A few months ago an old friend deleted me from his Facebook but not before sending me a message explaining why: he was growing quite uncomfortable with some of my views, feeling that I was secretly right-wing and, following one online conversation with him, a man-hater. This is what I’d said to fuel this last bit:
“Saying that, all these shootings are not just about guns. They’re also about our fucked up culture, a decline in mental health care and, I think, some problems among our men folk. Toxic masculinity you might say….the big grey elephant in the room is that 99% of these violent acts are committed by men. Men are hurting and they’re angry, so I think this should be talked about.”
I’d wondered at the time if I might ruffle his male feathers. Men are feeling attacked from all sides at the moment so naturally they’re going to get defensive, but I didn’t think this was a good enough reason not to mention it.
Lets play alternative realities – women rule the world. They keep shooting and bombing loads of people – either in the name of God or because they’ve got a microscopic clit and crap tits and they’ve been rejected by too many snooty men. Now, men – wouldn’t you maybe notice that it was all women doing this shit? Wouldn’t you maybe want to raise your trembling hand and say in a nervous mouse squeak, ‘Um, I’ve kind of noticed a correlation….um….it’s all women….and maybe you have some issues…..please don’t kill me….I’m just saying.’
No feminist wants to be put in the man-hating camp. Man-hating feminists are awful, with their hairy necks and warty hunchbacks and eyes going off in different directions. But you know what? I’m big and ugly enough to face up to my inner prejudices.
Am I a Man-Hater?
There was a period a few years ago when I was feeling quite down about men. I’d just suffered a sexual assault. I spoke to my female friends about it and they shared similar experiences of their own. I came to realise that almost 90% of my female friends and a couple of male friends had dealt with this in some form – ranging from sexual assault to full-blown rape. I’m ashamed to say that I went through a phase of feeling like lots of men were rapists-in-waiting. I know, not cool. It’s not that I thought that all men wanted to rape, it’s that I thought they had it in them. That, in the event of an apocalypse and the subsequent breakdown of civilisation, decent men would become capable of rape.
There is some logic to this. Without rules and consequences, there would be more rape. But there would also be more theft, murder and general violence, from both genders. We’d all get our hands dirty in a world without laws. We’re all capable.
I was going through a riotous depression during this time and felt bitter about everything. I couldn’t listen to all the self-righteous bigots calling up Jeremy Vine on Radio2 without getting so angry I’d need to walk it off. If I let a car pass me and the driver didn’t give a little wave of thanks, no word of a lie, I’d fume about it for hours. This anger wouldn’t be so bad if I was prepared to do something with it, channel it into activism or something. Does deleting people off my Facebook for making mean jokes about vegans and feminists count?
I distrust big pharma as much as the next hippy, but I went on SSRIs and the anger disappeared. I looked at my male friends and thought, Why the fuck was I pre-judging (crucial word here) a group of people according to what they might do during a hypothetical bloody apocalypse?
When you consider men individually – our fathers, brothers, friends – anger fizzles away (unless your father, brother and friends are bastards). My dad, you think, responsible for millenniums of war and pillaging? Surely not. He wears slippers. My awkward geeky best friend, responsible for the subjugation of women? But he cries over RSPCA adverts and votes Greens.
It’s actually quite hard to hate people in real life.
Imagine being a straight woman, having to fall in love with the fuckers? No wonder all the best feminists are beanflickas.
Toxic Masculinity: Naming the Elephant
It’s not a new idea – harmful hypermasculinity – but because of a steady increase in mass-shootings – some of them, especially the La Isla Vista shooting, rooted in raging misogyny – and a catchy re-branding (chuck ‘toxic’ in front of anything and you’ve got yourself a buzzword), the media has jumped on it and now, more and more people are pointing at that big grey elephant in the middle of the room with its ruddy great cock out.
