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  • Writer's pictureMatt Gray

Masculinity is not Toxic*

* - Not in and of itself at least. If we look at masculinity in its universal sense it’s a very beautiful and powerful part of a person. Yes, beautiful. There is great beauty in masculinity. Masculinity is not something to ever be ashamed of, or ever feel you should hide. There absolutely is toxic masculinity, but these are societal problems and not a true reflection of what masculinity means. We are going to talk about that, but first we are going to talk about what masculinity isn’t.

Masculinity is not the absence of a femininity. We have this misguided belief that as men we cannot embrace our feminine side. We cannot love our feminine side. Why? It’s not one or the other, they are not mutually exclusive in any way. As males we still have female hormones coursing through our entire body. We need those hormones just as much as we need our male ones. We also have the capacity to be gentle, we have the capacity to be sensitive. We need care, we need love, and we need to heal from pain or trauma just as much as anyone else. Denying yourself these things on sheer principle is an exercise in futility, and is actually an example of great fragility. When we deny ourselves these things we deny them for our partners, or our friends, family... Anybody we care about. Unless, of course, you're far too manly to care about things.

Being unable to act beyond primal impulses is also absolutely not a display of masculinity. It’s a display of a primitive mind, plain and simple. The saying “boys will be boys” is absolutely ridiculous, and THAT is a great example of toxic masculinity. You may as well say “Primates will be primates” because you are taking away personal responsibility. You are chalking harmful behaviours up as something that cannot be controlled. You’re literally disempowering men while showing weakness, and validating harmful or abusive actions as part of being a “man”. This is something that we really need to stop doing, because we are teaching our children that boys can’t control themselves, and that they don’t have to be personally responsible for certain actions because, well boys will be boys. Right out the gate we are teaching our son's that there are certain behaviors that they do not have to be accountable for.

The inability to express emotions is also not masculine. As men, are we emotionally stunted?? Do we somehow have different feelings and emotions than our female counterparts?? Certainly there are some hormonal and physiological differences that may make these things present a little differently across the sexes, and people in general, but being men we don’t somehow lose half of the entire spectrum of human emotion. Why would you not want to address these things inside of you, and make them better?? Why would you not want to become better and be better?? I’m sorry, but being too insecure to address these things is not masculinity. Once again, it is pure fragility, and often just a refusal to be accountable for your actions.

So what is masculinity?? Well, it's a lot of things. See, masculinity is protection. It is safety. It is caring for, and providing for. It is your job to provide a safe space. I don't just mean that in a physical sense. I mean that in regards to to mentally, as well as emotionally. If we are keeping someone safe, we are keeping all aspects of them safe. They need to be safe during a disagreement, they need to be safe during difficult conversations or hard subjects. They need to be safe when they're vulnerable, or when they are hurting. You see, true strength is nurtured. It is your job to build people and empower them. It is your job to keep them safe while they navigate through whatever they may be navigating. You don't need to "test" them, or dominate them, or toughen them up. The world will do that - and if it doesn't... well then it wasn't needed anyway. If physical intimidation, domination, or even the idea of "manly" are parts of your identity then you have failed as a human being.

"Dominating" someone, be it your partner, your child, or even one of your peers is absolutely pathetic. Now, there are situations where utter and complete domination is absolutely necessary. If it's to protect someone, yourself, in some cases even your ideals, fine, that's great. This has absolutely no place in a disagreement at work. No place in a domestic situation (well, whatever two consenting adults do in the bedroom is none of my business, but I'm not talking about that). If you are putting hands on someone, screaming at your them, using your physicality in any way, or convincing them that they need to submit to you... You have failed. This is true for your partners, children, or your peers. This is a combination of arrogance and fragility, which are two things that also aren't mutually exclusive. It is your job to build, not break. It is your job to elevate and provide, not put down, not to make someone submit.

If your idea of masculinity involves intimidation, domination or anything intended to "put someone in their place" or feel lower than you, you are not a man. Biologically you may be, but what you are displaying is not masculinity. You are an abuser, and a coward. Period.

I could actually write on this subject for hours and hours, and still feel incomplete, so I'll leave her there for now. I will be revisiting the topic of masculinity and femininity in the future, but for right now I'll leave it with this statement: As a man, it is your job to protect, and nurture. In protecting yourself, or somebody else, domination, great violence, all that sort of stuff may have a place. Using any of it outside of a need to protect... Well, that's toxic masculinity, and I make no apologies for saying so.

Thank you for reading.

PS - I'm not taking a moral high ground here. I'm not taking a stance of superiority, these are just the things that I have learned. I was lucky enough to have had a family once. I've also been lucky enough to have a few very special people in my life as well. My own toxicity cost me most of that, and my other failures cost me the rest. All I can do is own it, take accountability, and learn to be better. If you feel like this post describes you, it's because I want you to be better too.

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