all traditional male behavior.

So I fear getting rid of toxic masculinity could very easily slip into getting rid of all masculinity, which could have the unintended consequence of leaving a growing number of heterosexuals lonely and single. We need to have this debate.

Change is slow, but happening

Things are changing. In my lifetime I can see differences over the past twenty or so years. Homophobia has no doubt decreased, and violence in the US overall is down too. Our culture has warmed up a bit to men adopting typically female roles, like being a stay at home dad. But this adoption has been very slow. We've progressed much further and much quicker in women adopting traditionally male roles or jobs, than we have with males adopting traditionally female roles or jobs. The acceptance of males taking on traditionally female roles and jobs — by both men and women — is key to ending toxic masculinity.

But here's the thing. If enough women don't accept this and they reject men because the men are taking on traditionally female roles, interests, or behaviors, this will never happen. No heterosexual male wants to be rejected by a woman for being too sensitive.

So we've got many challenges up ahead, but my assessment of this issue right now is that generally women hold the power. If enough women were attracted to men free of toxic traits, and if enough men with toxic traits saw themselves being rejected in favor of non-toxic men, things would change faster. I have no idea if this is socially feasible, and if our biological natures will prevent this — but I'm certainly no expert on the topic.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...