With all the examples of toxic masculinity in the news, I feel the need for some antidotal anecdotes.
It’s been gruelling. Last week, a young man went to his highschool in Texas and shot and killed the young woman who’d rejected his advances, as well as seven other students and two teachers. Last month, a troubled young man, a self-identified “incel,” drove a van through pedestrians along a mile stretch of a busy street in downtown Toronto motivated, apparently, by anger at women and sexual frustration.
In the wake of these events, I keep running into the complaint—apparently popular in MRA (men’s rights) and incel (“involuntary celibate”) circles and endorsed, at least in part, by rhetoricians like the increasingly-noisy Jordan Peterson—that women liberated to choose their own sexual and romantic partners inevitably gravitate to a small number of “high-status” or “high-value” men (alphas or “Chads”), leaving a paucity of partners for the increasingly frustrated and purposeless remaining “low-status” or “low-value” men (betas). The blame for this is laid squarely on women, who are often implied to be shallow or selfish in their selections.
Ironically, parallel to this discussion we have the continued impact of the #metoo movement–a movement which has unleashed a flood of accusations of sexual misconduct and exploitation on the part of what I highly suspect would be considered “high-value” men. If this is supposed female “non-monogamy” and “preference for high-status men,” women seem pretty unhappy about it.
Are these our options? Self-pitying “betas” dreaming of sex dolls in their basement apartments, and egotistical “alphas” leveraging power for sex? Toxic masculinity at the top of the rat heap and toxic masculinity embittered at the bottom?
If I thought those were the only choices, I might despair of mankind.
But I know those aren’t the only choices.
A “toxin” is a poison–toxic masculinity is a poisonous set of ideas of what it is to be a man. We need stories of ordinary, decent men as an antidote and a prophylaxis. We need something to invigorate men struggling to find purpose and direction.
To oppose toxic masculinity, we need a “tonic masculinity.”
Father’s Day is in four weeks. So what if I do something ambitious. What if I write four weeks worth of daily blogposts about ordinary men who enrich our lives?
Not “high-value” men. Not guys who are successful in material measures or have any great degree of social “status.” Not “alphas.” Not the extraordinary men who make headlines, or the extraordinarily awful men who make even more headlines.
Just…decent, everyday, salt of the earth, getting on with their lives men, the men who make the world a little safer, a little better, a little more stable and a little bit brighter for the people around them.
It would be easy to despair, if you thought Reddit and Twitter were representative of mankind. And I think perhaps it is true that young men do despair when they find themselves rudderless, lacking models for a life lead standing upright and without shame.
My awareness and knowledge of so many good men, decent men, men whose lives have a boots-on-the-ground level of purpose and meaning in even the most quotidian interactions, is a sort of privilege. I’ve been surrounded by such men my entire life.
So tomorrow, I think I will begin by profiling a couple of the ordinary men who shaped my family and world with their choices.
Over the following four weeks, leading up to Father’s Day, I will endeavor at least a brief sketch of one decent, ordinary, admirable man each day.
If any readers would like to nominate someone, please leave me a comment or contact me via my public Facebook page. Tell me who you would like me to post about and how they offer a model of functional, “tonic” masculinity and purpose.
And check in tomorrow for the first instalment of Profiles in Masculinity!