We hear plenty about toxic masculinity. It is easy to blame everything from a misogynistic presidency to the latest mass shooting on toxic masculinity.
In fact, if you find excuses for it, you are obviously not paying attention as life on earth continues to suffer from all that conquest, exploitation, sexism, and racism, relentlessly push us toward in our spiraling death throes down the drain of doom.
That said, (we’re all going to die, in case you missed it) it’s still important to celebrate magnificent masculinity along with our ever-wary attention paid to the destructive kind.
Stand up and be a man
It turns out, much to the dismay of some, that the word toxic is an adjective. It turns out, that like bad skin, or good skin, or red pills, or blue pills, the word before the noun is an adjective. It is something inserted to describe just what kind of masculinity we are talking about.
If you are human being, you more than likely suffer from toxic masculinity. However, just like you may well have good skin on your left thigh, and still have a patch of bad skin on your right thigh, you will experience both.
You also can benefit from the magnificent kind of masculinity.
The good kind give us bold assertiveness. It helps us all, especially those of us who grew up as Tom Boys, to feel okay about scrapping our knees, scuffling with the neighbor kids, playing in the dirt, being an explorer of forests and mountains, being a logger, and rock mover, and a knife wielder, and someone who sweats with glowing pride, rather than humiliating embarrassment.
Conversely, it is toxic masculinity that also insisted that little boys — AND girls — felt guilty about having feelings, dressing up, playing with dolls, or experiencing any of the following insults: “You are a prissy, a wuss, a pussy, a wimp, a homo, a sissy etc.” Worst of all, if you are still thinking it is not meant as an insult: “You play (or throw, or run, or act, or ad nauseum) like a girl, a lady, or a woman,” you are not looking at the bigger picture.
We need to see how both magnificent behaviors, and toxic behaviors, affect us all.
Magnificent masculinity offers a much brighter world for boys and girls. And as those boys and girls become men and women, they all have a much better chance at finding love and compassion for any ‘other’ rather than suffering the hate and humiliation that our implicitly programed habits of othering itself churns up. We can celebrate our differences rather than resent them. We can know, that as science and nature are desperately trying to instruct us right now, variety is the spice of life.
Said another way, diversity is strength. Biodiversity is life. All diversity matters and cannot be dismissed with further suffering from both oppressors and oppressed.
In the past, the domination and conquest theory of “nature’s way” prevailed. Man being above nature was coded into scripture, policy, and a proto-civilization.
It took centuries for science and technology to reveal that it is cooperation, not merely competition, that most ensures systems, such as weather, forests, and oceans, to thrive. Charles Darwin knew this, of course. All great thinkers and poets did, but until our genetic links to all other life forms on earth were clearly laid out, we continued to behave as though some animals are ‘more equal than others.’
Men and women are often very different. It is a myth that any feminist, male or female, ever thought, or said, otherwise. The end of sexism doesn’t mean we are not different, it means we celebrate all the glorious traits we contrast, compare and share with one another.
Magnificent masculinity is everything we celebrate about males. We love men who are strong. We love men who are courageous. We love men who are protective. We need men who are protective about not just those perceived as weaker than themselves, but who stand up for male and female qualities that seek to protect the whole.
We need men to stand up for human rights because until male and female roles are revered, rather than repudiated, we can make no progress at protecting our people and planet from those few who still wish to see the world as predators and prey.
We didn’t trash the planet because maleness is bad, but because plunder was framed as a birthright, especially for a very few men in very few positions of power. Domination has traditionally been seen as manly, but it turns out to be simply a cowardly way of stealing, raping, destroying, and colonizing.
The man with the weakest ego is the man who is a colossal loser parading himself off as “strong man, big boss, head honcho, or superior businessman.” No. A real man does not rely on taking advantage, nor does he rely on rigged hierarchy to make others looks less than, or unworthy.
The magnificent masculine man is one who recognizes that it is wonderful to be manly. It is wonderful that all beings can express varying and astonishing degrees of both masculinity and femininity. It requires a truly magnificent masculine man to encourage his little boy or girl to cry when appropriate. Or to encourage his child to be proud to ‘throw like a girl.’
It requires a keen mind to think deeply about messages we send about bodies, roles, privilege and power. It takes a mind non-poisoned by prejudice to be proud of masculine traits as well as proud of prim, and proper courtesy.
If you are a father, a son, a brother, a co-worker, of a woman, practice magnificent masculinity. It’s easy enough to do: treat a human being as you would like human beings to treat you. It does take courage, determination, assertiveness, and manliness to do.
But, also know that being a buttercup, a pansy, or a rose by any other name should also smell as sweet. Flowers, it turns out are strong beings sharing female, male, both, and sometimes, no, sexual traits.
Being gentle, being patient, being cautious, and being non-violent is manly. In fact, it is more than manly, it is human.