Jesus And Toxic Masculinity

Jesus And Toxic Masculinity January 28, 2019

From CBE

On January 23, 2019

By now, you’ve probably seen Gillette’s “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” ad. Launched last week online, the ad depicts several examples of toxic masculinity, including bullying, harassment, mansplaining, and the notion that “boys will be boys.” For those that may not know, toxic masculinity refers to masculinity that encourages aggressive and violent behavior and discourages emotion and self-control. In other words, masculinity that is both dangerous for women and harmful to men. It’s also crucial to note that toxic masculinity does not mean that all masculinity is toxic. The ad ends by exhorting men to embrace a healthy vision for masculinity, with text that reads: “it’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.”

Of course one goal for any commercial is to be noticed, and, in this case, mission accomplished. The ad has garnered a number of reactions, ranging from appreciation to rebuke. For instance, one week after its unveiling, the YouTube version of the ad had been viewed more than 25 million times, and had accrued almost 700,000 likes and more than 1.2 million dislikes.

I’d like to offer three reflections on Gillette’s toxic masculinity ad, as one who has done a lot of thinking about how our concepts of masculinity—both in the church and in the wider culture—connect (or not) with Jesus’ vision for men.

First, I want to say kudos to the folks at Gillette for choosing to spend their ad money to call out toxic masculinity. While I experience some degree of dissonance with how this ad monetizes pushback against the social malady that is toxic masculinity, I think we should welcome any message that critiques the worst versions of manhood in our culture.

That’s true because there is a lot to be concerned about. For instance, we live in a world where one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes, and we know that 90% of perpetrators of sexual violence against women are men. Because of these statistics and more, I invite a message that identifies and thoughtfully critiques toxic masculinity, no matter the source.

Second, we should be thankful for the conversations that the ad has generated, both online and in our relational circles. Without question, Gillette’s decision to publicly critique toxic masculinity has sparked a debate, and cultural notions of masculinity are being litigated right before our eyes. As the ad’s YouTube evaluation tally suggests, some agree with Gillette’s approach and others do not.

On one hand, there has certainly been a backlash against the ad. One person in my relational networks decried how the ad represents one more battle in a war against men. My friend is not alone, as Newsweek notes that, “some men have further vowed to boycott Gillette over what they consider to be an ‘assault on masculinity.’”

On the other hand, Gillette has been lauded for encouraging men to invite their brothers to live out a different type of masculinity. Writing in USA TodayKirsten Powers concludes: “When a man speaks up about sexual harassment, it carries a different kind of weight than when a woman says it. If men feel they are risking the respect of their colleagues and fellow men, they are more likely to alter their behavior than if they are confronted by the office feminist. The ad was simply asking men to risk some of their comfort and take a stand when necessary.”

As followers of Jesus who value the full dignity and worth of women, we should embrace this cultural conversation. I firmly believe that Gillette has given us a gift: an opportunity to talk about where we as the church have erred in our teachings on masculinity and in our treatment of women. What if we used time in our home group meetings, or in our Sunday school classes, or, indeed, in our Sunday sermons to show the ad and host open dialogue on the topic of toxic masculinity?

Third, while I’m grateful in many ways for this ad and the conversations that it is provoking, I also find myself lamenting. Why?

Because it’s God’s church—far more than a company like Gillette—that should be on the leading edge in the battle against toxic masculinity. Spurred on by the masculinity modeled by Jesus, Christians should be the ones challenging both ourselves and our culture to reject any version of masculinity that oppresses, marginalizes, and threatens women.

Jesus was incarnated into a world where women were permanently and solidly on the cultural margins. The toxic masculinity critiqued in the Gillette ad pales in comparison to the first century version, where women were little more than objects, voiceless and largely defined by their relationships to the men in their lives.

This makes Jesus’ treatment of women so remarkable. Jesus’ brand of masculinity was one where women were, among other things, honored (Matthew 26:6-13), listened to (Mark 7:24-30), and embraced as evangelists (John 4:1-42). For Jesus, women could be disciples (Luke 10:38-42), they could travel with him (Matthew 27:52), and they were worthy of serving as positive examples in his stories (Luke 21:1-4). In perhaps his single most revolutionary act around gender, in a world where the testimony of a woman was not allowed in court, Jesus entrusted the message of his resurrection to Mary, the first person in history to bear the gospel (Matthew 28:1-10). Indeed, scholar Walter Wink notes that “Jesus violated the mores of his time in every single encounter with women recorded in the four Gospels.”[1]

In light of Jesus’ counter cultural (then, and now) example, I’ll offer two thoughts for our faith communities to consider in the midst of this cultural moment.

To begin with, we should reevaluate how we talk about and model masculinity in our faith communities. To be sure, toxic masculinity must be rooted out. As the #churchtoo movement reminds us, too many church-going men have perpetuated violence against their sisters. There can be no room in God’s church for gender violence of any kind.

In addition, our church communities should consider how the masculinity we are presenting aligns (or not) with Jesus’. For much of its history, the church has privileged men over women, and, in many cases, men continue to hold most of the power in our faith communities. Are we open to a vision for masculinity that, like Jesus, honors, empowers, and advocates for women, even if it means losing power and control?

Next, we should offer a healthy vision for masculinity, one that embraces the complexity of what it can mean to be a man. The stereotypical definition of masculinity has run its course, and it is time to broaden our view. Some men are assertive, while others are collaborative. Some are “the strong silent type,” but others are loud and expressive. And some want to take the proverbial hill, while others would rather wait and see what happens.

In the masculinity embodied by Jesus, there is room for every man except for the toxic ones. Does your faith community allow for a fuller definition of masculinity? I recommend furthering this conversation by reading books like Man Enough or Malestrom, ideally in groups.

Ultimately, any public critique of toxic masculinity is a good thing, even if it comes in the context of a 90 second commercial put out by a shaving company, and we should welcome anything that catalyzes a conversation that envisions a better vision for masculinity.

The question is, can the church become that catalyst?

Notes

[1] Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers, 129, quoted in The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey.

