Opening sequence: Weathers - Problems
Billbilly01 - Toxic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeKLubq_YsQ
The Surfragettes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAyeVjnJg9E
Dylan Violin - Toxic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Cw4lICqQg
We The Folk Music - Toxic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nue40HwulSU
Video / Inspirations:
Karen Straughan – Toxic Masculinity & TOXIC FEMININITY:
WorldWrite - Gender Wars: is masculinity toxic for boys?:
NHS Brighton & Hove - #IAMWHOLE (featuring Jordan Stephens):
Oxford Dictionaries - Word of the Year 2018:
Sezzera - Rizzle Kicks James Bond (Wired Sept11)
6oodfella - "Toxic" Masculinity Part 2
Show Notes & Citations Below:
On the 14th of November 2018 The Oxford dictionary announced that they had chosen ‘Toxic’ as their word of the year for 2018.
Their Word of the Year is chosen on the basis that it is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past 12 months, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.
The OED explained that not only had there been a 45% rise in the number of times it has been searched for on their online platform but that was the sheer scope of its application that made toxic the stand-out choice with it being used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses.
2018 was the toxic year.
In the same year that toxic chemicals sent shockwaves around the globe when they were used to poison of a former Russian spy and his daughter, everything from environments and cultures to politics and workplaces have been described as toxic but the OED agreed that with the exception of more traditional chemical based associations, the word that has most overwhelming become associated with this poisonous word was ‘masculinity’ or in other words the possession of qualities traditionally associated with being a man.
Because 2018 is the year that the term toxic masculinity well and truly took root in the public consciousness as a verbal manifestation of our shared problem with men.
There are a depressingly large number of distinct problems that combine to create society’s contemporary shared problem with men and yet another vital variable in the multi variant puzzle this series is attempting to unpick is the unfortunate problem that when they are not being bombarded with rhetoric about their so called male privilege, or how they are somehow vicariously responsible for the, historical, systemic and ongoing oppression of half the human race; the very traits commonly used to define them as a person are increasingly becoming pathologized and promoted as common symptoms in their own misfortune.
The notion of ‘Toxic masculinity’ is relatively new and until relatively recently confined to the world of academia and sociology text books.
Arguably no definitive definition currently exists, at least not in the oxford English dictionary itself but according to google it is a term used by scholars to refer to stereotypically masculine gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant and limit their emotional range.
It is perspective which stereotypes men as dominant, aggressive, unemotional and sexually aggressive, both collectively and as individuals.
The concept is closely related to theories about hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy and reflects a perspective which pathologises male attributes and proposes that some aspects of masculinity can be harmful to society, to women and children and to men themselves.
Hegemonic masculinity is defined as a practice that legitimizes men's dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of women, and other marginalized ways of being a man. It in turn is derived from the concept of cultural hegemony, by Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, which analyses the power relations among different social classes of a society and how one particular social group may claim, and sustains dominance over others in society.
So the term ‘toxic masculinity’ has a dual purpose in discussions about men's role in society. Firstly, it emphasies how hyper masculinie traits fuel some men's violence and mistreatment of women or indeed other men.
And secondly, it aims to highlights how masculinity can potentially constrain men's own lives particularly in areas such as health and relationships.
Masculinity so Fragile
Now….stereotypically masculine traits like competitiveness, risk taking and an inability or reluctance to talk about their problems are often cited as catalysts health issues experienced by men.
So whilst acknowledging that gender socialisation norms will have some relevance to anyone concerned with mental well being, critics of the concept warn that 'toxic masculinity' can be interpreted as implying that all men are toxic and therefore ultimately responsible for any collective disadvantages that they may experience.
Indeed such a stereotype may go some way towards explaining why a commonly heard response to the observation that the majority of victims of crime are men is the dehumanising but predictable observation that so are the majority of criminal perpetrators[i].
Psychologist, Dr John Barry has pointed out that while some sociologists may believe that toxic masculinity is presented as a benevolent way of rescuing men from negative aspects of masculinity…it is perceive by many as a direct attack on masculine traits and consequently detrimental to the mental health & wellbeing of boys and men.
In other words if violence and sexism are defined as masculine traits then the existence of violent and sexist men can act as proof that masculinity is toxic.
But correlation does not automatically equal causation and psychological studies show that violence and sexism are in fact usually rooted in trauma, not masculinity. In fact, not only are some of the very worst examples of violent sex offending caused by men having been sexually abuse in childhood, often by female caregivers.
