by Sage Marmet
Thomas Page McBee’s article Amateur: How Do I Reconcile My Masculinity With The Toxicity of Men unpacks the ever-prevalent toxic male culture in today’s society, provoking men to question their role–or lack thereof–in deconstructing their pedestal. Toxic masculinity is constantly perpetuated, and even normalized today: dress codes in schools teach young men that it is socially acceptable to objectify women, phrases like “boys will be boys” are used to justify damaging actions, movies and television present toxic behavior as “desirable,” and men are encouraged to “man up,” negatively associating emotions and vulnerability with femininity.
It’s too easy to succumb to splitting men into categories, distancing the men that one personally knows from the toxic image of a man; however as McBee explains, categorizing men as either “good” or “bad” just creates another harmful binary. Separation and polarization create an unproductive environment, distracting men from their role in toxic male culture. McBee asserts that men must “ask [themselves], ‘What am I doing to maintain the status quo?'” in order to really question how their actions contribute to perpetuating male toxicity. Even as a female-identifying individual, I find it difficult not to categorize men as “toxic” and “not toxic” in my head: even I, as a woman, am contributing to male toxicity perpetuation. It’s difficult, societal expectations tell me that I should be vulnerable, nurturing, submissive to male dominance even, yet I don’t want that to define who I am–I don’t want to be shoved into this box of a “feminine personality.” While, at the same time, how can I possibly be lumping all of these men into categories without even knowing them? How can I know that is what they are really like?
McBee quotes Bridge’s comparison of trans women and trans men’s early experiences, explaining, “many trans men’s early experiences with social recognition are associated with power and privilege, while many trans women’s experiences with social recognition are associated with disempowerment.” We all have inklings of the ways in which society places men on a pedestal, yet, the only people who have truly felt their power getting taken away or granted, are transgender. This in itself is completely problematic: how are we so blinded by our experiences with our own genders that we cannot see how others have vastly different experiences?
Ultimately, in terms of where we are as a society now, we don’t have the capability to feel empathetic toward one another. We’re primed to polarize one another and feel that different aspects of our identity are really chains dragging us down, making us each the victim of societal standards. Toxic male culture thrives off of separation and polarization: if we are all pinned against one other we won’t see our own role in the problem. In order to deconstruct toxic masculinity we need to unify and self-reflect. We need to acknowledge how our actions contribute to this culture, whether directly or indirectly. If separation blinds us, unity will be the only way to restore our sight.