Everywhere you look, masculinity is under attack.
But the devil’s in the definition. In a culture where masculinity’s been defined more by sexual conquest than by providing for one’s wife and children — when a little black book means more than a marriage certificate — well then, no wonder the word “masculinity” brings a negative connotation.
No wonder the country’s culture is all consumed with drilling down the message that maleness is to be scorned.
Gillette’s cut an ad encouraging males to shave their “toxic masculinity.”
Brown University offers Masculinity 101, a seminar aimed at soothing what’s become today’s example of the savage beast: Men.
“For some men, they think if they’re not raping anyone, that’s enough. But we’ve seen that it’s not. We need to train men on healthy masculinity at a young age,” said Neil Irvin, executive director of the nonprofit Men Can Stop Rape, in an interview with the Daily Beast about the advance of toxic masculinity courses on college campuses.
The American Psychological Association has recently issued warnings against “traditional masculinity.”
And the media’s filled with hyper-aggressive warnings about the danger of men.
“Men Are Responsible for Mass Shootings,” Harper’s Bazaar blasted in a February headline. “How toxic masculinity is killing us.”
And this, from Salon, from way back in 2015: “Toxic masculinity is killing men: The roots of male trauma.”
Put it all together and it’s almost as if maleness is in itself a crime — or, at the very least, a crime-in-waiting.
But the problem is not masculinity.
The problem is what society has skewed masculinity to be.
The problem is the redefining of masculinity.
Masculinity used to be a term that described men who took care of their own business — who worked hard to become independent and valuable members of society, who provided for their wives and children, who served as the spiritual leaders of their households. But society scoffed such roles as disdainful of women’s rights, as too confining and rigid, as unnecessary and unfulfilling, as out-of-touch with modern times.
Society told men to toss the biblical standards; modern culture fueled by radical elements insisted the Bible was only for misogynist patriarchies, unfitting for an America with a government of gender equality.
Society booted the traditional standards in favor of the modern.
And the natural result of these modern teachings? A country of shaky morals, few absolutes and “anything goes” attitudes.
A country where women lost their true value, their worth as individuals — as caretakers of home and family, as equal partners of family units ordained by God, as intellectual and creative forces with much to offer — and became more objects of use and abuse.
This is not masculinity’s fault, though.
It’s the moral compass. It’s the moral compass of both sexes.
It’s the failed modern teachings. It’s the cultural turn from all-things-biblical and the mass rejection of all-things-traditional.
Until we get that straight, masculinity will remain the toxic stain it’s become. Words and definitions, you see, really do matter. As it turns out, so do morals.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ckchumley.
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