The term “toxic masculinity” is something that I have been hearing a lot of these days, mainly due to my connection and contributions to The Good Men Project, as a weekly columnist. I have never really given a lot of thought as to whether or not I might demonstrate some level of “toxicity” in how I DO masculinity. It is an interesting concept—masculinity—but I feel like it is also one that, as a paradigm, is open to some criticism.
In exploring my own “masculinity,” I must, first, buy into the cultural norms that define what being masculine (i.e., male) is. This suggests that men explicitly have innate qualities, such strength, determination, ambition, drive, sexual prowess, and the need to succeed (just to name a few) and are—somehow–supposed to be acknowledged and accepted as the basic “building-blocks” of what men are made of. I have a problem with that. To embrace this idea puts women at a disadvantage, endorsing the notion that they aren’t supposed to exhibit any of these qualities, which is just not true. Similarly, buying into this way of thinking also limits men in their abilities to express emotion, nurture, and be scared when the situation warrants it. These traits are evident in men and women, both, and are not gender-specific in any way: they are simply human.
Gender roles serve a purpose (as archaic as they are), however. They tell us who and what we are supposed to be, as individuals, in our families, and in society. Ultimately, they lend to a social order that we like to think keeps us safe and thriving, despite evidence upon evidence to the contrary. No, for now gender-roles are what they are and don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, although I like to thing great strides are being made to change the current narrative. With that being said, I shall acquiesce and–for the sake of a personal experiment brought on by my participation in The Good Men Project’s December Writer’s Challenge– embrace my “maleness,” as dictated by society in its all too explicit terms. I will take advantage of this opportunity to take a long, hard holistic look at how I measure-up in terms of being “toxic” or not.
I would be lying if I said that I have not—in one form or another—been influenced by the social and cultural norms that have shaped my life over the past 49 years. While I have always thought of myself as a sensitive kind of guy, I have to admit there have been times when I have veered off-path and acted in ways or made decisions that were, purely, based on “saving face” or trying to convey a culturally-endorsed message that had nothing to do with me or what I was about. Given that we are quickly hurling towards 2019, I figure now is as good a time as any to start making some changes—different decisions if you will—so I can start the new year off ready for a new start, instead of scratching my head, trying to figure out how things are going to be different this time around.
I am going to do masculinity differently and get out of my own way for a change, so over the next 28 days I am putting myself into toxic masculinity “detox.” I am going to bring more awareness to how I do masculinity and try to identify—in the moment—what I do well and what areas in my life—and personality–could use some work. More importantly, I need to use this info to affect a positive change. Again, there is not anything wrong with my wanting to be strong, successful, and independent—these are great qualities to have and they are quite valued in our society. Going to the extremes of either side of the “masculinity spectrum,” however, is problematic: something that all too often is facilitated by socio-cultural norms that seek to empower one group (males) at the expense of another (females). Luckily, I—we– get to define the terms of what masculinity actually looks like. I know it’s not a fixed identity: it happens, as I said, on a spectrum of diverse types—not degrees–of maleness.
This is a good time for it. I am going to be 50 years old in five months. I am contemplating getting into a relationship (Heaven, help me!). I am venturing into a new life that includes writing (creative and professional) and an academic career, as a Social Work professor. All of this is incredibly exciting, but I need things to be calm for a while. Continuing to tackle life and career like I have been over the past couple decades will not generate any different results. I believe expecting to would fit most traditional definitions of insanity (i.e., doing the same thing over and over, again, expecting a different result every time). Frankly, the only thing I want to be coo-coo over is Cocoa Puffs.
The next 28 days should be interesting—to say the least. I will, undoubtedly, learn a thing or two (or twenty) about myself and, hopefully, affirm some of my better qualities along the way. I may not be a different man come the first of the year, but I will, hopefully, be a better one.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s first blog entry of “My Toxic Masculinity: A 28-Day Detox – Day #1 (Work)
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
Are you a first-time contributor to The Good Men Project? Submit here:
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.