Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.
Recently, the subject of “toxic masculinity” came up and I thought I’d write something about it.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, “toxic masculinity” is a term used in feminist circles used to describe traditional ideas of masculinity. In particular, it exists to discourage men from urging other males from embracing such ideas as traditional masculinity.
But what is the term really used for?
Modern feminism has long since pulled away from its roots of calling for equal treatment from society. Today, it appears that what modern feminism really wants is an inversion of gender roles from decades ago.
One feminist wiki states, “It refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.”
There’s an idea that has been going around for years. You’ve heard it. People love to say, “Violence never solves anything.” The statement is meant to push people to engage in dialog to avoid violence.
However, let’s be honest for a moment. Violence solves plenty. The Holocaust, for example. More importantly, though, is that violence solves the problem of evil in our world.
For most of us, unless we’re in the military, we’re not likely to be asked to fight for the sake of ending genocide. That doesn’t mean we won’t have to fight.
Years ago, I was being harassed in my sixth-grade class by another student. The teacher was out of the room, so this student decided it was a fine time to up his usual harassment.
Now, I’d been told for ages that violence wouldn’t solve anything, so I tried to stand my ground as nonviolently as possible.
“What are you going to do if I put my finger in your face?” he asked.
I gently pushed it to the side and said, “I’ll move it.” I kept my voice even and non-aggressive.
Again he put the finger in my face and warned, “Don’t touch me again. Now, what are you going to do?”
Obviously, this was a challenge. The other boy clearly wanted to force me to back down to assert his dominance. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t in that kind of mood.
I gently pushed his hand to the side again.
He shoved me out of my desk, and the fight was on.
Who won? Who knows. It was a sprawling mess of barely landed punches, headlocks, and not much else. It was a sixth-grade fight, after all.
Now, let’s contrast this with a moment when I didn’t fight.
I was at the fair with a good friend. We met up at the local fair. We also ran into this freshman (we were juniors if I remember right) that had a major crush on my friend.
While off to the side, the girl ran into a guy she’d supposedly done something to. She was laughing and trying to hide behind my friend, so at first we didn’t register there was a legitimate problem.
However, when this guy started punching the girl in the back of the head, it was clear.
My friend was in no position to see what was happening. He couldn’t do anything about it.
I’ve rationalized what happened for some time. Yes, I was in shock when it first started happening as I tried to process that this kid was hitting a girl in the back of the head, but that doesn’t last too long.
Through the years, I’ve told myself a lot of things to try and make me feel better:
I’d get kicked out of the fair.
My Dad would whoop my butt because I’d gotten into this mess.
I’ll lose the fight and then be humiliated because I’d lost to a freshman.
It’s not like I actually cared a bit about the girl who, frankly, I found kind of annoying at the time.
All kinds of things have gone through my head. The reality? I was scared, so I didn’t fight. In short, I was a coward.
There may be no feeling that unmans you quite like cowardice. The old saw about how a coward dies a thousand deaths but a hero dies but one? It’s true.
Which is why many years later, when I heard a female voice across the street crying for help, I went.
Her boyfriend was beating her right there in the front yard. I was dressed for bed, but I wouldn’t let that stop me. Nor would I let my fear of the unknown nature of the threat stop me either.
Luckily, the guy ran off, but I felt a lot better about the incident at the fair. Not absolved of my sins, but I did feel like I’d chosen better.
More importantly, as the woman and her family thanked me, I felt like a man.
Yes, men fight. Anyone who tries to argue otherwise is either willfully lying or they’ve completely deluded themselves to believe reality doesn’t exist.
Perhaps they fight when pushed like I did in sixth-grade, or perhaps they do when fronted with someone hitting a woman, which I have a mixed track record of in my own history.
Some guys actually like it, so they get involved in martial arts, boxing, MMA, or whatever. Others study those things so if they have to fight, they’ll know what they’re doing. Others join the military because they want to fight for a righteous cause like defending their nation.
Still others simply find themselves thrust into situations from time to time.
Some will look at the question and say, “No. Next question,” but they are simply pointing to themselves as people who need to be ignored. Men fight. That point isn’t some moral proclimation either. It’s simply a statement of fact.
In fact, as someone who spent time feeling unmanned because I didn’t, I feel confident in saying not only do real men fight, but that anyone who refuses to fight under any circumstances isn’t a real man.
