Every day, it seems, I see more examples of non-toxic masculinity all around. It’s exciting to watch so many storytellers and big studios begin to get it. I have a list of characters I think are good representations of healthy masculinity—that is non-toxic.
Jake Peralta, on Brooklyn 99 is a great example. He is very open to apologizing, is powerfully competitive but loves it when someone else he cares about succeeds instead because they were better. He is strong and good at what he does, but goes all dreamy when his partner shows her skills and what she is capable of. He wants to protect the people around him, but never infantilize them or dismiss them or disrespect them. And even though he loves to just be a big kid, blowing things up, making everything into a contest or an innuendo or jumping in on a joke, he knows where the line is and would never demean or restrict anyone else. In fact, he is often so blown away by the successes of the people around him that he loses track of what he was pursuing, in support of them.
This doesn’t detract from the fact that Terry Jeffords, Captain Holt, and even Boyle make a great case for healthy masculinity because they do. Boyle is Loyal and unafraid to get lost in what he loves, but he will also be the first one to take a bullet for someone. Captain Holt seems restrained but knows exactly how excited people get when he shows them his emotional side and uses that to make people happy. And Terry is just all man, willing to cry when he feels it and be delicate and whimsical about his family, fearless for himself, he is only worried about hurting them or leaving them alone. Every one of them will be the first ones to call out the women around them when they are just better at something.
We’re seeing more men who are equal parts powerful and strong and effective and vulnerable, loving, supportive, making room for the women around them, showing admiration, expressing themselves, not afraid of being silly or sensitive or a part of something that is not “man-driven” at its core.
It’s freeing for men, in reality. When The Rock makes it clear that he has struggled with depression or Terry Crews talks about his past experiences with abuse, it opens the door for men to be everything they want to be plus vulnerable and that can save lives.
We don’t often talk about the damage that the patriarchy has done to boys and to men (especially transmen) because it’s part of a long list of damage that comes from this drive to conform to a model that distances all of us. But it’s empowering knowing that young men today have role models that let them be the kind of men they want to be.
I know there are lots of other examples of powerful healthy masculinity on tv and movies. I’m sort of excited by how many there are lately. If you have any, tell me in the comments below.
A version of this post was previously published on the author’s Facebook timeline and is republished here with the author’s permission.
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