We are awash in toxic masculinity. This has probably almost always been the case in recorded history, but now is a time when we have plenty of critical abilities that enable us to notice how toxic things have become. Just like ancient Romans sweetened their wine with lead, there has been plenty of toxicity that we’ve ingested because it seemed right at the time. But now we know what that lead does. Maybe I pushed that metaphor too far.
In recent years, toxic masculinity has felt like a resurgence – maybe I’m just becoming aware of what was going on all along. But there’s no doubt that many forms of toxicity are being given tremendous attention right now. It starts at the top with President Puss-Grabber Himself. And we have the toxicity of Breitbart and the
alt-right neo-Nazis. Not long ago GamerGate was a hot topic, so hot that it spilled out of gamer culture into pop culture, driven by the surprising (to me) force of toxic masculinity in gaming.
There’s a whole new lexicon produced by toxic males: Men’s Rights Activist, incel, Red Pill and Blue Pill (and Purple Pill), cuck, MGTOW, “Social Justice” used as an insult, ignorant misuse of terms like alpha male, beta male and omega male, Manosphere, ignorant misuse of “Cultural Marxism,” hypergamy, gynocentrism, and so on. It’s a jargon-fest over there in Toxic Masculinity Land, and it functions how jargon always functions – to strengthen group cohesion and insulate the group from others. The miasma just swirls around as the Douchebag Ouroboros eats his own tail. (But not fast enough.)
I put significant time looking into the Men’s Rights Movement and related movements and groups – watching YouTube videos, reading articles and blog posts, watching recorded debates and so on. Probably a few dozen hours in total. And I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever positive aspects might be mixed in with the MRA and related groups are so mired in toxicity as to be irrecoverable. There are a handful of good, valid-seeming points they try to make, but they make it amidst a vile combination of racism, sexism, violence, rape apologism…it’s really just appalling. Even looking at featured voices in the ‘movement’ (whom I will not name because of their biliousness), one just scratches the surface to find a Nazi screed or call for violence against women – even from the women who are part of the Men’s Rights movement. It is, to paraphrase a turtle story, trolls all the way down.
On the other end of the spectrum from toxic masculinity, we have gender non-conformity; the queering of male-ness and breaking of the boundaries around what was traditionally considered male. Personally, I welcome this, but not everyone does, nor will most people in the near future. We are not close to a society where the majority of men are gender non-conforming, but I think we are currently experiencing a society where the majority of men aren’t clear on what the heck they’re supposed to be doing, much less why. The rise of toxic masculinity has occurred, in large part, because men have not stepped up to define ourselves in positive ways. On the surface, the cultural story as experienced by a significant number of men has either been “men are terrible” or “don’t let those nasty women call you terrible, here join this toxic movement.”
So I’m going to be writing about men who embody ways to be positively masculine. That is, neither terrible nor toxic, but masculine, each awesome in their own way. I’m choosing examples that are not perfect. These aren’t supposed to be boundary-shattering men who redefine what it means to be a man, because that’s too high a bar and no one outside of liberal enclaves will even want to do something like that. These are just some cool non-toxic dudes to emulate if you want.
In Aristotle’s philosophy, if one wants to learn wisdom one must seek out the phronemos. The phronemos is one who is already wise, and one can learn wisdom by emulating such a person. Wisdom is one of those things that is really hard to teach, even for Aristotle, but he thought about it like Justice Stewart thought about pornography – you know it when you see it.
These men I’ll be profiling are each to be like a phronemos in the quest for positive masculinity. It’s difficult to teach, and difficult to define, but I do think we can know it when we see it.