Just the other day I wrote about the need for caution when going after Harvey Weinstein and the rest of the Hollywood elites who have been accused of rape, sexual assault, harassment and other crimes against women. Getting to the bottom of this seething mess is important, but so is the need to ensure that the rule of law is our guide rather than any sort of mass emotional release, no matter how good the latter might feel in the moment. But there’s another danger awaiting us in terms of how the nation absorbs these revelations and seeks to do better in the future.
As with most contentious issues, there always seems to be a temptation for some to simply go too far. Such overreaching responses muddy the waters by dragging in any number of complaints and theories, conflating them with the actual, original problem. There’s a classic example of such patterns to be found this week in an op-ed from Renée Graham, a Boston Globe columnist. In it, the author seeks to expand the pool of wrongdoers from the perpetrators of sexual assault to most of the Y chromosome-bearing population with a verbal attack on “toxic masculinity.”
Literally and figuratively, toxic masculinity is killing us: Mass shootings. Domestic violence. Fatal fraternity hazing. Rape culture. Workplaces and schools turned into cesspools of sexual harassment and assault. This is not consigned to one race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic level. Feral masculinity affirms itself every day through violence and domination.
It is a detriment to social and political progress, our mental health, and physical safety. The deleterious result is a nation under siege by those compelled to affirm their power by any means necessary.
To these men, any sign of weakness is a kind of death. That’s why New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was ridiculed when a TV camera captured him crying after he fractured his ankle during a recent football game. On social media, Beckham was derided for getting emotional over a devastating injury that has likely ended his season.
The piece goes on from there in an increasingly hyperbolic fashion, spiraling downward until the concept of masculinity is attached to gun ownership, injuries in professional sports, Clint Eastwood movies and, of course, Donald Trump. Nearly all of society’s ills can, in the author’s opinion, be boiled down to either direct or indirect consequences of masculinity, be it “toxic” or merely “extreme.”
This type of generalized dragon slaying among the SJW crowd is always bubbling away on the back burner, waiting for the next hot headline story to bring it to the forefront. And ascribing all the world’s ills to a single gender is no different from and no more accurate than blaming everything on whiteness, “the blacks,” the Jews, old fogeys or millennials.
But these charges are more specific than merely blaming the possession of male reproductive apparatus for all this violence and unacceptable behavior. You see, it’s the inherent concept of masculinity which is on trial here. By that “logic,” not all men are necessarily evil. In fact, some of them are just peachy… such as Pajama Boy from the Obamacare campaign.
What this sort of tirade represents is a further attempt to blur the lines between the genders, each of which carries its own wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) traits. This attack on traditional roles and norms of civilization are a hallmark of the social justice warrior movement today. And to combat such propaganda it’s important to reinforce the concept of what masculinity is and, perhaps even more importantly, is not.
Reckless violence without justification against women, men, animals or anything else is not a hallmark of masculinity. It’s a symptom of a criminal mentality which civilized societies fight to contain and eliminate. Forcing women into sexual servitude isn’t a sign of masculinity. It is similarly a sign of criminal behavior and runs directly opposite to what a true gentleman and civilized male aspires to. Guns are not a substitute for masculinity and your choice of political party or ideology is no indicator either.
True masculinity is embodied in men who recognize and respect power channeled to its proper use. And “power” can take many forms, not tied to the size of your muscles, how much you can bench press at the gym or how many guns you own. Real masculinity is tied to respect for propriety and civilized life. Masculinity embodies a responsibility to protect women from harm, not place them in danger. Sadly, attitudes displayed by people like Graham seek to conflate masculinity with monstrosity. This is incorrect thinking and sets our society back rather than truly seeking to solve any problems we may be experiencing.
If you truly want to learn about masculinity, I would suggest picking up a copy of a book by Jim Geraghty and Cam Edwards: Heavy Lifting: Grow up, get a job, raise a family and other manly advice. Anyone nodding their heads in response to Graham’s column could learn a lot there in a short period of time.