Toxic masculinity is real, and to pretend otherwise endangers men; indeed, it endangers us all.
The existence of a “toxic” masculinity does not demean all masculinity but rather it implies the existence of a “healthy” masculinity, and by understanding both, we may better discern what is good.
Foremost, we must understand what masculinity is before we may diagnose it as toxic or otherwise. For this, material trappings are useless; if you find a man in a wig and high heels, he may just be a crossdresser, or a founding father.
Clearly, physical goods are fleeting when contemplating masculinity. This is to say that one’s masculinity is found in something higher than one’s personal effects, and to assume it is tied to those commodifies masculinity into a purchasable lifestyle, further demeaning it. So, in short, feel free to buy that Prius; if anything, it means you stand for something, which is very masculine.
The capacity for violence, likewise, is inherently masculine, and we may assert that this is so by the male’s natural propensity for physical strength, which is often greater than that of females. If our Creator did not wish for men to be capable of violence, then He would not have granted them strength in sufficient measure to do so.
Further, we all share a natural revulsion or pity for men who squander their propensity for strength or dare misuse it. In this we observe the dichotomy: how may this capacity for strength be toxic and how may it be healthy? We lament the use of violence against the innocent, and we call the men who do this brutes and criminals, but we applaud the men who combat them, with equal vigor in similar ways.
In this instance we now have discernible examples of toxic and healthy masculinity.
The criminal, it can be said, has used his natural strength in such a way as to bring harm to another. Our hero, conversely, has used that same gift to protect the innocent. If the criminal is toxically masculine, then he is so because he has inappropriately used that with which his Creator has endowed him. If the hero is to be our example of healthy masculinity, then it is so because he has exercised his gifts for their original intent.
We may ascertain further in this an implied obligation, namely that men have an inherent responsibility to cultivate and use their natural strength to protect and provide for their family and community. It follows that a healthy masculinity is in line with, and committed to, self-evident duties. Conversely, a toxic masculinity misuses its gifts and adheres to no obligations.
If then, we are to say that masculinity is present in, and exercised through, divine commitments, and the attempt at fulfilling these commitments is what constitutes a healthy masculinity, toxic masculinity then constitutes a misappropriation of a man’s natural gifts.
Toxic masculinity thus requires a delusion, specifically in regards to what is and is not masculine.
Toxic masculinity is what tells us that manhood can be purchased, in the form of a gun, or a sports car; it’s what tells us that pornography is an expected and accepted masculine indulgence. Toxic masculinity is stifling one’s emotions and aspirations at risk of them being deemed effeminate.
While the role of women has changed dramatically in our society, little conversation has been given to how men should view themselves in the new order which has subsequently emerged. Previous activities and desirable traits associated with men no longer have much weight in this modern order. While, no doubt, raising a barn, cattle ranching and the operation of a firearm continue to be what we may agree upon as being masculine (for whatever reason), the truth is that none of these things are what make a man profitable in the modern world.
This is to say that there has been a change in what is masculine, as “old” masculinity is simply not profitable anymore. And indeed, if we search even further back, the masculinity of Achilles and Odysseus is almost psychopathic by modern standards—yet through all this we may divine certain commonalities, and emerge with a masculinity which is perennial. We see a dedication to hearth and home, in its defense and in its provision. Healthy masculinity is in the meeting of these duties.
Toxic masculinity is more than a buzzword on a liberal college campus, and engaging with the concept will allow us to ascertain a healthier and more lasting masculinity. Every man differs in the ways in which he exercises his masculinity. Is there really any difference between the florist and the cattle rancher so long as they serve their families and God in the means of which they are capable?