Plenty of men, usually of the Men’s Rights persuasion, take serious issue with the term (imagine certain notions of femininity being described as essentially poisonous? I know, right?) as seen in blogs such as this, but I think they are missing a trick here. If we’re focusing on a type of masculinity that, due to a myriad of socio-economic blah-de-blah reasons, has gone off the rails, then we’re not focusing on men being awful. It’s a more helpful discussion and it lets you fellas off the hook a smidge. It means that it’s not you, per se, who are the problem, not even your masculinity; just an extreme, damaging and explosive version of masculinity that some men are afflicted with (that’s right, bruv – not all men).
Perhaps this idea would be easier to swallow if it had a different name? After all, it’s quite easy to make the mistake of assuming toxic masculinity = masculinity is toxic. From what I’ve seen cruising the manosphere, this mistake is often made (willfully in some cases I’m sure). Why not call it Toxic Hypermasculinity? Hypermacho Toxicity?ToxyBollockyBadWrong?
So how is ToxyBollockyBadWrong different from plain old masculinity? What is masculinity even, while we’re on the subject? A natural expression of a man’s sex, caused by hormones as a result of evolution, what with all that hunting and gathering men used to do? A socially-learned concept – like, maybe we’re all the same deep down, men and women, only we’ve been raised differently, like a good twin and a bad twin separated at birth? Or maybe it’s a bit of both? Part biology, part performance…
Being male, says Michael Kaufman, writing about male violence in some book I cant be arsed referencing because this is not an academic essay, ‘means having a penis whereas being masculine means worrying whether it is big enough.’
Notions of masculinity shift all the time but one thing hasn’t changed – it is better than femininity. That’s crucial. At it’s heart, ToxybollockyBadWrong is simply fear – implanted at a young age – that a man is not a real man and so he has to overcompensate for this simmering insecurity by behaving like a dick because if he is not a real man then he is a woman, and women are shit. ‘Masculinity,’ says Robert F Levant, who I’ve never even heard of but he’s on Wikipedia so he’s probably clever, is an ‘avoidance of femininity.’ In other words, femininity is the absolute worst.
What I think of when I think about ToxyBollockyBadWrong – what encapsulates it for me – is the little boy being taken out on a hunt with his dad for the first time, getting the deer caught in his cross-hairs and not wanting to shoot, not wanting to kill this beautiful creature but having to because not doing so would make him the actual worst, so him shooting it and holding back the tears, boasting to all his friends later about nailing that fuckin’ idiot animal, holding in those tears till bedtime, finally letting them out into his pillow as his parents sit downstairs at the kitchen table talking about what a fine man their son is turning into.
Yes, I’ve watched too many films.
I’m not saying boys shouldn’t be taught to kill – now that Trump has hold of the nuclear codes, that apocalypse might be well on its way, and those who can hunt for food are going to be useful. And if you’re in the army, by all means, squash all your natural born empathy down deep into your prostrate because you don’t have the time after every throat-slitting to re-enact your very own Dawson’s Creek montage. But the days of military conscription are over and we buy all our dead animal from Lidl, so why is it still necessary for plain old citizens to sit on those feelings? That is the issue here – not men doing manly stuff, but men suppressing shit that need not and should not be suppressed.
Even men who do hunt – can’t they do some hippy Avatar ritual after each kill? Like, they could place their hands on the animal’s head, say a little prayer to David Attenborough, sing ‘Colors of the Wind’ from Pocahontas in a melancholy, haunted whisper, and then afterwards, wipe the tears away, turn to their hunting buddies and say, ‘That was sad. My heart broke a little. Now let’s drink beer and go grab some girls by the pussy.’
Whether we believe that boys and girls are the same deep down or a profoundly different species, one thing I think all parents and playgroup regulars will agree on is that they start off with the same amount of empathy (fuck all basically – babies are sociopaths) and sensitivity. Little toddler boys are sweethearts and they do not feel less than their female counterparts.
