A recent advertisement by Gillette argues for men to be better, the best we can be, in part by shedding the ugliness of toxic masculinity. It has sparked some controversy. The main objection I’ve heard is from men who reject the premise. Masculinity isn’t toxic, so fuck you!

How strong should the biceps be to cradle a man’s ego? Because nothing is more fragile when dropped back down to earth. The mass alone accounts for 80% of the weight of the world on her shoulders.


6 responses to “Masculinity

  1. FWIW, I think that there is ample evidence of the potential toxicity of traditional gender constructs for both men and women, and that a shift to self-identification based much less upon gendered characteristics would be healthier for all of us–particularly if said shift allowed or even encouraged us to spend less time and energy cramming other people into ‘gender boxes.’

    If someone brings value to society–in whatever dimension; if they behave ethically; if they enhance the lives of those around them; then should we be concerned with how they perceive themselves or to whom they may be attracted? (Note that while “toxic gender” is indeed wrapped up with self-perception, it is by definition also wrapped up with unethical behavior, else it wouldn’t be “toxic”.)

  2. Likening toxic masculinity to toxic femininity? I guess the neo-nazi rally in virginia had “very fine people on both sides”

    • Well, wouldn’t toxic femininity be a logical and necessary complement to toxic masculinity? As a real-world example, what about Phyllis Schlafly, who did more, in the name of femininity, to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment than just about anyone else?

      Moreover, if we are to move toward greater gender fluidity, it would seem that concentrating solely on gender-specific constructs such as “toxic masculinity” can’t be the ‘end game.’ That was actually my intent in using less specific language–not creating false equivalence, much less victim blaming.

      That’s not to say, of course, that I think we’re ‘there’ yet; women, in my opinion, have done far more work on their side than men as a group have. (Though see male examples such as this, which should not be overlooked, either.) Nor should the appalling reaction of, say, the self-described ‘incels’ admit any tolerance. Certainly, I will and have called folks out on gender stereotyping–including myself, when I fall short.

      (While we’re mentioning toxic masculinity in the same breath as Charlottesville and victim-blaming, let’s note for the record that that is highly appropriate: Heather Steyer, the young woman murdered there, was demonized by the neo-Nazis in the vilest manner precisely because she had ‘failed’ in her biological duty to bear child, which according to them utterly negated any human value she potentially had. This despite the fact that she was apparently widely respected and loved by people who knew her. The extreme toxicity of the gender stereotyping and ‘boxing’ embodied by the neo-Nazi apologists in this regard will, I think, be self-evident to all but a tiny minority of people–and certainly to anyone who can even remotely be called ‘a person of good will.’)

      • I think that what Doc was getting at was that we’d all be happier if we let people just be themselves without loading them down with silly-assed expectations of what they should be doing based on their secondary sexual characteristics, ethnicity…

        That said, the manifestations of those expectations are quite asymmetrical–with men who feel wronged often hurting others and women who feel wronged often hurting themselves. I don’t think there is any attempt to justify a false equivalency.

      • It’s a complex topic, with a lot that can be said, but yes, that’s a nice terse paraphrase of my central thesis in comment 1. Now, why couldn’t I have said it so plainly? But thanks.

        Another facet that perhaps should be highlighted is that just as benefits of change would accrue to all, so do (some of) the present harms. There’s a risk of making yet another false equivalence here, and I don’t want to do that; nor do I know how to balance the systemic discrimination and abuse women have faced in relation to the more covert harms suffered by men. Yet I’ve watched time and time again as men were asked what they *felt* and responded with what they *thought*. In my book, that internal divorce is a serious and widespread harm that well merits the term ‘toxic’.

        What do you gain from a social dominance that costs you large chunks of your soul?

  3. Being an Australian of South African extraction, I have been subject to cultural ideas of masculinity expression that risks becoming toxic in the sense of negatively impacting my relationships with those around me. So, it took me a while to understand this concept of toxicity but I now recognise it.
    That said, I don’t beat myself up about it because I also can see that ideas of what it means to behave like a man or a woman change over time as societies and environments change, which is liberating because it implies that one can forge their own ideas in this respect that may feel more authentic.
    There is no doubt that being white and male has conferred the most privileges on that group since the start of globalised colonisation. But, the reality is that us white blokes have hit our privilege ceiling and, as with the managed dismantling of Apartheid, one either embraces change or withers on the vine trying to hold onto a unhelpful legacy that becomes more oxidised over time. I don’t buy into this binary notion that rejecting the more toxic expressions of masculinity feminises or emasculates you.
    That’s like saying if you ‘agree with global warming theory’ that one shouldn’t use computers or or drive cars.