Rob Dixon will be speaking at CBE’s 2019 conference in Houston on August 2-4. If you like what you read here, come see Rob speak this summer.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • JohnM

    “Toxic masculinity” is not a thing. When Christians talk about bad behavior we call it sin. We call it sin whether it is committed by men or by women.

  • I think the issue here is that the “bad behavior” is both taking traditionally “masculine” character traits and using them in an unregulated manner as well as defining certain things as essentially “masculine” that are actually terrible.

    So, it’s just an identification of the specific type of thing that’s going wrong. You wouldn’t say “child abuse” isn’t a thing because sin is sin whether it’s against a child or anyone else. It’s a way to specifically describe the wrongdoing.

  • There’s a lot of discussion about this in the Root today because of Terry Crews.

    The whole church lagging behind in being a moral voice is a longstanding problem that is specifically affecting our credibility in very sharp ways in recent years. I think we’re generally seen as protectors of institutional sin as opposed to challengers of it, and when the rest of society has pointed out the evil over and over again, eventually we grudgingly come around to acknowledging it and dealing with it.

    It lends a lot of credence to the criticism that Christianity is actually bad for the world, which is the exact opposite of how it should be.

  • Jamin Andreas Hübner

    Then neither is “adultery”, “stealing,” “idolatry,” or “rape” a thing…are we reading the same Bible?

  • FlyingSquirrel

    Alas, I must concur. It’s something that has time and again caused me to struggle with my faith. Think, for example, of slavery, and how few Christian abolitionists there were compared to those in the institutional churches that interpreted the Bible to justify slavery. Even to this day, evangelists like George Whitefield get a pass for it. Meanwhile, I wonder what so many African Americans think about Jesus every time Christians gush about Whitefield, even while we are all supposedly against slavery now?

    I think also on domestic violence, an issue dear to my heart because I and my mother were abused by my father. Only very recently have some Christians begun to publicly campaign against it. And yet, it’s been part of Christian tradition for nearly 2000 years to make the abused stay with their abusers, until death do they part. (Go read Basil of Caesarea’s canon law if you don’t believe me, or St. Monica’s story in Augustine’s Confessions.) Christians have historically been on the whole very heartless on the subject. It should not have taken first and then later second/third wave feminists to address this problem. And yet we see Christian leaders still dragging their heels. It’s very discouraging, knowing that if a victim goes to the local domestic violence shelter, they can get help from secular people, but if they go to church you will most likely be shamed and blamed. Related to this are the child sex abuse scandals erupting across denominations. It shouldn’t take the news media catching on to shame Christians into action.

    I’m not surprised to see Christians dragging their heels on things like toxic masculinity, as well. After all, hordes of them wanted it. They flocked in droves to Mark Driscoll’s church. They eat up all sorts of Christian sources that baptize toxic masculinity. I wonder, what sin will they baptize next?

  • Sadly, I can’t really argue with any of that, and I want you to know that I am so, so sorry at what you and your mother experienced.

    One thing that does give me hope is that I do see the feedback-response loop shrinking. Many Christians are becoming aware of this disconnect between the Jesus we’re trying to follow and the tendency to cover up or even shore up institutional sins. We’re nowhere close to where we need to be, but some of those calcified tendencies of Western Christendom are starting to break apart, and with them is our role as Champions of the Status Quo. I see a lot more self-criticism about how much of institutional Christianity is actually Christian.

    In America, where I live, you can even see this around things like the election of Trump, with a segment of Christianity being firmly on the side of Trump being a messianic proxy and many other Christians amazed at how you could possibly follow Jesus and think that. I hope what we’re seeing is the beginning of another Reformation – not one over various doctrinal issues per se, but one over what it even means to be the body of Christ in the contemporary world, knowing what we know and seeing what we’ve seen.

    We’ve still got a long way to go, though. It’s hard to be at the forefront of proclaiming peace and justice in the world when you’ve got evangelical leaders actively campaigning for the church to stay out of both of those things.

  • Alan Rutherford

    I chatted with someone who objected to the ad, like so many people, because it allegedly labels masculinity as ‘toxic’ and men as ‘bad.’ I responded that I hear the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ the same way I hear ‘cheap grace,’ which is not at all a critique of grace, but rather a defense of true grace and a critique of counterfeit grace.

    They found this very helpful and opened up to the ad’s message.

  • DavidP

    I want to stress that I’m agreement that bad behavior needs to be called out. #MeToo/#ChurchToo wasn’t just necessary, it was grossly overdue. I generally hate what the NFL has become, and the culture that encourages people to sit in front of the TV for 10 hours a Sunday yelling at the screen and eating junk food — habits now often repeated the previous day with college kids. I have Tofu in the fridge and don’t understand taxidermy or having so many guns you could take out a small city. I boycotted Hardees/Carl’s Jr due to their sexist ads. The brand of aggressive Christianity James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll peddled was embarrassing.

    And I don’t like this ad for a myriad of reasons.

    When I was growing up “Boys Will Be Boys” meant that boys were prone to taking paper towel rolls and pretending they were swords. It meant they raced Matchbox cars around the kitchen, jumped down a flight of stairs just because, and slept in their dirty clothes because they were making mud castles in the rain that night. The recent attempts to turn this phrase into a dogwhistle for abusive behavior should be raising some red flags.

    Some of this is Communication 101: If the phrase “toxic masculinity” needs a ton of explaining and narrowing definitions to make it palatable to the people you’re trying to reach, then don’t use it. To do otherwise is the social justice version of waving a KJV on a corner telling people they are a stench in the nostrils of Thy God – you’re just causing people to roll their eyes and shut you out. In other words: The Phrase “Toxic Masculinity” is already toxic, and it’s hard to blame people for cringing when they hear it.

    Terry Crews started talking about “Toxic Behavior” the other day, and I totally agree with him on that. I’m a Behavior Analyst and targeting the behavior instead of the person’s demographic is an integral part of my job. I’m all for training men to treat women better who need it (and since some of the MeToo women leaders turned out to have problems treating men humanely as well, vice versa) and encourage my clients to take a step back from crappy “entertainment” that encourages people to treat women awful. We all need to do this.

