Toxic or Protective Masculinity?

Watch this video, which starts with this: "Rape, murder, war: they all have one thing in common - men.  Aggression, violence, ambition unchecked by conscience are all the stuff of toxic masculinity, and the solution is obvious - make men less toxic; make men less masculine; make men more like women - right?"

The label "toxic masculinity" is often used by feminists in a way that suggests there is something inherently wrong with masculine traits, which are cultural rather than evolutionary, and need to be educated away and replaced with more feminine traits.  This disrespectful & divisive feminist ideology has even infected professional psychological guidelines in the US, which are based on the view that “traditional masculinity” and a masculine sense of entitlement are the root cause of men’s mental health problems.  Although there are of course valid criticisms to make about some common aspects of masculinity & modern culture, it's ironic that a movement that claims to be about equality uses a false re-write of history & biology to deny & disrespect male characteristics that typically differ from females.  A more thoughtful and balanced view on gender archetypes can be found here.  But to the extent "masculinity" does embody stereotypical characteristics of stoicism, courageous leadership, risk-taking and aggression, it seems clear that men and women are typically different for biological as well as cultural reasons, and these masculine traits (& patriarchal / chivalrous culture) must have developed with a purpose, which is to support and protect the group and family, not least women and children who are physically weaker (regardless of the group's formal organising power structures - whether patriarchal or otherwise) - as exemplified by the iconic shining knight saving the damsel in distress, or Superman saving Lois Lane & the whole world.

Obviously humans (male & female) have a strong evolutionary instinct to care most about and be positively biased towards females (recall Titanic: women & children first), because fewer men than women are needed to produce the next generation (but an equal number of "disposable males" are born with the expectation many will die taking risks to support the group).  But of course human psychology especially the drivers of deep, primitive feelings like love has not had time to evolve since hunter-gatherer & earlier days, when a highly vulnerable pregnant women's survival depended on having (& thus being attracted to) a partner who would protect & provide for her, which is why men still instinctively want to do this and most women still appreciate & are attracted to chivalry like men opening doors, buying dinner, walking her safely home and working to support the family even though it may no longer be so essential.  But now toxic feminists demonise males and attack gallantry as "benevolent sexism" (or worse - see the following graphic), then wonder where the respect for women went.  Moreover, society also still propagates the incorrect "meme" that women are generally weak victims – turning a blind eye to all the research showing they can be just as abusive as men – because for millennia it was also evolutionarily beneficial to accept that lie (although it isn't now).

But note that although women seem to place more emphasis than men on a prospective life partner's character vs looks, when it comes to casual dating, women seem more demanding than men for good-looking dates, at least initially, and women's level of sexual attraction & satisfaction is also more strongly influenced by their partner's good-smelling genes than is the case for men; so not surprisingly, women may prefer a different man for conception from the one they want to help with child rearing!

The paradox is that many women are biologically attracted to the look of a big, strong man who can protect and provide for her, yet scared by his strength and possible risk to her. Also, while men are primarily attracted by a woman's looks - which show her baby rearing potential - women need to be more concerned about a man's behaviour - will he look after her when she is pregnant and with a baby and dependent on help?  So she needs interaction to judge this, and hence (a) she doesn't have enough reason to approach a man based on looks alone, plus (b) if she did, it would then be awkward or even dangerous (if he's violent) to back out if he doesn't have the desired behaviours.  Plus, given the greater risks to women (vs men) of sex resulting in a non-ideal pregnancy (with the wrong person at the wrong time), it makes sense to stand back and carefully judge the offers that come in.

So it's not surprising that these evolutionary forces have resulted in women tending to be more anxious about approaching (& possibly being rejected by) the other sex.  If only I'd understood all this when I was a teenager and suffering the delusion that girls should behave the same as boys!

But whilst women, like men, need to be emotionally programmed to desire sex (hence the evolution of a clitoris for pleasure, as well as to promote lubrication (with filtered blood) and conception) - especially to overcome the rational disadvantage of childbirth risks and subsequent dependence on a male - and will behave in ways that keep a supportive man around, there isn't the same evolutionary necessity for them to care about men as much as men must care for their pregnant & dependent wife (whereas women have obviously evolved to be more attuned to the needs of a baby - which I guess explains the stereotype of women expecting men to have the same intuitive skills when they don't tell men what's wrong or what they want, yet expect them to work it out and deliver, and get annoyed if they don't!).

