Scott over at The Jagged Word opines on the outrage du jour, the Gillette ad asking fathers not to raise their sons to be abusive little turds. Toxic Masculinity of Woves and Men
To my way of thinking, there are at least two deeply seated errors with both advertisements. First, both assume that all masculinity ought to be labeled as toxic and therefore identified as negative and harmful. This is evident from the examples given. If a man fights, it is always toxic, never mind that men fighting have kept us free in this country for going on 243 years. Taking charge in a group of people is harmful, never mind that men taking charge, sometimes even when they didn’t want to, built this nation. Allowing boys to be boys instead of acting like little girls is harmful, even though stopping our boys from being boys is having devastating consequences on them, not least of which are considerable failures in school, the workplace, and social life. This is evidenced by the ever-increasing feelings of loneliness and despair reported in young men, which is in turn evidenced by a skyrocketing suicide rate among them.
The ad in question, if you’ve not seen it, is readily available on any number of video sharing sites, along with Facebook pages of mothers who adore the sentiment and “damn snowflake” conservative pages who are currently melting with outrage.
The advertisement does not criticize masculinity in general, unless one’s view of masculinity involves beating people up when ignorance causes words to fail and slapping random women on the ass.
“Men fighting in this country have kept us free for going on 243 years.” As if defending our nation from outside invasion is somehow equivalent with teaching your son “hey buddy, it’s okay if you beat your brother up if he takes the Nintendo controller.”
Maybe that ought to be our focus. At the risk of repeating myself, boys who grow up in homes where they were raised by their mothers alone are more likely (much more likely) to fail in school, suffer from anxiety disorders, drop out from high school, become addicted to drugs or alcohol (or both), get arrested, be imprisoned, or at the end of the spectrum, be suicidal. They genuinely become toxic to themselves and others at a much higher rate, not because they are too masculine but because they are not masculine at all.
*takes deep breath*
This is the most unmitigated pile of horse crap…
I was raised by a single mother. My “masculine” father took advantage of his position of authority, “masculinely” made his move, and then never spoke to her again. You know, like a real man does. Makes his desire known, gets it fulfilled, then moves on to the next conquest.
Then along comes this guy on the internet, who’s got the nerve to suggest that those men not being around made the problem worse?
I’m not saying the associated factors of fatherlessness mentioned aren’t true. In fact, personal experience can lead me to testify to their validity. But to say that’s because there wasn’t a father in the home? Bullshit.
You know what likely causes those problems?
Seeing a single mother who was taken advantage of by a “masculine” man crying while she tries to make ends meet.
Watching your single mother work two jobs to raise the kid that “masculine” man won’t contribute to.
Having to play dumb when people ask where your “masculine” father is and why you never talk about him.
Seeing one of the strongest people you’ll ever know blame herself for her situation, and not the “masculine” asshole who isn’t taking responsibility.
This, THIS is the toxic masculinity referred to in the ad. Saying that fighting is ok (it isn’t), looking at women as objects of desire is manly (it isn’t), a boy playing with dolls isn’t ok (I had G.I. Joes, it is), etc.
But apparently the actual point of the article is missed and instead is taken as a general assault on what Godly men are supposed to be like. You know. Rough ‘n’ tumble, headstrong, aggressive, blah blah blah.
So, what does it mean to be masculine? Well, there is probably not much agreement on the answer to this question these days. But in days gone by, it seems there was a kind of universal sense of what it meant. Then, descriptors like strong, brave, wise, capable, self-guided, entrepreneurial, self-sufficient, gracious, kind, and good would have summed it up nicely. Men like this protected people. Men like this literally moved mountains and built cities. Men like this dispensed justice when needed and mercy when called for. Men like this tamed the wild places and used enough wisdom to retain some of those places as wild. They were brave enough to be frontiersmen and gracious enough to be good fathers. These men knew when it was necessary to fight and when it was time to make peace. Because, let’s not be deceived, it is sometimes necessary to fight. In short, they were men, which is why it was not then, and ought not be today, a bad thing to say to about a good man, “He’s a man’s man.”
Picture it. A bearded, majestic specimen of muscle and flannel. In front of him lies a problem. Behind him lies the family. Standing atop a mountain ridge, sun gleaming in his eyes, he says to his family “GET YE BEHIND ME, FOR I AM A MAN AND I SHALL TAKE CARE OF THIS!”
And right behind him is his family going “oh great, dad’s on a trip again.”
You think only men are capable of building societies?
You think only men can accomplish overreaching goals?
You think only men can be strong, brave, wise, capable, etc., etc.?
You be thinkin’ crazy.
Society wasn’t built only by men, and the men involved weren’t only rough-and-tumble types. Our society is a combination of the masculine and feminine, the effeminate and the mannish. It was built by boys who sometimes cry and women who are stronger than their husbands. It was built by men who cook, wives who are primary breadwinners, girls who don’t like dolls, and boys who don’t like guns. Deal with it like a man.
But again, that’s not the point of the advertisement. The point is that you don’t have to fight to be masculine. You don’t have to harass women to be masculine. You don’t have to kill dinner with your bare hands to be masculine.
Conversely you can still cry and be masculine. You can enjoy poetry and be masculine. You can like flowers and be masculine.
The ad is criticizing the outdated stereotypes of what being a man is. It’s encouraging those of us who are sick of that bullshit to stand up and say “hey, ‘boys being boys’ is a load of crap.” It doesn’t attack men in general. If you feel attacked by it? Either you missed that point or you need to pay closer attention.