    That said, we’re talking about a commercial to get you to buy stuff: A commercial from a company that had no problem bullying smaller companies with lawsuits (“deliberately brought baseless claims” a Judge wrote). A company that had no problem with sexist ads in recent years. A company that will ditch the whole concept if the political tides change and “socially conscious” doesn’t sell. To an extent this feels like the religious right embracing Trump: They knew there were serious problems but he’s saying something they like and it looks better than the alternative.

    Honestly, I think it’s best for people to hold this thing at arm’s length: Be happy people are encouraging men to lead by becoming a good example. If they had stopped there we’d be telling a different story. Instead they used charged language to shame their potential customers as well. This is where the backlash is, and to an extent I can’t blame people.

  • Reece

    So the question is, what is ‘toxic’ masculinity as opposed to ‘healthy’ masculinity? Does it transcend cultures? Was Jesus actions of clearing the temple in John 2 an act of toxic masculinity? If not why not? In what ways are men and women different? How does this affect the conversation?
    If questions like these can’t be answered well and clearly then of course men will perceive critiques on toxic masculinity as being attacks on men in general.

  • JohnM

    No, apparently we are not reading the same Bible. The one I read calls adultery, stealing, idolatry, and rape, sin. It makes no mention of “toxic masculinity”. Which translation are you reading that includes that phrase? What does your bible call it when women sin?

  • JohnM

    Or defining things that are terrible as typically masculine. If you want to identify a specific thing going on, like child abuse, then identify the specific thing going on. “Toxic masculinity” is not a specific thing going on. If you want to describe wrong behavior committed by men then call the behavior what it specifically is. If you want to call masculine behavior categorically wrong then the Bible does not support your opinion. Of course, you could adopt the phrase “toxic femininity” to describe sin committed by women, but there is no reason you should do that either.

  • But “toxic masculinity” does not describe “sin in general that happens to be committed by men.” It describes when characteristics are used to define masculinity that are actually harmful, like catcalling women or treating them like objects or responding to aggression with aggression.

    The fact that you seem dedicated to denying this is a real thing is basically an argument for why people need to talk about it. It’s because this sort of behavior has for so long been coextensive with “masculinity” that it’s necessary to point out that it’s actually destructive. If you’re uncomfortable referring to behaviors like I listed as “masculine,” that’s awesome, but culturally speaking, they usually are.

    There’s also absolutely toxic femininity, to wit, understanding being “feminine” as being quiet, submissive, and bearing up under abuse and injustice instead of fighting it. But generally speaking, men benefit from inappropriate definitions of femininity. Women suffer from inappropriate definitions of masculinity. In terms of which is the greater need to be addressed socially, it’s definitely concepts of masculinity that include aggression, violence, conquest, subjugation of women, etc.

  • Alan Rutherford

    JohnM, you’ve said that ‘toxic masculinity’ is not a specific thing a couple times in this thread. The ad offers several specific examples of sins that have been committed by men for generations, so often that at times, that in fact they became the norm for men to behave in those ways. Men were uniquely able to get away with the sexual wrongs against women, and laugh them off, because they were in charge. The ad is calling men to stop tolerating those behaviors and to see them for what they are–not normal, but rather a toxic corruption of masculinity–and to hold other men accountable. Isn’t that something we can all get behind?

  • JohnM

    If the add offers *several specific examples* of sin committed by men why not list them by their specific names? Call them what the Bible calls them. Certainly the Bible does have much to say about the corruption of humanity, so we should not hesitate to talk about that. Depravity is the word you’re really looking for, if you want to describe what is wrong. It applies to all men and women. What Christians can get behind is calling all men and women to recognize their condition and repent, with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Alan Rutherford

    You are saying that the ad falls short of being a gospel tract. Commercial ads are always going to fall short of that standard. This ad goes farther than most in speaking truth–it challenges men in our culture to do better. Rob Dixon uses the ad to ask an important question: are our churches also doing an effective job at challenging men?

  • JohnM

    Sin is a real thing, we don’t need to adopt made up a made up catchphrase to describe it. Words like boorishness, lechery, and cruelty, all expressions of depravity, serve well enough. Who, besides feminists, suggests those traits define masculinity?

    You do make some interesting comments, ones that prompt questions. If it is inappropriate for men to respond to aggression with aggression and inappropriate for women to bear up under abuse and injustice instead of *fighting* it, what would be the proper response for a man in the face of aggression against a woman? If a woman is being abused and treated unjustly by another woman (as they frequently are) should she fight that too? If a man is being abused and treated unjustly (as they also frequently are) should they be quiet and submissive, or should they fight the abuse and injustice? Is it masculine, but not feminine, to turn the other cheek? Is it feminine, but not masculine, to assert the right?

  • JohnM

    That’s why commercial ads are not moral tutors. This ad goes far in misleading viewers as to the problem and the solution.

    Churches are not commissioned to challenge anyone, or to improve the culture per se. Churches are commissioned to preach the gospel to men, and women and make disciples of them. Of course, enough of that would have a salutary effect on culture. Churches that are not calling men and women to repentance and faith are not doing an effective job.

  • Thanks for this, Rob! I appreciate all the research you’ve done on this topic and how you write so clearly and compellingly for the church.

  • Great analogy.

  • “I think we’re generally seen as protectors of institutional sin as opposed to challengers of it” – really well said.

  • “But generally speaking, men benefit from inappropriate definitions of femininity. Women suffer from inappropriate definitions of masculinity.” — that is really powerful.

  • RJS4DQ

    Phil,

    I don’t think you’ve defined “toxic femininity” well. The analogue to “toxic masculinity” is a femininity that acts to entice and manipulate and control men. A “femininity” that views men as meal tickets to be used – and abused. The methods are different, but the inherent selfishness is the same.

    The traits you’ve identified are not particularly good in most situations – but they are enabling behaviors rather than controlling and objectifying behaviors.

