I’ve kept quiet for a while following the release of the Gillette advertisement. I wanted to sit back and observe the response. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see such a vast rejection of the ad. However, I also see a lot of folks clinging to the concept of “toxic masculinity” and I want to address both the ad and the greater context.
“Toxic masculinity” offers a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. The term refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth. Toxic masculinity is a lie and here’s why.
If you haven’t seen the Gillette ad, you can watch it here.
This self-described film is merely an illustration of the way the term “toxic masculinity” collapses inherent maleness with abusive and toxic behavior. Towards the end of the video, we see a line of men robotically repeating the words “boys will be boys.” This comes after a barrage of video clips showing men engaged in sexual harassment, aggression and violence. What’s problematic about this is the implication that boys being boys equals sexual exploitation and physical aggression, and that as a culture, we are tolerant of this. The natural response to such a culture is, of course, fear and loathing. So what happens when we, as women, fear and loathe men? And what happens when men fear and loathe themselves?
Herein lies the impact of this concept of “toxic masculinity.”
The Gillette ad, and furthermore our society, has been perpetuating a cultural notion that masculinity is “bad” and that we live under an evil patriarchy where “bad” men get away with very “bad” behavior. Only it isn’t true. In this country, people who commit crimes like rape, sexual assault and violence are prosecuted and penalized. There are organizations, awareness advocacy and movements against bullying. Men who are sexually promiscuous or sexually exploitative toward women suffer consequences. There is nothing about our culture that actually condones or tolerates these behaviors. Nor are these behaviors descriptive of MASCULINITY.
Let’s look a little deeper. Sure there are men who behave this way. There are men who “play” women, who cheat and lie. There are men who abuse women physically and emotionally. There are men who use their “male privilege” to justify, “mansplain” and to get ahead in the corporate world. There are men who rape and assault women. And there are women who do the same. In fact, I don’t know a single man who displays more toxic masculinity that I see from radical feminists. According to feminism, we should devalue our inherent femininity as mothers and nurturers and instead berate men, abuse men, avoid marriage, collect sexual partners, bully other women and children who don’t share the same views and even falsely accuse men of rape. Basically, we should use any means necessary to get what we want, even if it exploits other human beings, because we are women. Isn’t that the exact same thing feminists describe as toxic masculinity???
So if toxic masculinity is so toxic, why are we being encouraged by feminism to engage in it as women? Will that somehow make us more powerful than men? No thanks. I’d rather embrace my God-given femininity and allow men to do the same with their masculinity.
There are men who are great fathers, who work hard at juggling career and family, who treat women with respect. There are men who are husbands, fathers, leaders, coaches, teachers, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, pastors and preachers. There are men who, when confident in their inherent gifts of true masculinity, make the world a better place. There are women who are mothers, wives, nurses, teachers, coaches, entrepreneurs, pastors and preachers making the world a better place. We do this when we bring authenticity. When we lack authenticity, we lack integrity and nothing works.
Look around. The statistics on divorce, on single motherhood, on people no longer interested in marriage or parenthood. Relationships aren’t working and it’s a massive breakdown in our society. The source of it is in-authenticity. Men don’t get to be men and women don’t get to be women. We were designed to be a perfect compliment to one another, yet none of us is fulfilling that role. Men aren’t celebrated for their natural ability to be assertive, to make decisions, to lead, to coach, to protect and provide. They are devalued as fathers, suppressed as husbands and reduced to little worth beyond generating income. Men who behave in toxic ways are not the majority, they don’t represent the norm. They’re merely lashing out in rebellion to the suppression they sense but can’t quite pinpoint. Other men succumb to the suppression, swallowing the self-loathing being branded onto them by the propagation of “toxic masculinity.” They no longer know or trust themselves to function as men. They can’t make decisions or take the initiative, they let a woman do it for them. Because they don’t want to be “bad.” Then we, as women, complain about how ineffective and unassertive they are.
And what about the women? What’s the real impact on us?
When we don’t allow men to be men, to provide and protect and lead, we lose the security God intended for us inside of His perfect gift of marriage. We are forced to show up in protection of ourselves, creating a world of excuses and defense mechanisms for why we don’t want or “need” a man. We are forced to forego motherhood, the greatest gift of all, in exchange for financial stability. We are forced to play the role of breadwinner, manager, mother, father, teacher, nurse, housekeeper and on and on and on. We are robbed of peace, security, and most importantly, LOVE. We are on our own, in it for and by ourselves. And everything we tell ourselves about girl power and independence won’t give us access to what we truly, authentically, crave. The provision, protection and love of a partner.
As long as we continue to suppress our own authentic nature, everyone loses. But there is hope, always.
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