For years, there has been a growing tendency in this culture to treat masculinity as a terrible thing. Some people would be a lot happier if all men were passive wimps. They don’t want us to be competitive. They don’t want us to have strong drives. They want us to be the losers who have become the butt of jokes in bad movies.
These culture warriors have taken the very worst possible behavior of certain men and conflated that with a form of masculinity. Lately, their campaign has started calling that sort of behavior “toxic masculinity” — as though masculinity had anything to do with it.
For those of us who have despised jerks and tried to stand up to them all our lives, this is insulting. A jerk or abuser might or might not be masculine. More emotionally healthy men might or might not be masculine. There is no connection between masculinity and toxic behavior.
Gillette waded into this morass with one of the most asinine promotional videos I’ve ever seen. In an effort to pander to the cultural left, Gillette insulted those of us who have never been part of the cycle of abuse, bullying and bad behavior that’s perpetrated by some men.
This bad behavior has nothing to do with masculinity. It makes just as much sense as describing the behavior of men who rob banks or mug people on the streets as “criminal masculinity.”
No. Criminal behavior is the same whether it’s by a man or a woman. In the same way, abuse or bullying or various forms of being a jerk are their own thing — whether the perpetrator is a man or a woman.
There are some dysfunctional people who see treating women badly and acting like jerks as “being a man.” When Donald Trump was caught on tape talking about grabbing women between their legs and forcing himself on them, there were other jerks who rushed to describe his words and actions as “locker room talk.”
Here’s the point. I’ve encountered those sort of people — and plenty of my fellow men have, too — since we were children. We clashed with them in locker rooms when they were crude and rude. We pushed back against them at school and at play when they bullied people. We’ve stood up to these people and called them out long before you and your wimpy friends ever decided to care about this issue.
When you call that sort of despicable behavior “masculinity” — in any way — you are letting the vile losers like Trump win. When you do that, it’s letting all the sort of locker-room jerks who I’ve always hated win, because you’re letting them define masculinity.
Trump isn’t masculine. He’s a crude bully who has no respect for women. (Or men, either, for that matter.) Using the word masculine to describe that — in any way — simply tells other people that this is what masculinity is. You are letting those people win — and you are confusing the men who want to be masculine in a healthy way.
This is a horrible step backwards for men and it’s equally lousy for women — because the vast majority of normal women don’t want emasculated wimps as their partners. They want someone who treats others with respect but who is also clear about the man he is and who acts the part of a man.
If you want a good indication of the motivations of those who talk about “toxic masculinity,” ask yourself when you last heard these people talk about “toxic femininity.” Many women are mean and nasty, to each other and to men. Many are physically violent. Many also have no respect for the men they’re around. Why do you not call their behavior “toxic femininity”?
You don’t use that phrase because it makes no sense to pretend their behavior has anything to do with their femininity or gender at all. But you’ve been conned into pretending that being a jerk is somehow about masculinity.
When Gillette has this video that shows all these men — obviously representing the “every man” among us — the implication is that we all need to look at ourselves and change in order to be the best we can be. This is a lie and it is insulting.
Most men don’t act in those nasty and abusive ways. Those vile creatures are jerks. They’re abusers. They’re losers. They might or might not be masculine. It is wrong — and it’s politically motivated — to pretend the two ideas belong together in any way.
I’m happy to have anybody join my long campaign against the part of culture which acts that way and which defends it. (And plenty of women defend the behavior, too. Don’t forget that.) I’ve hated these losers and opposed them for decades. I’ve stepped in front of bullies in schools. I’ve been their target as a new kid in a dark basement locker room with no adults around. I’ve stood up to bigger and older bullies who picked on my younger sisters.
Don’t pretend that being a jerk or a bully has anything to do with being masculine. Don’t insult the masculine men who have always opposed those people. If you want to fight those people, call them what they are, but don’t use the word “masculinity” in any way.
As for Gillette, I’ve used their overpriced razors, blades and shaving cream all my life. I’ve heard a lot of ads lately for a new brand of razor called Harry’s. Maybe it’s finally time to try another brand — one that doesn’t think it’s smart to insult me.