Masculinity is a bit of a touchy subject these days as our culture reacts to sexual assault allegations against powerful predators, toxic men, and a misunderstanding about the nature of masculinity.
Our recent years have seen the rise of the #MeToo movement, the #BelieveAllWomen mantra, and a heavy backlash against toxic masculinity. What once used to feel like a man’s world is changing rapidly, and women’s issues, now being given the attention they’ve lacked for so long, have been taking center stage. As a woman myself, I’m glad to see our voices being taken more seriously, victims of assault and abuse finding support, and the appalling behavior of predators coming to light and being condemned. It was about time.
However, such heartening developments involving women’s issues have also been accompanied by a rather worrisome trend: we’ve begun to blur the line between masculinity and predatory behavior. Masculinity is now something we immediately regard as inherently toxic — bad, oppressive, and destructive. We berate those who dare to say #NotAllMen, telling them they’re missing the point.
But perhaps it’s those insisting that masculinity is the problem who are missing the point.
What Is Masculinity?
A word that has amassed negative connotations these days — masculinity — at its healthiest, is good, valiant, confident, and honorable. Masculine men have a deep respect for women, not sexist words or careless attitudes. They use their strength to protect, not prey upon. They take the time to pursue and woo, instead of lazily soliciting or using brute force. They’re kind and considerate, not easily angered. They’re the absolute opposite of toxicity.
Masculine men have a deep respect for women, not sexist words or careless attitudes.
Some of the best depictions of men who exemplify what I’m talking about are Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, Captain America of The Avengers, and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. All wildly different men, and therefore with entirely different temperaments and portrayals of healthy masculinity — these men are still unapologetically manly. They’re both strong and tender, have a clear vision of what is right and just, selflessly put others before themselves, and ultimately care about protecting those in need. In other words, they are masculine.
Predatory Men Aren’t Masculine at All
Many men today are reluctant to own their masculinity for fear of being labeled “part of the problem.” We’ve created a society that has deemed being masculine as synonymous with the horrific behaviors of sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein. But when we take a step back, are these predators really masculine at all?
We’ve created a society that has deemed being masculine as synonymous with the horrific behaviors of sexual predators.
In my humble opinion, predatory men are easily the least masculine men imaginable; they’re cowardly, selfish, unprincipled, reckless, and, yes, toxic. Their actions are in direct opposition to the very nature of masculinity. And instead of associating these misconducts with masculinity, we ought to denounce them for making a mockery of it — for representing the very worst that men have to offer.
While our culture’s overreaction in criticizing the most toxic forms of masculinity didn’t come out of a vacuum, it’s time we take a moment to think about exactly what we’re criticizing. We seek to decry the behavior of predators, but instead of accusing their toxicity, we blame their awful actions on masculinity. But masculinity isn’t something we should shame or beat out of men — true masculinity is something to embrace.
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