The other day I was over my mum’s house with my three-year-old daughter and two-year-old nephew, let’s call him George. George (that name actually really suits him) was in a fractious mood, crying and whinging for no discernible reason. ‘Stop being a wuss,’ my mum said to him. ‘I think he’s on the rag,’ I joked. Then I stopped and thought about what we’d both just said. My mother was essentially telling this two-year-old boy to man up. And I was emasculating him.
What chance does the little bitch have?
We’re part of the problem, us females – we participate in ToxyBollockyBadWrong. We would rather men didn’t go around raping and dominating us, thank you very much, yet we salivate over the idea of a big strong real man roughly bending us over and shagging the shit out of us. We wish men weren’t so gosh-darned violent, yet we swoon when our boyfriends knock out some twat in the street for calling us fatty fatty no-tits. What do we say when our fire-breathing mother-in-law keeps making underhand jibes about our dry turkey and hubby doesn’t rush to our defence? ‘A real man would have stood up for me.’ What do we do when some dickhead troll posts something shitty on Facebook? We tag every single girl friend and take it in terms telling him he’s a cowardly pussy with a tiny dick, that a real man wouldn’t skulk anonymously in the shadows.
We’re essentially saying, ‘You’re shit because you’re like us.’
Reading through Men’s Rights blogs on the issue of ToxyBollockyBadWrong is a lot of fun – as much fun I imagine as stuffing gravel into one’s own pisshole. The woman-hatred on display is frankly dizzying, which is a shame because I’m trying to read some stuff which challenges my worldview – step out of the echo chamber and all that – but all I’m getting is hypocritical vitriol from furious men who, when they’re losing an argument, resort to making rape threats. Men who could probably do with a good cry, a long matronly cuddle and maybe some psychiatric treatment.
(I’m going to stop saying ToxyBollockyBadWrong now because it’s fucking ridiculous)
Women who dare mention toxic masculinity are castrating feminazis who want dominance, not equality, (imagine that, one gender trying to dominate another – scandalous). We want all men downgraded from alpha to beta. We want a nation of broken, submissive cuckolds. Us misandrist dykelords will not stop until we’ve trained our gelded, weeping slavemen to carry us galloping on their backs with their sack-scars on show while reciting the Scum Manifesto in a little girl’s voice (putting that in the wank bank for later).
Look, Mens’ Rights People – I’m not going to try and change your opinion on feminism – its admittedly got its head stuck up its arse at the moment and some of our lot are getting as bad as your lot – this is a real problem because feminism, fucked as it is right now, carries the antidote to toxic masculinity, what with it being about equality between the sexes, meaning that as well as women becoming mechanics and Roman Centurions, men get to cry and stuff, only the girl in charge of the antidote dropped it, the daft bitch, smashing it to a million pieces – don’t worry though; she’s been named and shamed and destroyed online and any onlookers triggered by the incident have been offered safe spaces.
We don’t hate masculinity. We’re not aiming to turn you all into skipping dandies who ejaculate tears and shit out magnolias (though I would pay to watch this). You can eschew all the toxic shit and still be considered manly. You can still fuck lots of people (consensually). You can roughly grab them and fuck their brains out (consensually) with stinky beer sweat running through your thick chest fur. You can drive sports cars and grow your muscles nice and big and stubbornly work your way through stupidly hot curries that feel like they’re burning through your stomach-lining like Alien blood.
But can you do all this while not thinking femininity is the absolute worst?
Seen this documentary? The Mask You Live In. You really should. Any parent of young boys should. Any man should. Any man-hating feminist should – it’ll melt the icicles off your flaps. It focuses on what toxic masculinity does to men, as well as women. I’m sure it has its flaws (here for example is some criticism of it), but it’s a good start.
Care to step out of the echo chamber? Here are a couple of blogs which run contrary to this one. They’re not the best examples of idea-challenging musings. There is an abundance of articles on toxic masculinity which make similar arguments to mine and lots more from Mens Rights sites which are too hateful to be taken seriously. Not much in between.