Men are competitive. This should not be groundbreaking news by any stretch of the imagination, but for some it actually is. They’ve been conditioned to believe that competitiveness is something only some people experience and that it exists across the genders in a fairly proportional manner.
However, while there are competitive women, competition is a key part of masculinity and has been for eons.
In fact, competition isn’t even distinctly human. In his work Professor In The Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like To Watch, author Jonathan Gottschall notes that competitive behavior has been shown in other animal species. Two rams butting heads, for example, is nothing different than two men in the boxing ring.
Competition appears to exist for an evolutionary purpose, which is to illustrate which genes are most worthy to be passed on. Two males competing in any kind of contest will show who is superior.
Of course, for many in this day and age, that’s a bug, not a feature.
Starting in my childhood, the idea surfaced of everyone getting a trophy. Back in my day, we got participation trophies and those who excelled got other, larger trophies.
The argument was that receiving something would keep us from feeling inferior to those who had excelled. Did it work? Probably not. We all knew that our trophies — assuming you only got a participation trophy — were inferior. We were given our trophies. We didn’t earn them.
Somewhere along the way, someone decided that was a problem, so they stopped giving out special trophies for those who excelled. In some cases, they went even further. They purged any aspect of competition from sporting events.
When my teenage son was younger, he played soccer in a YMCA league. By this point, there were no scores kept, no “wins” or “loses”, no trophies. Nothing that would mark out the victor or the defeated.
The effort was to try and destroy the competitive spirit in the name of self-esteem.
You know what, though? The kids knew. They kept score. They knew who the best players were, they knew it all. They knew because a competitive nature is a driving force in the male animal. We know, on an innate level, that we have to compete.
From an evolutionary standpoint, we need to show that our genes deserve to be passed along. In polygamous societies, which many were, it was imperative to attract women through skill because there was no parity between the numbers of men and women.
While monogamous societies have stripped much of this biological necessity from our lives, the imperative still exists. As man civilized, he tamed this imperative into sports.
Now, many would watch the UFC or the NFL and argue that “tame” might not be the right word, but that’s a discussion for another time.
As man continued to be civilized, he found competition in other ways. Sports has certainly been one avenue, but in just about anything else men engaged in was fair game as well (no pun intended).
Unfortunately, as noted earlier, competition is now considered a bad thing in a lot of ways. It’s been completely removed from our classrooms with the exception of sporting events, and even those are often criticized by those leery of the competitive spirit.
Yet competition is a fact of our society and always will be absent a complete totalitarian overthrow of the social order.
There is nothing quite as masculine as competing, and those who are good at it are still seen as ideal mates. After all, take a look at a professional athlete of average attractiveness. Now, take a look at his wife. Most of the time, she’ll be the most beautiful woman you can imagine.
Not just athletes either. Successful businessmen or politicians also often find themselves attached to women who wouldn’t give them the time of day were they less successful.
Why is that? Is these women just after the men’s money?
I don’t think so. I believe we’re seeing evolutionary responses molded to a modern setting. These men have proven to be excellent providers and can protect these women from the harshness of the world. They have “won” at the greatest competitions in the world, be it sports, business, or politics. Their relative attractiveness to potential spouses increased at that point.
While “gold diggers” do exist, many women accused of such are anything but. They’re simply following through with an evolutionary imperative, which is to find a mate that can provide and protect them and their young.
Of course, I’m not an evolutionary psychologist. I could be very wrong on this, but think about it for a moment and it makes sense.
Regardless, the masculine need to compete doesn’t necessarily end with marriage. It continues because the evolutionary imperative hasn’t been quelled.
Men shouldn’t feel this is a bad thing by any stretch. Healthy competition is a normal activity men can and should engage in regularly, regardless of how they do so. Assuming, of course, that the activity itself is safe.
Unfortunately, we still need to do something about our children. Anecdotal evidence suggests that self-esteem isn’t contingent on recognition in sports, but on ability. All the boys on the team generally know who is the best player, and who is the worst. The presence of a trophy doesn’t change that.
By the same token, they know who is winning a game, regardless of whether score is kept. Failing to keep formal score has done nothing for the “losing” team’s self-esteem.
Moving forward, men need to fight to restore competition as a noble and just thing for boys to participate in. We need to battle this desire many have to lash out at anything that smacks of masculinity in general, but in competition specifically.