  • Alan Rutherford

    Churches aren’t commissioned to challenge anyone? I disagree. To call people to repentance and to make disciples requires us to challenge them. I’m thankful to belong to a church who challenges men to be better than the culture taught them.

  • Well, every word or phrase is “made up.” You make them up to capture concepts. “Boorishness” and “lechery” were not always words, and I can’t help but wonder if the first person to accuse someone of lechery was met with, “Sin is sin. We don’t need some made up word for this kind of behavior.”

    And, in this case, it’s the concept of defining things as masculine that are destructive. This is a thing that happens. I am really unclear on why you seem so resistant to naming it. I have several guesses, but they’re all negative and I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    I was very encouraged, though, to see your questions because those are exactly the kinds of questions this topic should be raising. See, a toxic masculinity would assert that “being a man” means that nobody gets to mess with you. Any disrespect can and should be met with aggression, either violence or the threat of violence. I hope you would agree this is not what being a man means, but this is culturally gospel for some definitions of masculinity and the messaging that gets sent to young men.

    Who is sending this message? It’s in our music. It’s in our movies. It’s in the behavior or absence of our fathers. It’s in people who provide young males a sense of community who behave in these ways and have these values. And, sadly, it can be found in our sermons and from the lips of our evangelical leaders. Mark Driscoll comes to mind, with his whole deal of “I can’t worship a Jesus who couldn’t beat me up.” It’s definitely not just “feminists,” and if anything feminists would love it if men didn’t define being a man in terms of their capacity and propensity to do violence.

    But this raises questions: is all aggression bad in all contexts and situations? Is violence ever justified? Is the use of aggression or violence definitive of being masculine or feminine? I think those are awesome questions.

    I teach self-defense classes to both men and women, so you can probably extrapolate some of my own views on the subject, but whatever the case I hope you would agree with me that “being a real man” does not mean you beat somebody down every time you get “disrespected.” There’s a version of masculinity that preaches that you should. That’s toxic.

    If you don’t think “toxic masculinity” is a good enough phrase to capture the concept of “definitions of masculinity that are destructive,” that’s fine, you can come up with your own, I guess. But that’s what people mean when they say it and it is a thing.

  • Excellent points, and that’s what I get for being a man trying to define “toxic femininity” off the cuff. Thanks for the correction!

  • Barb

    Very well stated

  • JohnM

    No, the call to repentance is not a “hey let’s all see if we can do better” challenge, it is what God commands.

  • Cjones1

    Virtuous masculinity is the ideal. Quixotic chivalry is frowned upon.
    Lady MacBeths and mischievous lasses will always be inciting mens’ passions. So men be wary.
    Crude and violent louts who are abusive should be shamed

  • patriciamc

    I think there’s something wrong when people don’t know the difference between righteous anger (Christ), normal manliness, and toxic masculinity.

  • Matthew Kilburn

    Sorry, but we can’t all run around being overly emotional snowflakes afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings. Society needs men. And it needs men to be strong, and assertive, and level-headed, and rational, and willing to fight and to kill and to die if the time comes. If your definition of toxic masculinity is macho, physically dominant, not-held-back-by-emotion….guess what? “Toxic masculinity” is what won two world wars, and has kept communism and Islamic fanaticism at bay. “Toxic masculinity” is what has put meat on the table and wheat in the barns. Its what has ensured women were provided for and children were disciplined.

    Now I suppose those sentiments can be taken too far, as just about anything can….if you’re, say, a Bill Cosby who treats women as his property; or if you repress emotion to the point it causes you more pain even when there are outlets for it. But thinking with your head and not your heart, and being a heterosexual male with a sex drive, are not “toxic”. They’re necessary parts of human civilization.

  • patriciamc

    Protectors of institutional sin – amen, in fact, amen on all points. The church all too often protects the powerful and keeps people, particularly women, down instead of lifting them up. This is what happens when we let the sinful culture in instead of truly following Christ’s teachings.

  • Ldon

    “Indeed, scholar Walter Wink notes that “Jesus violated the mores of his time in every single encounter with women recorded in the four Gospels.”[1]”
    Yet it was Jesus who chose 12+1 male Masculine men to be Apostles to His Church, and it was Jesus who inspire those same Apostles to instruct men to be Heads of the Woman and NEVER once did he violated that Tradition, dating back to Creation.
    Yes, let us teach men to take care of women and Children just like what Jesus did when He was on the Cross, taking care of the wealth fare of His mother by placing her into the care of a man, John, Whom He loved.

    I will not be looking to Gillette or this Culture to tell me how to root out ” toxic masculinity” or ” Toxic femininity”.
    If we follow the teachings of scripture, these ideas will be rooted out.

  • JohnM

    “it’s the concept of defining things as masculine that are destructive.” Well, yes that is one problem with the phrase “toxic masculinity”. I know what you intended, but think about it a little harder. In the meantime, read the comments by DavidP, if you haven’t already. RJS4DQ also made a very good observation, and I see you did acknowledge that, to your credit. However, even there, I don’t know as it is necessary to label that kind of behavior “toxic femininity”. Depraved humanity is still the more accurate term. “Twisted nature” works too, maybe that makes it easier to understand the point.

    What is twisted and bad and contrary to design is some characteristic that fundamentally is straight and good and intended by design. Now that twisted nature is manifest in all of us, albeit in a number of different outward forms, and to varying degrees. Since there are some differences in the fundamental natures of men and of women it is unsurprising that the twistedness tends to manifest in certain forms more commonly in men and in certain other forms more commonly in women. Tends to, more commonly. That is not an excuse for slanderous caricatures of either sex.

  • patriciamc

    “Men were uniquely able to get away with the sexual wrongs against women” and other wrongs such as keeping others out of power. This ad struck a nerve because it dared to call out this male-entitlement mentality that is so deeply engrained in the culture that it has naturally flowed into the church. The ad slso showed how men are needed to uphold what is right, but apparently none of the complainers have noticed that.

