Toxic Masculinity Sucks!

This isn’t the post you think it is. I’m not here to rant lyrical about toxic masculinity, I’m here to say don’t worry guys. We got this.

“We live in a society where toxic masculinity is the norm. We are conditioned to believe that being manly, tough, and rugged makes us better than others. The sad truth is that this mentality has adverse effects on those who don’t conform.”

In common with many ideologocal notions driving social agendas this one was conceived back in the eighties by academics. Luminaries like Michael Flood and Shepherd Bliss. You’ve heard of them right? No, me neither.

This is not a direct quote from anyone but it’s the kind of statement now being circulated and forced toward men of all generations to be peddled as the truth. Now I’m not dismissing the underlying concerns that might support it. They are credible. Men have been grappling with so-called rites of passage for decades and we have been both reviewing and revising the traditions bestowed upon us by our forefathers because a lot of it was clearly bunkum.

The problem I have with statements like this are that they are designed to be a supporting pillar of a wider objective. The serially engaged use these declarations to prove that everything is wrong and everything must change and , like most men, I’m not in the least bit interested in ambitions of that ilk.

I am interested in my personal responsibility to myself, those closest to me and my community, in that order

A Snippet of My Story

I was born in 1967 in the UK. I was a little boy in the 1970s, a teenager in the 1980’s and a young man, getting married for the first time in the 1990s. My home town is a reknowned shipbuilding economy and that has been the main source of employment there in living memory and looks set to be so, long after I’m gone. My grandfather came from Ireland to the UK in the late forties to labour in the shipyard, eventually bringing his family, including my Dad, to settle permanently. My Dad completed an apprenticeship there and got a trade. So that was the backdrop for my upbringing and my earliest memories. Working class, men’s men, dirt, grime, rust, booze and the breadline.

In my young mind I observed all of this and decided that it looked like shit. My father fit right in with the work during the week and get the booze down at the weekend mentality. That was definitely something an Irishman would want to do and there was plenty of it in that town.

But what did I learn from him or more importantly, what did he teach me? For years I felt like I had zero in common with the bloke and that may have an element of truth. What I see now is that he didn’t especially want me to follow in his footsteps. While all of my mates were lining up to start work in that place Dad was saying to me “Son, think carefully about this. You go through those gates, they close and lock them and you don’t get out until that buzzer sounds. It’s like prison”. This man, my Dad, born at the start of WW2, wanted to free me from the mindset that said this was our lot and we must just lump it.

Getting Out and Getting On

If that was not to be my lot I needed to consider what would be and how my life would be different. I watched my parents work extremely hard, both working full time. My Dad was on permanent night shifts and my contact with him was limited as a result of that. My mum was the person I confided in. It became clear to me that getting out of that town was going to be the main way that I got to have a different life. So what can you do that allows you to turn up and work absolutely anywhere? Well, teacher, doctor or maybe a nurse. I wasn’t degree material, not because of a lack of ability but because of a lack of interest. So that was teacher and doctor out.

I became a nurse. As I recall it was my mum who had doubts about it, because she was herself a nurse at the local hospital and it meant that I would probably wind up on her unit during my training, which I did. My Dad was really pleased about it and supported me fully. If it was what I wanted to do it was good enough for him. Mum was the same really, she just felt a bit weird about me being there in her work environment.

My school friends had either gone to college and university, into the shipyard (most of them actually) or straight into employment at 16 and, of course, there was much mirth at my expense, questions raised about my sexuality and so on. It was all completely harmless. Ultimately they all respected my choice and I just got on with it. When I reflect back on those years in the late eighties I have no recollection of there being any issue with the nature of my chosen career. There were other male nurses and we all just wanted to get on in life. Our challenges seemed to be the same as any other bloke. Getting promoted, earning more, moving on with our careers.

Men Are Not The Problem

If you believe the commentary being thrust in our direction these days you would think that myself and my male peers were destined for a life immersed in chauvenism and mysoginy. It was simply not like that at all. The seventies placed kids like me in an audience witnessing the struggle and poverty only a government can bestow upon it’s citizens. The eighties taught us that you get out of it by taking personal responsibility. There was never a subculture of toxic masculinity driving our decisions or feelings towards the opposite sex. Madonna had more influence on that than our ancestors.

“Toxic masculinity” is simply a piece of lazy rhetoric thrown around in the media for the past few years. It is used to describe any toxic gender role, behavior, or attitude that some in the commentariat have deemed a negative trait of men rather than women. When I hear it I don’t think of a male culture losing it’s way and rejecting equality, I think of gratuitous rights activism, of being told I should sign up for something for my own good and of those who are anti-men. Most men I speak to feel the same and some even feel under-siege with it all because it is nothing at all to do with social parity any longer and everything to do with declaring independence from males altogether.

I end with a quote from an insightful woman, Elisabeth Elliott. “Real women will always be relieved and grateful when men are willing to be men”. I personally have no doubt that I am doing the right things for me and that this in turn will be the right things for those I care about. Doing that also attracts the right people into my life. Anyone, male or female, who does the same will be OK too. Keep it together fellas.

Sadly there is no recommended reading on this topic. The bandwagon has only picked up those willing to propagate the narrative. Check out the authors for yourself and ask if they are in any way representative of you. Maybe it’s a book I write one day, who knows. If you can recommend a good book presenting this side of the argument, please comment.

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