In the process, we might just restore masculinity to entire generations of men.
One of the harshest trends on social media these days is an assault on romantic preferences. No, I’m not talking about someone getting upset because one guy loves another guy either. No, I’m talking about the trend where some women post stuff like this:
All three of these, and the legion of fellow memes, seek to do nothing more than to shame men into being romantically attracted to a particular type of woman.
In the first and last, attractive “curvy” women are presented as the ideal, contrasted in the last with an almost skeletal model. It makes it clear that the “curvy” is to be preferred.
Personally, I agree that picture one and three have attractive models. They’re beautiful women worthy of being appreciated as such. However, who is really arguing about them? Very few men wouldn’t look at these women as beautiful.
The reality is something else, which is illustrated in this incredibly harsh rebuttal.
Now, I won’t say that this is purely a “feminist” thing. I’ve seen fairly conservative women share memes similar to the ones above. However, the point remains, and that is these memes exist to try to shame men into being attracted to heavier women.
For the heavier women, I understand where they’re coming from.
They deserve to be appreciated for who they are and I understand why they don’t feel like they should have to change in order to get that appreciation.
However, there is also a fair bit of hypocrisy involved with many of these women. They will share the above memes, then share their favorite beefcake pictures of Channing Tatum or, before his untimely death, Paul Walker.
On one hand, they are railing against an idealized version of women that they don’t feel they can attain, while at the same time perpetuating the same thing for men.
And make no mistake, men are often held to unobtainable standards as well. For example:
I came up in the era of He-Man. It’s generally impossible for a man to obtain this idealized image without subjecting his body to not just years of intense weight training, but often a fair amount of steroids.
Yet this has been deemed acceptable.
Here’s the thing, though. Men are going to be attracted to whatever they happen to find attractive. Some prefer bigger women, some prefer petite women. For me, were I not married and looking for my ideal woman, she’d probably look something like this:
Two of those three are professional MMA fighters. The first is a fitness model. Frankly, that’s what I find attractive.
Should I be shamed for it?
Frankly, I won’t be shamed for it. No man should be shamed for what he happens to find attractive. Yes, guys will joke with one another over their preference of romantic partners, as they would no doubt rag me about my preferences. However, joking and shaming are two very different acts.
Shaming is an attempt to force a change in behavior. I won’t be shamed for my preferences, nor will I shame any man for his. And make no mistake, there are men who are attracted to almost every body type.
The rules of attraction exist, but they vary from each and every man as to what rules they play by. For some, it’s all about the breasts. Others, it’s the butt. For me, it’s the stomach of all things. Still others just want a pretty face.
If this sound shallow to you, chill out.
Physical attraction often is. Beauty is only skin deep, after all. Attraction, however, is all we’re talking about. I’m not about to advise someone to spend their life with someone who meet no other compatibility requirement other than being attractive.
However, that’s the topic for another day.
So, just be attracted to whatever you want to be attracted to and tell everyone who complains about it to shove off. It’s your life, you’re the one who has to live it.
Why should a male worry about whether he’s a man or not?
It’s a fair question. In this day and age, there are remarkably few penalties for not being a man. In fact, some segments of society will embrace you and celebrate you for just that fact.
However, many know something isn’t right about it. The sense it on an instinctive level.
So, they want something more.
Plenty of websites will tell them how they should be. The New York Times tried to do just that last year with a piece where writer Brian Lombardi offered his thoughts on what a modern man is.
It’s an example of what happens when feminism-indoctrinated males try to define manhood. It contains such gems as, “When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small” and “The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.”
One of my favorites is this:
Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?
This is manliness?
The presence of a melon baller doesn’t make one less of a man, but it’s not something that should remotely even be considered. Possessions don’t make the man.
Lombardi’s post was derided by numerous men for the sheer ridiculousness of it. He claims the modern man sleeps closest to the door so he can fight off an intruder, then claims they won’t touch a firearm, the most effective tool for doing just that.
It should have been.
Lombardi, and many other feminist-indoctrinated males (FIMs), don’t understand the essence of man. They don’t get it, and what’s more is they don’t want to get it.
Frankly, that’s their right.
So, the question is whether a male should or shouldn’t embrace a more traditional form of masculinity. That’s up to them. However, if you’re one of those men who knows what’s being shoveled your way isn’t the way it should be, then you already have your answer. Don’t you?