The 'Toxic Masculinity' Smear
On Monday, the New York Post ran a story about Warrior Week, a boot camp for men run by Garrett J. White, “a 40-year-old blond with tattooed biceps who looked like a video-game soldier.” For the low, low cost of just $25,000, White will run you through a regimen of physical torture and mental preparation that involves being punched in the face, hiking while holding logs, and reciting the poem “Invictus.” White explained:
We teach them how to be a man. . . . Women are leading across the board in business and at home . . . and living more powerfully than men today. And that’s causing complete chaos for men.
The first question on the application for White’s training program: “Have you ever been punched in the face by another man?”
Now, I have never been punched in the face. At least not as an adult, that is. When I was younger, I was routinely bullied — I was about 5 foot 2 throughout most of high school, since I was two years younger than the other students. That meant severe physical abuse and some relatively egregious torment at the hands of classmates.
Now I’m married, with two children of my own. I own several guns. I spend my days writing and speaking and thinking; I believe the fundamental proposition that Western civilization was built in order to prevent people from punching each other in the face.
But I’ll admit that for a split second, I felt the urge to check out White’s website. Why? Because men have an innate drive for aggression. They feel the need to test themselves against their limits. That drive can be channeled toward building themselves and protecting those around them. Or it can be unleashed in waves of destruction. Or, alternatively, it can be tamped down, killed. Men can be emasculated.
I thought about White when I read Bette Midler’s tweet regarding the London terror attack last Saturday evening. Here’s what the star of Beaches had to tell us: “More sorrow and grief at the hands of madmen in London. Men and religion are worthless.”
Put aside the inanity of lumping together all religion as “worthless” thanks to the acts of radical Islamists, who are devotees of a religion she refuses to mention, presumably out of sheer cowardice. Focus instead on her belief that “men . . . are worthless.” It’s indicative of a general belief among members of the Left that masculinity itself is toxic and must be quashed.
Hillary Clinton spoke last month at a Planned Parenthood gala where drinks called “toxic masculinity” were served; she explained that men are “doing everything they can to roll back the rights and progress we’ve fought so hard for over the last century.” Men, you see, are the problem. Men make war; men commit crimes; men rape; men infuse their aggression into everything.
Midler and those of like mind are wrong to lump all men together, of course. It was male police officers who arrived to kill the terrorists. It is male soldiers attempting to liberate women from the depravity of ISIS terrorists. Males destroy, but males also build.
But in their effort to eradicate the destructive male tendency, the Left has pushed emasculation as a solution. While they champion the notion that women can do anything they set their minds to (true!), they simultaneously castigate men as the barriers to progress and masculinity as a condition to be avoided.
The goal of the Left, therefore, becomes to train boys not to become men. Instead, boys should be feminized; they should never be encouraged to “be a man.” That’s too pressure-filled, too nasty, too mean. But boys want to become men; men want to be men.
As Christina Hoff Sommers points out:
Most boys evince healthy masculinity. . . . telling a boy to ‘man up’ can be harsh and degrading. But teaching him to ‘be a gentleman’ is another matter.
If men are not told to be “gentlemen,” some will be emasculated, but more will become destructive men. If men are not trained by good men, they will be trained by bad men; if they have no good males to follow, they follow bad ones.
The Left routinely speaks about a world run by women and why such a world would create better men. But the most male-free environment in America exists in black communities, where well over half of black children grow up without fathers. This hasn’t made black boys less violent; it’s made them far more prone to criminality than their non-black peers.
Many of these boys follow teenage role models, many of whom have lacked fathers themselves, and lack the training to be a gentleman. They live in a world of risk that requires masculine defense but have no one to teach them to distinguish between defense and aggression.
The Left’s dichotomous choice between emasculation and toxic masculinity leaves men out in the cold — and leaves them searching for meaning. If they are not the defenders of their families, what are they? If they are not providers, what are they?
They become non-entities — or they become societal tumors or at least tacit supporters of “men who are men!” It doesn’t take being punched in the face to be a man. I’m not signing up for White’s class. But that’s because my father taught me to be a gentleman: to protect my family and my community, to stand up for good things, to build rather than destroy.
And to train my own son the same way. But in a society that denies manhood altogether, that denies men’s special protective and creative role in society — or worse, categorizes masculinity as mere violence — it’s easy to fall into a simplistic self-identification with toxic manhood.
The age of emasculation cannot last. It will eventually boil over into violence, sink away into irrelevance, or return to the truth: that the male aggressive instinct can be good but must be trained, not excised.