Emasculating Men Is Not the Answer
“Boys will be boys.” Or, will they? Should they? What does that mean anyway? That little phrase can create a lot of controversy.
It’s hard to keep up with the conversation around gender these days. But, wow, there’s been a lot of discussion on men and their role in society. A quick survey of recent cultural highlights on the topic of men and masculinity:
- American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men. These guidelines take issue with the concept of “traditional masculinity,” which they loosely define as including traits such as, “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” It’s only a slight exaggeration to state that they blame men and “masculinity” for all societal ills. They consider gender a complete social construct, separate from biology, that needs to be dismantled and rearranged, not only to better women’s lives, but to save men from themselves.
- The Gillette Ad. I do not understand why corporations feel the need to “virtue signal,” if that’s the correct term to use. I’d much rather hear about the quality of the actual product, but I digress. The popular ad starts with men looking at their reflection in the mirror. Snippets of news stories and sound bites about the #metoo movement continue throughout the ad. It then shows men starting to step in and to correct bad behavior of the men and boys around them (e.g., bullying; ogling women; boys fighting). Certainly, correcting poor behavior is good and something to encourage. What is troublesome about this ad, however, is that it portrays all men and boys as somehow innately harmful and part of the problem. And that they’re all complicit in the bad acts of some. It conveys that it’s time for men and boys to change who they are as a whole.
- The #metoo Movement. Without question, there is good that has come from this movement. Terrible wrongs have been exposed and the culture is more aware of and sensitive to the actual discrimination and harassment that does occur. However, when taken too far, it becomes less about protecting women and more about vilifying men. The imperative to believe all women no matter what (e.g., the Kavanaugh hearing) makes incredibly unfair assumptions about men, just because they are men.
- The Women’s March. Women have begun marching on Washington in January annually in the name of advancing women’s rights. Their campaign, however, is about advancing a very liberal worldview. They do not speak for all women. A large part of their agenda is to remedy the alleged patriarchal society in America, painting men as oppressors who stifle women’s freedom and squash their rights (whether they mean to do so or not, it’s allegedly inherent in their status as men).
The above examples are all part of the same conversation. There is a lot that could be unpacked about each, but my intent here is to focus briefly on the overriding cultural message: Masculinity in and of itself is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Let me pause for a minute and be very clear: Abuse, discrimination, or harassment is wrong. Where that has occurred, it is not the result of true manhood or masculinity; rather a distortion of it. It’s important to acknowledge that these wrongs still do occur, and we shouldn’t deny or minimize them. But the answer isn’t to blame all men or to erode masculinity.
Counter to the cultural narrative, we actually need more men to be men. Their strength, provision, protection, and leadership are invaluable. We don’t need them to shed their masculinity but to live it more fully and righteously.
Perhaps most importantly, we need more fathers and husbands providing for and protecting their families, whenever possible. There is a role that only men can fill. Their absence has a profound effect statistically on the wellbeing of children. Men’s masculinity contributes something that women’s femininity simply cannot.
More generally, men were created with innately masculine traits. Men complement women. The more we blur gender distinctions or stifle masculinity, the more each gender loses part of its intended purpose. The mainstream message fails to recognize the necessity and value of masculine traits and instead seeks to impart shame on all men.
This cultural conversation around “toxic masculinity” is about pushing a progressive social agenda. The attack on men is not really about remedying the bad behavior of some. Rather, it is part of the overall effort to erode gender distinctions in our society.
Now more than ever we need boys to be boys and men to be men.