But more broadly numerous studies that the absence of a father in a child’s life can significant detrimental outcomes for the child along a number of dimensions, including
mental health and physical health, including lifespan. Children from fatherless homes are significantly more likely to experience - behavioral problems, truancy, poor academic performance, youth crime, promiscuity and teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, unemployment, homelessness, exploitation and abuse.
Which goes some significant to suggesting that the absence of masculinity can prove extremely toxic to the future wellbeing of children of both sexes.
Indeed the relative absence of masculinity in educational settings may very well be contributing to a potentially very toxic time bomb that has significant implications for future generations of women and men.
And a number of clinical psychologists have warned that the lack of men currently involved in health service provision, combined with arguably feminised psychotherapeutic approaches may create an access barrier for a client population who are already understood to be less likely to seek help.[ii].
Diagnosing toxicity as a fundamental problem for men does sound a lot like blaming the patient for the creation of cancerous cells. There may be some sort of truth inherent in such a notion but it’s not an especially helpful one and does sound uncomfortably an awful lot like victim blaming.
Notions of Toxic masculinity do rather noticeably ignore and I would argue even dangerously distract attention away from equally relevant factors to many men’s misfortune such as denial of child custody and an increasingly man shaming culture.
And while some men certainly may be reluctant to talk about their problems, many many, most certainly do, so perhaps a key action point for overcoming this particular problem with men is that, as an inclusive society, perhaps we need to overcome our reluctance to change the ways in which we’re prepared to listen.
Jane Powell, founder and CEO of the male suicide prevention charity CALM argues that there is plenty of evidence to disprove the theory that men don’t look for help in times of desperation and that there is a growing recognition that more effort has to be made to ensure that support services are more inclusive.
Suicide is now the single leading cause of death for men between the ages of 20 to 49 and yet despite this highly significant trend, UK medical professionals consistently report lower incidences of mental ill-health in male populations. This suggests that either mental illness is currently being defined too narrowly or that other personal, political and socio-economic factors also have clear relevance.
Evolutionary behavioural scientist Gad Saad has offered a crucial perspective on a concept he considers to be profoundly harmful to the existential sense of self of young men.
He observes that:
Attractive women like Beyoncé are desired not because of her “diabolical femininity,” but simply because of her femininity. Similarly, most of the traits and behaviors that are likely found under the rubric of “toxic masculinity” are precisely those that most women find attractive in an ideal mate! This is not a manifestation of “antiquated stereotypes.” It is a reality that is as trivially obvious as the existence of gravity, and no amount of campus brainwashing will ever alter these facts.
Evolutionary psychologists have documented universal patterns of mating preferences that are invariant across time and place. In no culture ever studied have women repeatedly preferred to mate with pear-shaped, low-status, tepid men possessing high-pitched, nasal voices. In no documented culture do women’s sexual fantasies revolve around granting sexual access to unemployed, unambitious men who occupy the lowest stratum of the social hierarchy.
Instead, women are attracted to “toxic masculine” male phenotypes that correlate with testosterone, and they are desirous of men who are socially dominant, who are strategically risk-taking in their behaviors, and who exhibit patterns of behaviors that will allow them to ascend the social hierarchy and defend their positions from enchrochers.
The Samaritans report that men from the lowest social class living in the most deprived areas are up to ten times more likely to die by suicide. While CALM report that fears about job security, redundancy, unemployment, and benefit cuts are key issues raised by male service users with suicidal thoughts who attach a much greater importance on income and job status and often view it as central to their appeal to the opposite sex.
This is perhaps understandable given that even in relatively gender equal societies, such as the UK, it is generally accepted that women seeking partners express greater hypergamic selectivity than men. Economic and sociological trends are reducing some woman’s options and this is already being seen to have significant implications for society. For example, the first global study into mature oocyte cryopreservation trends found that the prime reason for egg freezing by graduate women is a perceived shortage of eligible men due to the increasing deficit of male graduates.
So all in all perhaps the promotion of a term as literally poisonous as toxic masculinity isn’t necessarily the best way to go.
After all perspectives that pathologise entire masculine traits do seem a tad toxic by design.
Dr Barry points out that the perspective that men need to be fixed, re-educated and reprogrammed has been compared with archaic notions of conversion therapy to ‘cure’ gay people of their sexuality.
Meanwhile Psychoanalyst Bruce Scott goes even further warning that while it’s hard to imagine such dehumanising language being attached to any other protected group or identified characteristic…the concept has echoes of darker days homosexuality was treated and accepted as a mental illness, of women were labelled hysterics.
Indeed history is all too sadly littered with examples of what happens to groups that are somehow seen as less than human.
This may seem to some like something of an over-reaction but consider a recent example of such a dehumanizing perspective drawn from an essay published by the South African Edition of the Huffington Post entitled: Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?
