The Masculinity Strawman

There is a belief in Western countries today that men have to change so that many of the problems of society such as crime, sexual exploitation and violence can be alleviated.  Masculinity, according to most social and political commentators, is the source of these issues so it has to be modified in order to stop them occurring and make it better fit in with the brave new world of gender fluidity and self-expression. Challenging so-called ‘toxic masculinity’ will also purportedly allow us to achieve the promised land of ‘equality’ where everybody is exactly the same and no group is a victim or victimiser of another group.

In order for this to happen we have to adopt the viewpoint that certain groups of people have power and privilege over other groups. For feminists, this is the idea that men have power over women and that there needs to be a levelling of the playing field. However, despite these claims that women continue to be disadvantaged by this power imbalance, feminism has had an enormous influence in academia, the media and the government. Organisations and institutions now engage in a huge amount of effort to criticise masculinity and its apparent cause in violence against women or male dominance in areas of power such as business and politics.

One example that shows how feminist ideology now dominates contemporary thinking is in the guidelines published by the American Psychological Association (APA) in early 2019 to help psychologists deal with men and boys. Like everything that relates to masculinity in modern times the guidelines weren’t wholly positive about it. According to their research: “traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competiveness, dominance and aggression – is, on the whole, harmful.” Although one psychologist, Ryon McDermott from the University of South Alabama, acknowledges: “In certain circumstances, traits like stoicism and self-sacrifice can be absolutely crucial” he also states: “the same tough demeanour that might save a soldier’s life in a war zone can destroy it at home with a romantic partner or child.” The bias of the APA to not just feminism but other areas of identity politics is revealing in the guidelines which states: “dominant masculinity was historically predicated on the exclusion of men who were not White, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, and privileged.”

Another example that happened around the same time as the publication of the APA guidelines was the release of Gillette’s now infamous commercial ‘The Best Men Can Be’.  In this video there is mention of bullying, sexual harassment and toxic masculinity whilst a narrator tells us: “we can’t hide from it, it’s been going on far too long.” A pair of boys are shown wrestling with each other while a line of men with their arms crossed state “boys will be boys” and stand behind barbecue grills for some reason.  “Men need to hold other men accountable” the narrator tells us as one man goes to approach a woman walking past before another man stops him saying “Not cool, not cool.”  Men need to “say the right thing, to act the right way” and although some men do this the narrator says “some is not enough.” Unsurprisingly, the response to the video was largely negative and at the time of writing the video has 1.5 million dislikes to 806,000 likes.

This relentless criticism of masculinity can also be seen if you search for ‘masculinity’ in Google News.  Inevitably you will find articles talking about the need for a supposed ‘new’ masculinity to defeat the dreaded ‘toxic’ one. The belief that masculinity can be changed so easily reflects the feminist idea of gender being a spectrum or a social construct and that if boys were taught to behave like girls then there wouldn’t be any problems. As many others have pointed out, there are biological and psychological differences between men and women that have emerged through our different evolutionary pressures which explains why there are distinctive male and female behaviours. Unless people have a few million years to spare, this isn’t going to change any time soon. Fortunately, there are a lot of people who are against this attack on men and masculinity in addition to the ideology that states there’s no differences between men and women. Unfortunately, it is also common for people who defend men and masculinity to assert that men can be a problem but they just need to channel their behaviour to be productive members of society.

From how masculinity is described you would be forgiven for thinking that most men are in a constant state of rage and drag their knuckles on the floor and will act violently at any opportunity. It is true that most extreme behaviours and violence are predominantly caused by men but this only represents a tiny minority of all men. Similarly, it is important to channel the aggressive behaviour of men and boys but there is never a suggestion that women need to channel their own behaviour for the benefit of society as well. This is because it would be viewed as misogynistic. There is a great reluctance to talk about women behaving badly which happens more often than people would like to think. This has been exacerbated by societies consistently presenting women as victims and men as perpetrators. To quote the men’s rights activist Glen Poole: “society thinks women have problems whereas men are problems.”

Most people who speak out against the feminist and social justice warrior assault on masculinity focus on the denial of sex differences but don’t focus on this perception of seeing men always as bad and women always as good. I call this the ‘masculinity strawman’ as it presents an overly simplistic view of how men and boys behave which makes it easier for feminists and SJWs to tear down. A better response to attacks on male behaviour would be to point out that women are human and therefore flawed just like men.

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