  • patriciamc

    In that society, it would have been grossly inappropriate for him to have chosen women to be apostles. It would have called his and his followers’ morality into question, plus no one would have taken the women seriously in this culture since women could not have even testified in court. You really need to learn about the culture of first century Israel and the Roman Empire. As for the headship, you simply can’t divorce those verses from Ephesians 5:21 in which all are commanded to submit to one another, All of those verses that you’re alluding to are examples of Christ’s command to love one another.

    I’m sorry, but you are not above women in rank.

  • Matthew Kilburn

    Equality is not the same as interchangeability. Christ showed ZERO problems challenging social norms or associating with individuals or groups in ways that caused people to question his morality. He talked with prostitutes. He dined with tax collectors. He embraced Samaritans and gentiles. He performed miracles for pagan army officers of the Roman empire. He healed and worked on the Sabbath. He challenged the existing religious authorities. The idea that Christ wouldn’t do something he would have otherwise liked to do, just because people might have been scandalized or challenged him on it flies in the face of just about every chapter of scripture.

  • patriciamc

    You have the wrong definition of toxic masculinity. No one, and most certainly the ad, is labeling strong and level-headed masculinity as toxic. Toxic masculinity is abusing power, being selfish, being disrespectful to women, physically abusing women and others, bullying people, “might makes right,” etc. Toxic masculinity is men using their physical strength and social standing to take advantage of and hurt others. Real men, men with balls, stand up for others, put others first, don’t resent women’s progress, and are a blessing and not a curse. The ad demonstrates this. Did you even watch it?

  • Matthew Kilburn

    “No one…is labeling strong and level-headed masculinity as toxic”

    I suggest you engage in some conversation with some of the more outspoken feminists of our society. They will quickly disabuse you of your misconceptions.

  • patriciamc

    So why didn’t he or Paul condemn slavery? Because it would have discredited the movement, just like promoting women would have. What he did do was radical enough, and remember your Bible: Christ did get pushback from associating with “sinners.”

  • Matthew Kilburn

    I’m well aware he got pushback. And that is exactly my point: he got pushback…and did it anyway. And so if there were things he was NOT doing, it wasn’t for fear of pushback.

  • Ldon

    Are you implying that Jesus was afraid of the ” culture of men ” for the Sadducees and pharisees would be mad so Jesus did not appoint women out of fear for the men of this world? Do you not understand how absurd this logic is?

    You need to learn the difference between the ” culture of this world” and the Apostle’s Tradition, that we are told to hold-fast to.
    We are told to contend to keep the Faith Once given to us by the apostles.

    In Ephesians 5:21 is a general instruction which applies to all even to the Pastor of the Church.
    But in v22, Paul specifically singled out the wife, and tell her to ” submit ” to her own husband in every thing. There is NO such verse to the husband.
    “I’m sorry, but you are not above women in rank.” I have no idea what this means. But the Bible did say that the Head of the Woman is the Man…

    Do you have a problem with this and other verses that speaks to the woman?
    Are these verses ” toxic masculinity” as well?

  • Ldon

    “Christ did get pushback from associating with “sinners.” Yet He associated with them even when they sought to kill Him. Even His own disciples did not want Him to have relationship with the Samaritan, But He did, and the Woman at the well went with the message, come see a man…
    She was in the upper room , yet Jesus did not appoint her to be an Apostle. Why? Because Jesus, with ALL POWER was afraid of earthly Sinful men ?.
    Please, don’t make me laugh so hard, it hurts.

  • I read DavidP’s comment and found it to be thoughtful, and I disagree. It should be noted, however, that DavidP’s comment disagrees with your position. RJS also disagrees with your position; she corrected my definition of “toxic femininity,” she didn’t say it didn’t exist. I think you’re being incredibly selective in your reading.

    “Toxic masculinity” not a “slanderous caricature” of a gender. Nobody is saying masculinity is inherently toxic or that every man suffers from it. If I talk about “racist Christians,” that’s not saying that every Christian is a racist or that Christianity is inherently racist. It means that Christians can be racist and can use their Christianity to bolster their racism. That is a real thing that really happens, and if we want to make progress on that problem, it’s incredibly irresponsible to say, “Racist Christians aren’t a thing. Sin is sin. No reason to come up with a phrase for this.”

    There is nothing inherently problematic with labeling specific problems so that you can discuss specific problems. If a ruler is a tyrant, you say the ruler is a tyrant, you don’t say, “Tyranny is not a real thing. It’s all just sin. It’s all just a twisting of God’s design. No need to make up words to slander leaders.”

    What you’re suggesting is basically, “Quit talking about this.” I seriously doubt you feel this passionately about a purely semantic distinction, and that’s what’s dangerous about labeling this phenonemon a fabrication. It’s the same tack that is often used to get us to quit talking about various issues. Climate change isn’t a thing. White privilege isn’t a thing. Everyone just quit talking about this stuff, please.

    That’s not a viable option for a follower of Jesus.

  • NathanMichael

    This is one instance where I believe language really matters. I believe we need to talk about this, but talk carefully and thoughtfully. I believe we need to be very strong on what *specifically* is toxic and what is not. Masculinity is not toxic. Assault is toxic. Rape is toxic. Emotional dysfunctionality is toxic. But the usage of the term will – even if unintentionally – convey the idea that rather than the specific toxic thoughts and behaviours themselves, there is something toxic with masculinity itself. And frankly, from some of the commentary from various social activists, that appears to be their intention. Many men are being shamed for aspects of themselves that are arguably not toxic, just not as effeminate as some activists would prefer. This is where I believe it is critical to avoid unnecessary shaming and be very specific in identifying toxic behaviours as toxic and not tying that to the concept of masculinity in a vague and harmful way.

  • FlyingSquirrel

    Jesus chose 12+1 males as representative of the New Israel and to mirror the original 12+1 tribes. They were only an inner circle of a far wider group of disciples that included women. And, Junia is called an apostle. She saw the risen Lord and was sent along with all the other disciples, who numbered far more than 12.