Unsurprisingly, women (but not men) have a preference for better educated partners than themselves (who can provide for them), and although men intellectually think they want more educated & successful women, when confronted by up-close reality their more primitive, emotional instincts favour a less successful woman that needs them (as Cosmo' also recognises).  Research also shows that people are biased to being more concerned about and protective of female suffering, and more willing to more severely judge & punish male perpetrators compared to women committing the same offence.

So it's masculinity with a noble purpose, and this probably has deep-seated biological-evolutionary origins (as I think this video clip of a protective Silverback suggests, even though gorillas aren't humanity's closest relative, & can also display ugly as well as noble masculinity), which could explain why boys tend to prefer things like fighting-games, superheroes and aggressive team sports (being the hero winner for the group), compared to "typical" girls (whilst noting there are wide variations & overlaps in these stereotypical traits).  These masculine characteristics can't be eliminated from the male psyche. The solution is not to deny, suppress or feminise masculinity, it's to encourage it and harness it for good.  Boys need to be guided and valued as they become men in society, not shamed for their masculinity.

This is not to say that all aspects of so-called feminisation are bad, such as helping men become more emotionally aware, but why would you want to open yourself up to your feelings when this is demanded in a nasty, accusatory way?  Rather than berating men for lacking such skills, it may help to recognise why this is so - because it's historically been a man's job to defend/fight and do other tough & unpleasant tasks (for so long that men have evolved to have far greater punching power), so stoic men developed barriers to keep going through distress (perhaps no more so than in the British wartime philosophy to "Keep Calm & Carry On"), by building internal psychological walls that block feelings/empathy, which may create a general reluctance to bring up feelings and talk about them (let's face it, when it's your job to attack a woolly mammoth whilst trying not to be eaten by sabre-tooth tigers, it's not exactly an evolutionary advantage to want to pause and share your feelings on the situation in a group chat!).  These characteristics still have their uses because, for example, men tend to be less repulsed than more-sensitive women by jobs like disposing of rubbish or working in a slaughterhouse, but unfortunately when an issue is so big that it breaks through a man's emotional barriers, the unaccustomed impacts can be devastating in their consequences.  

In contrast, women are typically (though not always) more sensitive or emotional & "agreeable" - or it may be said they "feel more" and are more empathic than stereotypical "insensitive blokes" - but the downside of this is they tend to be more anxious & depressed (or neurotic, with lower self-esteem) and, dare I say, are more likely than (non-autistic) males to display extreme sensitivity or "hysteria" in response to their emotions (e.g. teenage girls screaming & wetting themselves at a Beatles concert).

The feminist notion that, "patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves" – as if men just wilfully choose to cut off their own emotions – is simply daft, and it's frankly arrogant & condescending of women to "femsplain" to men by claiming they know everything about typical masculinity and what causes it.

But together, men and women can form an ideal yin-yang partnership, with women helping men develop their emotional side and men providing women with a stoic rock of support during times of crisis.  Research also indicates that masculinity is good for men's own mental health, and self-confidence in one's own masculinity reduces suicide risk.

Yet what happens when you take away men's noble purpose - if boys have no Dad role-model for supporting the family, and when the role of men in a changing society is becoming less clear, with poor prospects for many young men for gaining secure employment and being able to have and support a family?  Then you have masculinity without a purpose, including pent-up aggression and frustration with no productive channel (perhaps without even knowing why).  Combine this with a culture and political-bureaucracy that tells these men they're privileged, shames them and refuses to listen to or act on their problems, and you have the conditions that lead to desperate and angry behaviours, or so-called "toxic masculinity".  So contrary to some feminist views, when you disparage masculinity and try to make men more like women, you don't get less toxic masculinity, you get more.  Conversely, it may be argued that what society needs is not less masculinity, but more (of the good, "traditional" kind).

We shouldn't condone or excuse aggressive & hateful reactions from some angry men, nor should we (and probably can't) stop the rise of women in modern society, but we can show compassion for struggling men.  Indeed, as MLK said:

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