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article imageOp-Ed: Toxic masculinity? What’s wrong with men?

By Paul Wallis     Jan 15, 2019 in Science
Washington - The American Psychological Association (APA) has declared “manliness” harmful. The male image seems to have become stupidly distorted, and worse, impractical to the point of suicide. Unfashionable as men are, it’s a serious issue.
The toxic male image described by the APA in its policy analysis isn’t exactly a mystery. It’s the stagnant load of garbage it’s always been. Macho morons incarnate. Clueless, aggressive, and surprisingly ineffectual. Some men don’t even think boys should be taught to clean and cook. (Great way of making yourself useless to your families and unhygienic at the same time, guys.)
Meanwhile, the image itself is a media invention, an aggregator of “us guys” based on nothing but images. It’s a collage of cretins, a vacuum of vagueness, and that’s about all. There’s no basis in fact for this image. Male fertility has been in an unpublicized nosedive for multiple reasons for over a decade, male roles in relationships have changed beyond recognition in the last two generations, and this Incarnate Idiot imagery is still necrotizing around?
The pity of it is that the problems the image creates are all too real. Men are more likely to suicide than women at a rate of 2 to 1. The image demands hiding emotions, distrust of female partners, “toughness”(you’re kidding), a breadwinner role, etc. and is now fairly convincingly shown by Australian findings to be mentally and physically harmful.
The reality vs the image
Male society is naturally competitive, not to the mindless media extent, but guys are often pushed in to roles they can’t handle in this environment. Failure equals ridicule, loss of peer group status, and of course, a psychological tangle. Judgement is affected, too, in trying to be one of the guys, which typically means meeting the expectations of the lowest, and dumbest, denominators. Doing dumb things is part of the mix.
In this sort of environment, many types of feelings are luxuries. One of the reasons so many males despise the “sheep” in peer groups is because they don’t, and often can’t, really stand on their own two feet. They’re conformists, unable to lead, and therefore demoted automatically.
Yes men, although a hideously large number of guys, don’t get respect. They may be tolerated, but are rarely considered in the upper rankings of any group. The irony is that the yes man role is enforced by some groups. You agree, or else. That, inevitably, creates stresses in real guys, if not in conformists. This, in turn, compromises individuality, and worse, personal autonomy. (It’s a dumb situation, and it’s almost automatic wherever 2 or more guys are.)
Testosterone is another factor. This hormone, which allowed humans to attack giant animals with sticks and leave a trail of smashed skulls around the planet, is highly variable in individuals. For younger guys, it’s a mad horse you need to learn to ride. Many never do.
This inability to manage testosterone may well be one of the reasons for the male itinerary of possible train wrecks through life, but it’s also a part of male reality. Testosterone is also part of the implied image, the fighting part which will fight for no reason at all sometimes, and it’s a very mixed bag of obligations and stupidities.
Testosterone is also a key factor in relationships. That can be tricky, and the usually very inexpert male of any age has to manage this nuclear weapon with whatever wits, or lack of wits, he has. It’s no wonder the traditional image is a virtual death sentence in gender roles, where the poor fool can’t even understand his own feelings and physiology, let alone manage them.
So where does all this toxicity leave men?
There’s a much less obvious, and dangerous, issue here. The survey numbers and studies don’t mention the fact that these traditional idiots aren’t adapting fast, if at all, to a very much changed world. They’re still living in a fictional image long past its use-by date. It’s an anti-survival response in a species which has only survived by environmental adaption.
This old, dilapidated, frankly ridiculous male image can’t win. It’s loathed by more modern males, (we don’t live in caves) genuinely hated by women, and professionally distrusted by other men for its sheer imbecility. Alpha/dominant males don’t even need the image. They make their own.
So where are these outdated fools going? The same place as the Neanderthals, most likely. Hard to imagine a more efficient way of achieving extinction than a fictional manhood, backed up by morons.
As for the APA’s proposed methods of managing these issues: I think you need to raise guys to be far more aware of their individuality, and to avoid these absurd media-based models which mean nothing to anyone any more.
Men should be “allowed” to be:
• Individuals with distinct characters
• Able to exercise their own judgment
• Self-driven, not herd-driven
• As independent as they can be
• Explorers, not serfs
• Private people, not group idiots
“Allowed”? Ask any guy if they’re allowed to do those things, and see what answer you get. It may not be honest, but it’ll be indicative.
Ironically, that range of things men should do automatically is about as macho as you can get, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the toxic male image, for obvious reasons.
Postscript: I’ve always wanted to write a folk tale, and now I seem to have unintentionally done just that. Anyone got a plinth for it?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about American Psychological Association, toxic masculinity, traditional male image, male peer groups, Man Box Australian male psychological study
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