  • I was struck by the ads message to fathers in the context of raising their sons.

  • Ldon

    “And, Junia is called an apostle.” The only verse that mentions her is being used in such a definitive way when it is NOT clear if she was even a male or female and the meaning ” of note among” them.
    I see this as people grasping at straws to prove their point.

    Then you say see ” Saw the risen Lord ” thus qualifying to be as Paul and the other 12 who were witness to Jesus and His Ministry.
    What verse in the KJV Bible are you using to justify this claim? This is the first time someone has made such a claim to me. Can you enlighten me?

  • JohnM

    I think I made it pretty clear that it wasn’t RJSs employment of the term “toxic femininity” that I found commendable. One does wonder though, why we’re *not* also talking about “toxic femininity”, but only about “toxic masculinity”, if they’re both “things”. Well, actually I don’t wonder. One serves a preferred narrative and the other doesn’t, that’s why.

    If you disagree with DavidPs position, that means it is your position with which his comments disagree. I’ll grant, not ever line of his was exactly in line with what I think, but the gist of his position, and to some extent mine, he expressed with:

    “Some of this is Communication 101: If the phrase “toxic masculinity” needs a ton of explaining and narrowing definitions to make it palatable to the people you’re trying to reach, then don’t use it. To do otherwise is the social justice version of waving a KJV on a corner telling people they are a stench in the nostrils of Thy God – you’re just causing people to roll their eyes and shut you out. In other words: The Phrase “Toxic Masculinity” is already toxic, and it’s hard to blame people for cringing when they hear it.”

    Perhaps it is just bad strategy. Perhaps. Or perhaps it really is communicating exactly what you want to communicate. You are right about one thing, it isn’t just about semantics. When I said toxic masculinity is not a thing I also meant it is no more than an empty buzz-phrase. But you knew that. However, words matter. Take “masculine” for example: Pertaining to or characteristic of a man or men. To call something masculinity implies it basically pertains to or is generally characteristic of men. If something does not basically pertain to men or is not generally characteristic of men, but rather is peculiar to a few certain men, and also some women, we would not call it masculine. To call something “toxic masculinity” implies toxic qualities are characteristic of men. Or, that which is characteristic of men is toxic. Which might be exactly the point. If that is not the point then you want to find a different way of expressing what you actually mean.

  • People do talk about toxic femininity. We’re not talking about that right now because that’s not what the Gillette ad or the blog article was about. Also, as I pointed out, there is a large difference in societal consequences between the two.

    If I refer to “legalistic Christianity,” does that imply legalism is characteristic of Christianity, or does it imply that there is a form of Christianity that is legalistic? Obviously, it means the latter. I’m describing a subspecies of something larger, otherwise there would be no need for the qualifier. If masculinity were inherently toxic, we’d just say “masculinity.” Nobody talks about “wet water.”

    Does the phrase “legalistic Christianity” imply that other religions aren’t legalistic? No it does not. Describing a subset of a larger set does not mean there aren’t other sets that share the characteristic.

    You would never describe any other language as working in the way you’re saying the phrase “toxic masculinity” works, and what’s particularly interesting is your atypical interpretation of the phrase is in a manner that, if true, would insult you directly, as you are a man.

    Is that what this is about? When you hear the phrase, you feel personally insulted by it? I think that’s very interesting.

  • JohnM

    You would do better to speak of “legalistic Christians”. After all, some Christians erroneously incline toward legalism, yet Christianity is not legalistic and legalism is not a form of Christianity. I might understand what you intended, yet still object to the term as misleading. I don’t call counterfeit money “bad money”, I call it no kind of money at all. You could use the term “faux masculinity” I suppose. Now ask yourself, would that be the same thing intended by “toxic masculinity” and would it serve the same purpose? If not, why not?

    I’ve never seen the use of “toxic femininity” outside this thread. Perhaps you can point me? Again, I do not recommend the use, and the response to any bad behavior of men should not be “but look at what women do”, however part of me dares you to promulgate the phrase, with the definition RJS4DQ gave it. I know there’s not a corporation in America brave or foolish enough to make a “We Believe: The Best Women Can Be” ad.

  • Well, I just did a Google search for “toxic femininity” and many results came up. News articles, magazine pieces, reddit threads – material written by both men and women, with a decent share of voices like yours arguing that it’s not real. Here was the first result:

    https://medium.com/@CleoJ/yes-there-is-a-toxic-femininity-9f9afaef0587

    That took me a matter of seconds in Google. Could you not have done that? I’m beginning to wonder if you are discussing this issue in good faith.

    If I were a woman, I might feel more of an impetus to address women’s cultural issues, but since I’m a man, I’m far more concerned about our own issues and shortcomings, which are legion, and as the father of two sons, I’m especially concerned that they understand what being a good man does and doesn’t mean.

    And, again, there is the matter of how much societal impact these relative issues have. Although men being manipulated by women is a bad thing, I would in most cases prefer being manipulated to being assaulted, raped, or killed. So, I feel a different sense of urgency about addressing those ills.

  • Tiny J

    See…here’s the reason for backlash against the ad:
    “Christians should be the ones challenging both ourselves and our culture to reject any version of masculinity that oppresses, marginalizes, and threatens women.”
    Let me explain something: our culture DOES reject any version of masculinity that oppresses, marginalizes, and threatens women. All of those things are completely AGAINST the values of the majority of American men. Acting as thought this is a systemic problem and we’re all complicit is insulting. The only way we could reject those standards anymore is by actually choke slamming the men causing the problems, but we’ve been told our whole lives to treat women like equals and let them fight their own battles.
    Do you know what gaslighting is?

