“Toxic masculinity” is one of those trendy expressions that is intentionally left vague and emotional so that it might wreak havoc on society. Once limited to women’s studies department, the term has broken out of its cage and now seems to be everywhere. In these #MeToo times, everyone can claim to be a victim of toxic masculinity.
For the most part, toxic masculinity is a description of what modern men have become. It should not be a surprising development. This notion of masculinity is toxic.
The sexual revolution created, cultivated and nurtured a man-monster. A whole culture has been involved in making sure these men misbehave the way many are now doing. The media have celebrated the destruction of the traditional notions of what a man should be. This effort has created a crazy mixed-up creature. Now the Frankenstein’s creators have turned upon him and condemned him, hanging a sign around his neck with the words “toxic masculinity” scribbled in bright pink.
Creating a Man Monster
Media, entertainment and academia everywhere reinforce a portrait of this man-monster. They have imposed models of what men, especially young men, must be. Many of today’s men have obliged by shedding the constraints of traditional male behaviour and embraced a sinful life of promiscuity, unrestraint and contradiction.
This male model is disconnected from the traditional notions of family. He is sexually active in a hypersexualized world that enthusiastically encourages any consensual relationship without consequences. He is part of a hook-up culture that caters to his most base instincts and abhors chastity.
This male model is also disconnected from responsibility, especially those of family. He is immature, infantile and pleasure-driven. He is self-centered given to seeking cheap thrills and risks that gratify his mediocre desires. He is the centre of his little world—which might often be confined to his parent’s basement.
He is a bundle of unrestraint and instability. He gives in to his whims. The man-monster is shallow in his outlook, brutal in his manners and violent in his habits (and video game entertainment). He can be vain as he seeks the ideal body image.
Feminist ideologues have complicated this male model by adding contradictions. They insist that alpha males must also express their emotions and feelings. These men monsters are now told to be a little less monster. He should not be afraid to be afraid.
A Model that is a Dismal Failure
Thus, it should be no surprise that the outcome of this contradictory male model would be disastrous. The present male landscape is a mess. Men are committing more violent crimes, populating prisons and abusing substances. Men are depressed and committing suicide. Everyone is now shouting that this model of masculinity is killing men. It’s toxic.
And it could not be otherwise. Men are receiving mixed signals in today’s world. Their testosterone-driven bodies are told to suppress aggressive actions. They are encouraged to be sexually active yet are now accused of being predators. In short, they need to be a true man and are told they must be a wimp.
The result is this latest re-write of men has been a dismal failure. However, feminists are not satisfied with this male caricature, but now proclaim it is time to write masculinity off altogether as “toxic.”
Man is a Product of Social Constructions
Eliminating toxic masculinity is the new goal. It aims not to make men a little less this or less that. It is to change man by questioning his nature. This involves a refusal to recognize the undeniable difference between men and women observed over the ages.
The new gender police decree that all concepts of man are arbitrary social constructs that must be eliminated. Thus any structures that reinforce traditional male roles or even the monster male they created must be ruthlessly destroyed from infancy to old age. No more toy soldiers. No more violent sports. No more anything hinting of male difference.
The American Psychological Association, for example, just released guidelines to help men and boys deal with “traditional masculinity ideology” that hinders their full development. They must change beyond all male stereotypes and not be what they are.
The Three Most Destructive Words
“The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to ‘be a man,’” says author Joe Ehrmann, an ex-football coach that challenges traditional notions of masculinity.
Thus, the deconstructed male must not be tough or aggressive at all. He must be emotional. Men have always tended to externalize pain and stress while women internalize them. Now there must be safe spaces (that exist) where men can learn to deal with their inner selves.
It is not clear exactly what this new non-man would look like. However, it must be admitted that the detoxed male would look an awful lot like a female.
A Deconstructed Gender Universe
However, the final goal is not making males effeminate. The deconstructed gender universe desires a postmodern world where nothing is defined. It is a world of self-created androgynous reality. It involves a total, utopian freedom whereby an individual can self-identify to be whatever (the preferred pronoun) wants.
For this to happen, all social constructions and narratives of the past must be destroyed—male and female. They will be replaced with individual constructions of the (preferred pronoun’s) choice or mood. Individuals can be whatever they want, except a traditional male or female that corresponds to reality.
Thus, the elimination of toxic masculinity will prove itself toxic since it will install a dark, hellish world of androgynous fantasy that will tolerate no opposition. It will be tyrannical and persecute all that is true, good and beautiful.
The Church Proposed Chivalry
The problem of toxic masculinity is not new. When men are given over to their passions, it will always create toxic situations of savagery and barbarity. What is new is the depths to which postmodernity plunges men deeper into sin. The new solutions not only go against man’s true nature; they annihilate it.
It was the Church that tamed the human passions and proposed models for men that elevated them to unimaginable heights. The Church proposed chivalry giving men an ideal to channel ill-regulated passions. That ideal would capture the imagination of countless men throughout history that persists even today. Moreover, the Church provides the means of grace which makes the practice of these high ideals possible.
For the first time in history, being a man meant admiring and striving for virtues such as mercy, courage, valour, chastity, fairness, protection of the weak and the poor. Being a man meant adopting an attitude of gentleness and graciousness to all women, a practice unknown to the ancient pagan world that often treated them as chattels. It introduced the idea of honour, service and abnegation even to the point of giving one’s life.
Chivalry enriched manliness immensely. It taught men to extend the scope of their manliness and become Catholic gentlemen. The modern cause of manliness would gain much today if it set the bar high by adopting chivalry as a model.
The bar needs to be set high, especially for millennials that crave such challenges. Today’s problem is not toxic masculinity that sets the bar ever lower, but toxic postmodernity where there is no bar at all.