I feel like Rambo is getting a bad rap these days. His way of dealing with problems is frowned upon. There’s no room for blowing stuff up, kicking butt and taking names, or lighting your cigar with the red-hot barrel of an AK47. I jest, but really things that have been seen as manly are largely shunned these days. That’s not to say that Rambo-type stereotypes are all there is to be manly, of course not, but almost anything that might be considered masculine is frowned upon.
The term that is thrown around most of the time is called “toxic masculinity”. Which basically asserts that behaviors, social norms, and ideals that are associated with being masculine are harmful to men, women, and society as a whole. When first introduced by Shepard Bliss in 2017, we see that it wasn’t necessarily a bad term. It was meant to point out some of the negative aspects of society that are most often associated with men; things like rape, physical bullying, sexual assault, and domestic violence. However, in the years following Bliss’ original article and thesis, we have seen this term morph into something beyond Bliss’ original intention.
These days, toxic masculinity has become a catch-all to entrap any overtly masculine appearing behavior and then label it as a problem. Even going so far as demonizing the idea of being a gentleman to a lady. I’ve actually had a woman tell me I insulted her for opening a door for her and allowing her to pass through before myself. As if this simple act of service was insulting to her. As if she couldn’t open the door for herself. It struck me as… odd.
If there is toxic masculinity, which I would argue is just toxic (or maybe sinful?) behavior that is open to both sexes and not just men, then I would say as men and society, we have lost what it means to treat each other and society properly in general. So, I would say it’s not so much toxic masculinity, but toxic behaviors in general that need to be looked at and expunged. In the US and from what I am reading, in many parts of the world, we have lost this idea of service to others and to God.
When Nietzsche declared that “God is dead” back in 1882, he was talking about how the enlightenment period had killed the idea of an all-powerful creator God. Today, I think we have seen that our enlightenment has brought about great good, but also a moral failing as well. Things like equal rights, pulling masses of people out of poverty, and self-government have all been societal goods, but then we look at the selfishness that is so prevalent today and it gives me pause to say that we are completely better off. Our reliance and dependence on our governments have led to us pushing off our responsibilities to family, friends, and neighbors. We allow the government to take care of them. We don’t take the time to talk to people to find out how they are truly doing. We look on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to know what’s going on, but fail to dig deeper with those we care about.
Most of our time is spent staring off into the bright glow of meaningless entertainment. Numbing our minds to the emotional plight that is raging around us. My wife recently got a letter in the mail (shocking I know), from a lady at our church. It was a simple typed letter that talked to her about what this lady had been praying for and how she was feeling about my wife’s family and our place in the local church. It wasn’t anything mind-blowing, it wasn’t anything that long or detailed, it was just a moment of connection.
Men are getting the brunt of the harshness. They are prodded, shamed, and pushed into a box that is largely feminine in nature. Now don’t get me wrong, femininity is amazing. I was walking with my wife the other evening and we were talking. She is about halfway through her pregnancy with my first son. He was asleep in her tummy, since to him, he was being gently rocked by his mommy, while she walked for the 30-minute stroll we try to take each night. I told her how beautiful I thought she was. She laughed and said, “I don’t feel like it sometimes right now.” But honestly, seeing my wife carrying my son, she is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Masculinity though is meant for men. Just as femininity is meant for women.
Men are meant to be strong.
Not completely in the physical sense, but in general, this should be an aspect that is ascribed to them. I think about that scene from Forest Gump, where Lieutenant Dan has lost his legs and manages to reach up and pull Gump onto the floor to chastise him for saving his life. Throughout the remainder of the film, this seemingly crippled man manages to pull his life back together. I don’t think we would call him an effective warrior any longer and without legs, he wouldn’t be winning any races on his lack of feet, but we would most certainly call him a strong man. Strong in the heart in this case. I think this is often something that is misunderstood. Being emotionally strong means being able to control your emotions. While it is often frowned upon, the father who tells his son not to cry is not trying to distance his son from emotionality, but trying to help them to understand how to control their emotions.
Men are meant to be in control of their emotions.
It’s not that we aren’t emotional beings, we are. But showing those emotions at the wrong time can leave others around us feeling vulnerable and unprotected. There is a comfort in being able to lean on a man who is resolute in his firm understanding of the emotional state of those around him. I rarely saw my own father cry. It was comforting to me as a young boy to know I had a strong and emotionally stable man who was in control of the world I inhabited. I know now that he often felt vulnerable and not up to the tasks at hand, but his outward appearance and stance were always that of confidence and of being in control. I would say that I personally fail at this aspect of masculinity. I cry during movies at the drop of a hat.
Men are meant to be protectors.
There’s often a push to limit violence in men. I understand this to some degree. Violence can become consuming. Allowing ourselves to become obsessed with violence, revel in it, to link it to sexual acts, or enjoy the pain and misery of others is a problem. However, violence in and of itself is not a bad thing. I know that’s a very controversial thing to say, but I truly do believe that in our world’s fallen state, violence is a necessary tool to combat the evil in the world. While I don’t want to go into the issue of transgenderism in this writing, I do think about the recent inclusion of transgendered women (biological men) in sports is very telling. After transgendered women are allowed to compete in women’s sporting events, the record after the record is broken. According to an article on AOL.com by Alex Lasker, “Mary Gregory, an American powerlifter and strength coach, took to Instagram on Sunday to announce she [sic] had gone “9 for 9” at the competition and broken four women’s world records: Masters world squat record, open-world bench record, Masters world deadlift record and Masters world total record.” This man posing as a woman easily smashed world-record-holding women in this sport and we have seen this time and again in many sports.
D. Michl Lowe