  • Barb

    Then how about you explain to me just how Trump ended up as President

  • JohnM

    1. When I asked if you could point out use of the term it was because I did not take for granted no one has ever used it before. I allowed for the possibility, and for the possibility that you knew offhand. It should not bother you to have searched if you want to make a point.
    2. Apparently I’m not the only person arguing that it’s not a thing.
    3. Note how the article starts: “In social justice circles there is often a lot of chatter about the concept of “toxic masculinity” and the effect that it has on society on both an individual and systemic level.” Then followed by: “Is there a toxic femininity?” – with an affirmative answer supplied. The point is, no one raises the question of “toxic femininity” except in response to talk of “toxic masculinity”. Just like here.
    4..Ask the family of Emmett Till about societal impact: “So here we have a white woman, who is responsible for the death of a black teenager for something as simple as an alleged whistle in her direction, who lied to prosecutors to protect a murderer.”

    I don’t know how carefully you read the article, but you do realize it is fundamentally a diatribe against white women? In fact – “This form of passive aggression and manipulation is the upholder, enabler, and supporter of toxic masculinity that is often times not acknowledged nor addressed – it rather lays blame for toxic masculinity, as well as toxic femininity, at the feet of white women.

  • JohnM

    According to Cleo J, because:

    “When granted an opportunity to secure better positioning for themselves in white domination, white women are willing to forsake or look past sexism and sexual assault- as we see with white women whom support Donald Trump, the Tea Party, NRA, and the Alt-Right.”

  • swbarnes2

    the first century version, where women were little more than objects, voiceless and largely defined by their relationships to the men in their lives.

    How much does this differ from the 21st century evangelical ideal, where women pass seamlessly from father’s care to husband’s care, and have a voice only within their proper Biblically mandated sphere, submissive to men?

    There can be no room in God’s church for gender violence of any kind.

    You say that, but for 2000 years, your saved, bathed in the blood of the Lamb, personal relationship with Jesus-having Christian communities full of people praying daily for divine discernment and guidance have thought that the status quo was a-okay.

    Are we open to a vision for masculinity that, like Jesus, honors, empowers, and advocates for women, even if it means losing power and control?

    Is this rhetorical?

    “In the church, sin inclines … women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.”

    “we affirm that God has designed men and women with distinct traits and to fulfill distinct roles…the wife is to respect and be submissive to her husband in all things lawful. In the church, qualified men alone are to lead as pastors/elders/bishops and preach to and teach the whole congregation. We further affirm that the image of God is expressed most fully and beautifully in human society when men and women walk in obedience to their God-ordained roles and serve according to their God-given gifts.”

    I’m sure you read those and think that tons of evangelicals are ready to jump on the secular bandwagon of equality, but most people reading that will conclude the opposite.

    The question is, can the church become that catalyst?

    No. Secular #MeToo was the catalyst. You had 2000 years to support equality, and 2000 years of earnest consultation with your God informed you not to do that. When you guys sing about wanting a new heart and a new world, no one thinks you really mean this. So make your moral foundation clear, and stick to your traditions.

  • I wasn’t endorsing the content of any given article; I was demonstrating that people are talking about toxic femininity. You said that nobody ever talked about that, and I demonstrated that was not the case.

    Emmett Till’s case is probably more about social concepts of race than social concepts about what it means to be a man or a woman. And, yes, absolutely, people who are white also abuse their power in selfish ways, and white people should be talking about that, discouraging it, and making ads challenging themselves to do better.

  • JohnM

    I originally had asked what we call it when women sin, then you provided a definition of “toxic femininity” that made women out to be the victims of it, now you have walked that back some, that much is commendable. This article, not hard to find either, walks it even further from your position:
    https://medium.com/s/powertrip/metoo-will-not-survive-unless-we-recognize-toxic-femininity-6e82704ee616

    You said “.. there is the matter of how much societal impact these relative issues have”, and the very article you chose to cite proposes that “toxic femininity” can have a fatal impact. True, it was not an article about toxic femininity but about the sins of white women, but clearly the author has a different take on the phrase than you do.

    I wondered why we weren’t talking about it and said I had never seen the term used – you are correct it is used. However, *only as a counterpoint to “toxic masculinity”,* and many of the articles on the subject also pose the rhetorical question; If we’re talking about TM why aren’t we talking about TF too? Of course, again, I don’t hold that we need to be talking about either. One brief quote from the medium article above: “Some women act abominably because some people act abominably.” Precisely. Same goes for some men. It seems there *are* honest feminists after all.

  • Larry28

    Democrats did themselves no favors by nominating a presidential candidate with a history of discrediting women who accused her husband of sexual misconduct. Neither major party has a right to claim virtue in this regard.

  • Larry28

    Good point. The folks who made the Gillette commercial didn’t do a sufficient job of pointing out that masculinity, in and of itself, is not toxic. And I say that as someone who was a victim of bullying as a child and a target of workplace bullying and gaslighting in two different jobs as an adult. Ironically, in one of those instances the workplace bullies were women.

    I would like to see the church discuss these matters, but I’m afraid parts of the church have forfeited their moral authority to do so.

  • Larry28

    The first person I ever recall describing Junia as an apostle was Rachel Held Evans, who unfortunately has embraced apostate views at odds with Scripture. I’m curious as to how Junia is now considered equivalent to the apostles, including Paul. Although perhaps that is a discussion for another time.

  • Barb

    Not buying that reason. But I wanted to hear a response from Tiny, since he claims our whole culture rejects all aspects of mistreating women and so is thereby insulted by a razor commercial. If that were the case a candidate that openly puts down women in many disgusting ways would not have been nominated by the party of “values “. You all had a whole list of candidates that didn’t do that but you chose the one who did.

  • Ron Swaren

    So, whatever happened to the scriptural warning against “The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life.”? Maybe exploring this on a deep level would answer some of the problem. I think much of this debate gets off track when certain elements in our society insist that women are categorically oppressed. What about the successful, powerful women in our culture—who as information technology and its assistance in economic activities becomes more pervasive— I think we are seeing ever more of? Christianity did make some changes—but most womens’ roles continued more or less the same all through the agrarian economy. And still does in pre-industrial cultures. However, we have had two major changes—the Industrial Revolution and now the Information Revolution. And in our society at least there are many women who have moved into very high levels.

    But on the lower levels, persons still have to take a lot of risk to make a living. And men take on high physical risk more readily. It is threatening to me that in doing work that has a high level of physical risk I am told by the PC crowd that a woman could do it just as well. However, they can and do go after vocations where information processing is critical. I could be wrong but I think that as long as there are people struggling to live, there will be people willing to assume a lot of risk. Usually men.

  • Chari McCauley

    Thus the “command”…I consider them instructions; obviously, The Father is not unaware that His kids will make mistakes….take not the name of The Father, nor His Son (The Lords) in vain.

    Father denied Moses entry BECAUSE Moses re-worded (PUT words into Father’s mouth) Father’s instructions, to the land Moses lead those people to claim.

    Don’t USE Them to do you dirty deeds; They WILL hold you accountable…
    I, also, try to treat Them the way I hope They will treat me. The Oldest Living Minds are my family, and neighbors, too…….

  • Chari McCauley

    You are correct “toxic behavior” is BAD for ALL the people involved; especially the children who watch the adults…at work….

    They will do what works for you who teach them. Do what you SAY? HUH, prove what you SAY, first!

    Though, I certainly understand the anger; toxic behavior from women (flipping the coin over; doing what the goose is “allowed to get away with”) is NOT teaching our sons balanced respect.

    Seeing boys as “special victims” of toxic behavior is NOT helping.

    NO PERSON has the right to rape ANY BODY, period!

    These were covered in The Ten Instructions for peace…written in stone.

    These instructions for peace are older than dirt!

    Whose right is it to cause pain? We get growing pains, we don’t need any extra intentions for it.
    Who, except the Oldest Living Rich Kid, VOLUNTEERS to be treated like crap for making any mistake? Why would you ever admit a mistake, long enough to find a remedy, if the mistake causes war, PAIN, intentionally inflicted pain by some mean spirit?

  • Tiny J

    Gillette makes a mistake in their advertising….I point out the mistake….and now I have to explain why Trump won the election? Did that make sense before you typed it? Are you even real? Why does everything taste like burnt pennies?

  • Chari McCauley

    However, it IS TOXIC BEHAVIOR for men to take advantage of power to inflict pain.
    Women are just a guilty, but often take the “I will hurt you, before you hurt me” stance.

    Come on! If you are willing to abuse ANYTHING, then EVERYTHING is fair game.

    You didn’t think boys wouldn’t become a target, if the power could get the women out of the way, first? Explain the “prison culture”, then; are you really going to try and tell me that ALL the rapes in prison are because the rapist was “gay”? What then, of the “hazing” in our colleges…of course we NEVER mention the male on male rapes that occur there; what would the neighbors think?!?

    Learn some ,military strategy, if you think you need to be a warrior; most kingdoms fall, because the internal people get pissed off! So….they betray their country….

    Kingdoms divided don’t last forever…..

    The Father is no Herod; His Son, Who He raised is no Herod! They earned Their place; They don’t NEED to be jealous or envious…They did earn ownership!

  • Chari McCauley

    as meal tickets to be used

    But, if the pacifyer you stick in their mouth to keep them from speaking is money, clothes, gifts, food…the same thing pimps use to entice young runaways with…why would you think they would never learn to use that?

    Same thing Satan (pride, hubris) does not understand; if you teach your methods to your victims, they might learn to wield them better than you do, or use them against you….?
    The bad guys and girls ALWAYS have to look over their shoulder. Who would they ever be able to trust, their whole life is screwing people over,…to think that NO ONE will seek revenge? Really?

    Is it the right way? No! However, there’s the human nature we were born with; people comply by force or threat, against their wishes, until an escape route is found. Compliance has nothing to do with loyalty or sincerity.

    Honestly, men have NO idea what they do to themselves and their sons when they kill a woman’s love; turn love into a duty.

  • swbarnes2

    And it needs men to be strong, and assertive, and level-headed, and rational, and willing to fight and to kill and to die if the time comes.

    And if a woman is strong, assertive and level-headed, she is an unnatural c*nt, right?

    And if a woman complains about being penalized for showing “masculine” virtues, she is an emotional b*tch and can safely be ignored.

  • Chari McCauley

    Words like boorishness, lechery, and cruelty, all expressions of depravity, serve well enough. Who, besides feminists, suggests those traits define masculinity?

    Victims, including boys, go to The Father with this pain EVERYDAY; and, the betrayal of people “it is our duty to trust”….

    Father hears it all, the guilty will NOT be left unaccountable. Even victims have to be re-educated. The Father KNOWS that!

  • Timothy J. Williams

    When I read the title of this article, I thought it was a spoof. Apparently not. The comic weirdness of Patheos continues…

  • Barb

    I saw a connection and I was just looking for your opinion. I explained my question below to Larry.

  • Barb

    Call Rachel Held Evans “apostate” is not a good way to enter a discussion here at Jesus Creed. Nevertheless you might want to Google “Scot McKnight and Junia”.

  • Tiny J

    Okay, I guess. Trump won because Hillary ran on a platform that involved abortion, restricting civil liberties, and keeping Obama’s failed policies in place. Trump won because too many people got screwed by the Obama administration and didn’t vote DNC this time around. Trump’s going to win reelection because the only political party that stands a chance is allowing its members to openly advocate for Marxism and infanticide. Trump wins because the so called level headed members of the DNC seem to have completely lost their minds and refuse to do their jobs. Trump is the broken clock that is right twice a day while his would-be opponents are the word “clok” written on the wall in crayon by a mentally disabled child.
    All of this is common knowledge. I don’t know why you still need it explained to you after almost 3 years. I don’t know what it has to do with my original point that our society doesn’t value “toxic masculinity” and most men would happily curb stomp people who display those behavior traits but can’t because it’s “assault”. How does Trump being the least worst option relate to a razor company accusing its customers of anti-social behavior?

  • Bill Davies

    I’d like to hear someone talk about toxic feminism. Why is it that men are the brunt of all that ails our society and to criticize feminism is off limits.
    I’m tired of the constant beratement for being born a man. Feminist has become every bit as toxic as they accuse men of and they’re attitude needs to be corrected.