by Jon Connery
An introduction to toxic masculinity
| Earlier today, I was getting ready to shower and I took off my shirt in a manner worthy of the suave aura in semblance of the famous James Bond; arms stretched, slow-motion, imagining that I have titanium abs. The whole spiel. Now is this toxic masculinity? My sexually-charged attempt at becoming James Bond? Well, no. Is the fact that I'm about to shave and use Old Spice, the world's manliest aftershave, toxic masculinity? If I went outside, chopped down a tree, split a log with my teeth, then built a cabin with my bare hands, would that be toxic masculinity? While that would be extremely impressive, no. The concept of toxic masculinity has become polemical in nature, for several reasons. The first of these reasons is the idea that I just used way too many ridiculous examples to try to convey: confusion over what toxic masculinity is.
The world as we know it is built upon a patriarchal foundation, this is undeniable. The claim that both men and women have had equal standing 1000 years ago, 500 years ago, 200 years ago, or even 100 years ago is absolutely ludicrous. However, things have started changing especially with the turn of the millennium and feminism has burst forth in waves- a discussion for another time. Included with these changes, was a more accepting view of the flexibility in terms of what it means to 'be a man.' Generation by generation, you have a descending likelihood of accepting new things; for many people deemed to be in the 'baby boomer' generation, this new loose definition of a man was apocryphal at best. Men had to be the ones to make the money in the house- dominant. Men had to be assertive, violent, and show these traits in handling even the most trivial of matters. A suitable toy for a boy was a G.I. Joe, not a barbie. Wikipedia's article on hegemonic masculinity has a section regarding toxic masculinity where it quotes Terry Kuper's definition: "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence" (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jclp.20105). The key traits highlighted here are domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence. These traits can be condensed and in turn, expanded upon by focusing on the first word in toxic masculinity- toxic. Toxicity is found in interactions and relationships just as easily as it is found in nature. The immune system, when detecting a toxin, while do everything it can to eliminate this threat. The result is a healthier body, free of a danger that could have spelled cacophonous catastrophe. Toxicity not only brings harm to a system, but dangerous openings that make it easier for other things to enter and make life miserable; just like a toxin that weakens the immune system and leads to belligerent maladies. Reiterating the point mentioned in the first paragraph, woodworking is not toxic masculinity. It is not toxic. All of the traits listed by Kuper are toxic, bring harm to others, and ultimately to the person in question most of the time. However, these are not the only traits that should be included in the definition. Beyond Kuper's pithy definition, toxic masculinity should also encompass the long-lasting emotional and psychological effects of what I call normative toxic masculinity.