Thursday, January 17, 2019

On Toxicity and Gender

You know the advertisement I'm referencing. We've all seen it, we've all seen the reactions to it, we've all argued about it. I'm not going to say much about that ad. 

What I will do is talk, briefly, about the concept of "toxic masculinity". Because I realize tempers are high and patience is short, I will list my thoughts as bullet points:
  • Toxic masculinity does exist, although it's nowhere near as pervasive nor as powerful as people think. 
  • Toxic femininity also exists, and in greater concentrations than people are willing to admit. I'm prepared to argue this, just not here and now. 
  • The existence of toxic masculinity does not mean that all masculinity is toxic and all men are abusers unless they prove otherwise. 
  • The existence of toxic femininity does not mean that all femininity is toxic and all women are manipulative unless they prove otherwise. 
  • Masculinity and femininity are gender expressions which exist outside of biological sex. It's not only possible to for a man to be very feminine or a woman to be very masculine, I guarantee that you've met at least one of them in your lifetime. 
  • So basically, "People can be toxic -- which ought to come as no surprise to anyone -- and how they express their toxicity is part of their gender expression."
What I find interesting is that this particular commercial came hot on the heels of the recently* released Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men by the American Psychological Association. This guideline is causing all sorts of consternation -- and rightly so, because it makes such proclamations as “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful” and "traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

In other words, the APA thinks that typical male behavior makes people sick.

I like to think that I have an unusual perspective on gender, since I have been on both sides of the equation. And speaking as someone who was raised male, and who tried and failed to fit in as a male, let me tell you: there's nothing inherently wrong with being male. I was miserable as a male, yes, but that's not the fault of masculinity any more than it would be the fault of my right shoe for hurting me when it's on my left foot. No, the problem is that my foot is in the wrong shoe and the solution is to move the shoe to the proper foot and not force the shoe to conform to my foot or force my foot to conform to the shoe. I moved the shoe to the proper foot by embracing my inner woman, and I'm happier now than I've been in decades.

Since I don't blame traditional gender expressions of maleness for my childhood unhappiness, I'm in total favor of allowing men to be as masculine as they like because I want people to be happy in their own skin instead of trying to be something they're not. 

Of course, I am also in total favor of allowing men to be as feminine as they like, too, for exactly the same reason. I am likewise in total favor of allowing women to be as masculine or as feminine as they like.

You see, when we as a society say "It's bad when a boy does X" or "Men should never do Y", when we focus on the sex of the actors instead of the actions themselves, we are allowing our fears and our prejudices to force people into gender-segregated roles. As a transwoman, I still struggle against people who believe that since I was born male, I should act male and who, given the opportunity, would gladly deprive me of my rights by having me declared mentally incompetent if I didn't go along with what they wanted.

I don't want that done to me, so I won't do it to others, and I will oppose those who attempt to force it upon others.

Remember: any law or social convention used against your opponents can be twisted to use against you when your ideology is no longer in power. 

Remember: always move towards greater freedom and away from greater regulation.

* More like "recently noticed". The APA manual came out in August 2018, but apparently it took social media four months to notice.

1 comment:

  1. "Remember: any law or social convention used against your opponents can be twisted to use against you when your ideology is no longer in power."

    That. Right there. It's a shame more people don't recognize that.


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