In my previous post, I explained some concerns about the current denigration of “toxic masculinity”. I highlighted the historical roots of this concept within feminist dogma, and outlined my first two major concerns regarding the use of this term:
Firstly, the tendency of the current campaign against toxic masculinity to over-reach, both in depth and breadth. In depth, by depicting an exaggerated caricature of unacceptable male behaviour, and in breadth, by subtly inferring a much more endemic prevalence than is the case.
Secondly, the failure to delineate between abusive, immoral behaviour and morally neutral gender-specific male traits. Essential maleness, including stereotypical gender weaknesses (which are morally neutral) are painted with the same critical broad brush as the abusive behaviour which we would all justifiably condemn.
Let me now continue…
Thirdly, this brings me to the problem of terminology. The use of the term “masculinity” here is entirely inappropriate. The issue is toxic or immoral behaviour, not toxic masculinity. It is the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of individuals within society that needs to be addressed, not masculinity itself. There is nothing shameful or wrong with either masculinity or femininity – God has created the two genders with clearly differentiated strengths and proclivities which should be celebrated. By associating the word “masculinity” with toxic, immoral behaviour, the condemnation that is rightly aimed at those behaviours subtly “bleeds” over into our attitude towards masculinity generally.
What the average the person in the street is unaware of, is that the current promotion of the term “toxic masculinity” is being driven by a strong, not particularly well-hidden, feminist agenda. In fact the etymology of the term “toxic masculinity” can be traced back to some feminist literature produced shortly after Connell’s publication of his gender order theory.
I don’t want to get into a debate about feminism, because this, too, is an issue that the general public has generalised, over-simplified and generally misunderstood. Much good has come from the more moderate wing, known as the “women’s liberation movement”, including the emancipation of women, the demise of patriarchal domination, growth in equal opportunity, equal pay, equal rights etc. But there remains a hard core of extreme feminism which is driven by an unbridled hatred of men. Just as there are men who are aggressive, oppressive and sexually prejudicial towards women, so too, there are women who are aggressive, oppressive and sexually prejudicial towards men. And it is this extreme arm of the feminist movement, these men-haters, who have driven this concept of toxic masculinity into the public arena.
Fourthly, and finally, our current focus on toxic masculinity is feeding into Western society’s drift towards gender neutering. The distinction between the genders has been subtly eroded over the last two decades. Differences between male and female are being downplayed or denied. In our new PC (politically correct) world, anyone who maintains that there are fundamental emotional or sociological differences between the genders is now viewed as archaic and prejudicial. We are now asked to accept the mantra that there is no fundamental difference between men and woman; that the apparent differences are simply the product of prejudicial social conditioning. In this context, the current condemnation of “toxic masculinity”, particularly with the inclusion of morally neutral male traits in its definition, is a further step towards denying the essential differences between the sexes. It represents an attempt to feminise or neuter the male gender; to “tone down” their maleness.
I believe that God created men and women with many subtle, yet significant differences, which is why the Bible indicates that marriage is such a good thing. Men and women complement and balance each other. We are meant to be different, because God designed men and women for each other, so that when they are joined in marriage, they experience a wholeness that is not possible by themselves; they become “one” (Genesis 2:24). (Gender differences is a huge topic on its own, which calls for a separate discussion, so I’ll stop there!).
So, what do I make of the current discussion of toxic masculinity?
By all means let’s make a stand against all forms of abusive, domineering, sexist, violent, aggressive, prejudicial behaviour. Let’s call out this kind of “toxic” behaviour and refuse to tolerate it. Let’s bring the perpetrators to account, whether they be male or female, misogynists or feminists.
But please, let’s stop associating this kind of behaviour with “masculinity”. Masculinity is not the cause of toxic behaviour, nor is toxic behaviour intrinsic to masculinity.
- Toxic behaviour is the product of ignorance and sin, not masculinity.
- Toxic behaviour is not universal or even endemic to men; ardent feminists are equally abusive and prejudicial.
- The definition of toxic behaviour has over-reached; encompassing some male traits that are either morally neutral or simply areas of generalised gender weakness, which have nothing to do with abusive or immoral behaviour.
- The resulting demonisation of distinctive maleness is another step towards gender neutering and the denial of gender distinctions within Western society.
Let me finish with a quote from an article by psychologist, Dr. Gad Saad, posted on the “Psychology Today” website. In his article, entitled, “Is Toxic Masculinity A Valid Concept?”, Dr. Saad argues that many aspects of the current denunciation of so-called toxic masculinity appear to be an attempt to deny the distinctive maleness of men. He states:
“Most of the traits and behaviours that are likely found under the rubric of “toxic masculinity” are precisely those that most women find attractive in an ideal mate! This is not a manifestation of “antiquated stereotypes.” It is a reality that is as trivially obvious as the existence of gravity, and no amount of campus brainwashing will ever alter these facts. Let us stop pathologizing masculinity. Instead, let us appreciate the endless ways by which men and women are similar to one another, as well as the important ways in which the two sexes differ.”
 “Third Wave Feminism”, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism