“Don’t you know that you’re toxic?”
Yep, I just quoted Britney Spears. Suck it.
Anyway, the term “toxic masculinity” has recently grown in popularity. Toxic masculinity’s definition is an “adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the ‘alpha male’) and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.” That’s right, “adherence to traditional male gender roles” is TOXIC (poisonous, harmful)! Toxic masculinity gets the blame for the ills of society: #MeToo, mass shootings, pay gaps, war, bullying, etc. Men cannot so much as offer tidbits of information without being shouted down for “mansplaining.”
So, have men “become” toxic? In the immortal words of the most toxic of toxic men — “Nature Boy,” Ric Flair — “What’s causing all this?”
Toxic Masculinity & Perspective
Let’s start with the understanding that perspective matters. We can all agree that putting poison into our bodies is a bad idea; unless we call it chemotherapy — then it is a treatment. So, what some people deem “toxic” may be just what the doctor ordered for others. That said, the problems attributed to masculinity are systemic, societal ones.
There is a two-generation (maybe three) shift in how we live and the definition of roles. Men are being told that being manly is not only undesirable, it’s harmful. However, throughout history, strong, competitive men have been rewarded for such traits. Why? Because strong, competitive men generally raise strong, competitive offspring, resulting in societies that are secure, durable and formidable — societies that build, create, invent and generally better the world. These traits, which have spawned some of the greatest societies the planet has ever seen, are being stamped out today.
Here’s the truth: Males are competitive, males fight, males are daredevils, and males admire strength and resolve in others and endeavor to possess these traits. This is especially true in young males, where evolution prioritizes increased social status. Males require outlets for these hardwired characteristics.
Sports have long played a pivotal and positive role in the cultivation of these natural tendencies but even here, our society is doing what it can to remove competition and contact, favoring the “everyone’s a winner” concept and eschewing physicality. The result of this is that motivation dies. Being competitive and being victorious are not rewarded. As a result, effort suffers and attention seeking becomes extreme (i.e., eating detergent, snorting condoms or worse). Why work to be stronger and faster if society says those things are not valued?
In Dagestan, Russia, one method being used to combat terrorism is the development of a wrestling culture. Arsen Saitiev, a principal in the region, says, “Anyone who achieves something in sports feels confident. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody, and he won’t try to achieve fame in a negative way.”
‘The New Normal’
Society now rejects and disavows the natural tendencies of boys, such as fighting and thrill seeking. Society medicates boys for innate behaviors. Eventually, the effect of this will manifest in catastrophic ways. The reactions to events that are truly undesirable, such as mass shootings, have been to double down on the eradication of normal male behaviors such as risk-taking, fighting and competitiveness, instead of cultivating them in positive and supportive ways. The “solutions” to these undesirable events are, in reality, their causes. The unfortunate response by societies that refuse to make allowances for genetics and evolution is to further expand the things that paved the way for these problems in the first place.
Being a man isn’t toxic, but proclaiming such is. Prosecute bad behaviors in individuals, not evolutionary adaptations in genders. If striving to be a strong, successful and competitive person while participating in inherently developmental rites is toxic, then bring it, Britney.
Want more on this topic? Read my feature entitled “The Demasculinization of America: Being a Man Shouldn’t Be a Bad Thing.”