With the news that another horrific shooting had taken place in the United States, a plethora of left-wing and feminist blogs and online news outlets took their chance to blame something other than radical Islamic beliefs, homophobia, and/or simply Omar Mateen being a trigger-happy lunatic with a completed distorted sense of right and wrong.
Apparently, we men and women and our ‘toxic masculinity’ are the culprits on a grand scale; it would seem ‘patriarchy’ is the evil scourge behind terrible events once again. This is according to people like Amanda Marcotte of Salon and Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress. Even people closer to home in the UK have at least considered the idea, like ‘Loki the Scottish Rapper‘.
To begin with, what even is ‘toxic masculinity‘? Geek Feminism Wiki (contain your cringe reflex) defines toxic masculinity as:
“The socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.”
For starters, this definition is the vaguest thing anyone has ever written, it poses more questions than it answers. Are these socially constructed attitudes universal? What counts as the masculine gender? Do we just mean violent in a negative context? Is it wrong for some people to be or appear unemotional? Sexually aggressive as in rape? Or sexually aggressive as in rough or dominant during intercourse? We’re simply left with something so vague that anything a male does or says can be pigeonholed into this ‘toxic masculinity’ as a way of stereotyping them and shutting them down.
Here’s an example of toxic masculinity from Geek Feminism Wiki, it states:
“The expectation that Real Men are strong, and that showing emotion is incompatible with being strong.”
Is there something so wrong with having the expectation of men being strong? Is that so problematic that some people think this is a facet of what makes someone go on shooting sprees? Real men are strong, or at least they make it a priority to become a strong person. Real women are strong too and, like men, they should also strive for being a strong person as well.
Let’s not put forward the idea that wallowing in mediocrity or weakness is okay, rather we should be pushing people to become the best version of themselves that they can be.
Another example reads:
“The expectation that Real Men are keenly interested in sex, want to have sex, and are ready to have sex most if not all times.”
While it’s clearly a false assumption that ‘real men’, or just men in general, are always on the lookout for any sex that is available, why is this such a problematic assumption? And how does it, as part of a toxic masculinity’, have anything to do with driving violent acts? Ironically, an outlook such as this one is probably an evolutionary advantage!
After reading a few of these, I feel an overwhelming sense of irony in that it seems as if these facets of ‘toxic masculinity’ are simply things that extreme feminists and extreme liberals don’t like about the stereotypical man. I’m willing to wager that these people have a much bigger problem with these supposed ‘issues’ than the average man in the West even cares to think about.
Another big problem with labelling these attributes as toxic and negative is that it ignores the positive aspects of these types of traits, many of which have helped shape the developed world as it is today. Being dominant and unemotional would certainly have had its advantages when it came to wartime disputes and negotiations. Similarly, in the harsh world of business, such traits may prove helpful. With this is mind, why damage our sense of masculinity by telling us that the view of what it means to be a man is causing, or at least catalysing, the terrible violent acts carried out by the hands of the few?
A recent article by Amanda Marcotte of Salon appears to try and blame the whole Orlando Nightclub Shooting on the premise of toxic masculinity. She claims the following:
“…toxic masculinity is a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.”
Equating this type of behaviour and perception of others with masculinity is surely absurd at best. At most, I could accept that many men are drawn to dominance and control, those are fairly neutral traits which don’t necessarily imply any positive or negative actions. However, by stating that there is a brand of masculinity that “views women and LGBT people as inferior” and “valorizes violence” is laughable. These traits have nothing to with masculinity, they’re simply the traits of some people who are bigots, intolerant, and violent. Both men and women can be this way and it I do not believe it has any significant link with ours and society’s views on what makes a man masculine and what makes a women feminine.
People like Omar Mateen don’t commit crimes like mass shootings because we’re pushing a brand of toxic masculinity onto men in the West, they commit crimes like these because they hold extreme views and they have a strong enough desire to act on them. Whether that is to do with religious or personal views is unknown at this point, however, regardless of the reason, there is never any justification for committing mass murder this way.
Marcotte writes that Omar Mateen had been described by his previous wife as “controlling and abusive“; one of his colleagues also described him as “always using racial and sexual slurs“.
Does this sound like something that most men and women would call ‘masculine’? Does is seem like something men would approve of? Of course not. The behaviour quoted above is the acts and speech of one individual motivated by hatred and intolerance; this isn’t something that should be tied to masculinity or femininity. Honestly, I don’t see how anyone without an agenda would try to peg this on something gender-related unless they were trying to get a controversial reaction; mission accomplished it would seem.
Marcotte continues by stating:
“He worked at a security firm, a career that can be attractive to men with dominance and control issues.”
Put the broad brush away Amanda, we don’t want to hear about any more of your stereotypes unless you have a citation to offer. A similar quip about women would be viewed as sexist, but it’s a-okay if we’re talking about men. If anything, this just further pushes the idea that her article is biased towards men in general.
To round this up, I would say that blaming men for being masculine is dumb, and demonising bad behaviours and views that some men (and women!) show as ‘toxic masculinity’ is blaming the many for the deeds of the few. People like Omar Mateen don’t do the terrible things they do because we have a cultural problem with some form(s) of masculinity, they do it because they are individually immoral people.
Where these extreme views and behaviours come from is likely a complex interaction of many different lifestyle aspects. It’s not easy to fully understand what goes on inside a person’s mind, so perhaps we’ll never really know what makes these people tick. I can say this with confidence though: blaming the acts of an idealogical madman on ‘toxic masculinity’ is too convenient and short-sighted.