Published in April 2017, it’s author Shelly Garland proposed withholding the voting franchise from white males and legislation allowing for the seizure and redistribution of their assets as a solution to global inequality. Such an extreme public policy proposal was justified by the perception that white men are largely responsible for phenomenon such as imperialism, capitalism, neo-liberalism, the global financial crisis and recent political outcomes such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US President:
It is no surprise that liberalism – and its ideological offshoots of conservatism and libertarianism – are the most popular ideologies among white males. These ideologies with their focus on individuals and individual responsibility, rather than group affiliation, allow white men to ignore the debt that they owe society, and from acknowledging that most of their assets, wealth, and privilege are the result of theft and violence.
“It is time to wrestle control of the world back from white males, and the first step will be a temporary restriction of the franchise to them.
A period of twenty years without white men in the world's parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world's wealth far more equitably shared. The violence of white male wealth and income inequality will be a thing of the past.
The article was ultimately revealed to be a hoax. It was written and submitted with the intention of highlighting a perceived lack of ethical standards in contemporary journalism.
And it’s hard to argue that it certainly made that point.
Because not only was it approved for publication in the first place but incredibly when the article went viral and sparked an onslaught of complaints.
HuffPost South Africa Editor-in-Chief defended the article and offered the following response:
Garland's underlying analysis about the uneven distribution of wealth and power in the world is pretty standard for feminist theory. It has been espoused in many different ways by feminist writers and theorists for decades now. In that sense, there was nothing in the article that should have shocked or surprised anybody (or so we thought.) It would appear that perhaps much of the outcry derives from a very poor reading of the article -- or perhaps none at all. Dismantling the patriarchal systems that have brought us to where we are today, a world where power is wielded to dangerous and destructive ends by men, and in particular white men, necessarily means a loss of power to those who hold it. A loss of oppressive power. Those who have held undue power granted to them by patriarchy must lose it for us to be truly equal. This seems blindingly obvious to us.
Reassuringly the south African press ombudsman found that the publication of a blog calling for the disenfranchisement of white men amounted to hate speech. And the Editor-in-Chief subsequently fell on her sword.
But troublingly this mainstreaming of such extreme and hate fuelled views is not remotely close to be a one off..
At the height of summer in this oh so toxic year of 2018, the main editorial page of The Washington Post, one of America’s leading national newspapers posed the question
Here are some edited highlights:
it seems logical to hate men. I can’t lie, I’ve always had a soft spot for the radical feminist smackdown, for naming the problem in no uncertain terms.
I’ve rankled at the ‘but we don’t hate men’ protestations,” because we do. “But, of course, the criticisms of this blanket condemnation of men … are mostly on the mark.
These critics rightly insist on an analysis of male power as institutional, not narrowly personal or individual or biologically based in male bodies. Growing movements to challenge a masculinity built on domination and violence and to engage boys and men in feminism are both gratifying and necessary.”
… in this moment, here in the land of legislatively legitimated toxic masculinity, is it really so illogical to hate men? For all the power of #MeToo and #TimesUp and the women’s marches, only a relatively few men have been called to task, and I’ve yet to see a mass wave of prosecutions or even serious recognition of wrongdoing.
On the contrary, cries of ‘witch hunt’ and the plotted resurrection of celebrity offenders came quick on the heels of the outcry over endemic sexual harassment and violence. But we’re not supposed to hate them because,” well, not all of them do this.
“I love Michelle Obama as much as the next woman, but when they have gone low for all of human history, maybe it’s time for us to go all Thelma and Louise and Foxy Brown on their collective butts.”
“The world has little place for feminist anger. We’re supposed to feel more empathy for your fear of being called a harasser than we are for the women harassed. … So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down.
“You men, if you really mean you’re with us, pledge to vote for feminist women only and do not run for office yourself. Do not be in charge of anything. Men, step away from your power. We women got this. And please know that your crocodile tears will not be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You’ve done us wrong. It’s long past time to play hard for team feminism and win.”
Significantly, Suzanna Walters, the esteemed professor who shared her thoughts on how she feels men just so happens to be the editor of the leading international journal in gender studies, exactly the type academic research journal where the concept of toxic masculinity originally evolved.
A fact that goes some significant way to undermining the claim that all this gendered talk of toxic personality traits comes from a place of compassion and caring and desire to help one’s fellow man.
Because as Karen Straughn, spokesperson for Men's Rights Edmonton has eloquently highlighted the toxic truth about the concept of toxic masculinity is that it is predicated on a poisonous paradox revealed through consideration of both masculine and femine traits.