June 20, 2019 by Sean Grossman 1 comments
Something that has been on my mind recently has been the word toxic. As a white male, I suspect this makes sense to a lot of people. It’s been a common theme running in current popular culture to describe and root out toxic masculinity. I think I know what that looks like, and I think there is a need to address the issues being brought up. However, I think the majority of cultural celebrities and others who talk about what is “toxic” are doing it poorly for a number of reasons.
First: It leads to unnecessary guilt for men. They begin to feel bad just because they are men. It doesn’t matter if they are toxic, or if they are good, in the end the way it’s expressed is against all masculinity and, by nature of the discussion, all men. Because of this it paints broad strokes that covers all men and thereby causes all men to feel a sense of guilt. Should all men feel guilty because there are other men who are toxic? I would argue, no. For my masculinity, or in who I am as a man, should not be decided based upon what others do, but on my own actions. If I am guilty, it should only be because I am the one who has failed. No other man should bear the burden of guilt for my actions; neither should I bear the guilt for theirs. Yet, the way it is framed causes all men to be put into the same box, which leads to serious psychological and sociological problems for men (See statistics for substance abuse, imprisonment, and suicide and men top the list).
Second: The toxic focus is only on one gender. I find this fascinating. In a world where “masculinity” and “femininity” have little meaning in regards to gender, at the same time only men are portrayed as being toxic. In the discussion on toxic masculinity, it is never a woman who is projected as being toxic in her masculinity. It is never the failures of women who are discussed, only men.
To me this shows the inconsistency in many of the gender arguments. If a woman can be masculine, then isn’t it just as possible that she can suffer from toxic masculinity? If so, then women should be portrayed as being causes of toxic masculinity as men are. Yet, when discussed it is only portrayed as men acting in these ways, but that would be inconsistent with those who claim women can be masculine and men can be feminine. Maybe there is a better way than this? To me the solution is simply whatever a woman does is feminine and whatever a man does is masculine and those things can cross over at times, but that just makes sense to me.
Third: Being toxic is a human problem not a gender problem. Simply put, humans, whether male or female, are completely capable of being toxic in their own ways. As a Christian I believe the reason for this is sin. We are far more easily led into living lifestyles found in Romans 1 than we care to admit. We are far more willing to hurt others, and cause sorrow around us, than we care to admit. We are far more able and willing to destructive habits than we care to admit.
Unfortunately for many the solution has been a type of worldly morality that has no real basis, a type of genderless society. A world which is more similar to CS Lewis’ description in The Pilgrim’s Regress, when John encounters men and women who are enlightened but when it comes to appearances and lifestyles they are the exact same. The women look like men, and the men look like women.
I would say this isn’t the best solution. Becoming a genderless society isn’t the best way. I would say, the best thing to do to deal with any kind of toxicity in lifestyles is to seek to imitate Christ, by encouraging men and women to treat others with dignity, charity, kindness, patience, understanding, and love. To call out sin as sin and seek to overcome our toxic natures by God’s great grace. In other words, the best way to combat these things is to proclaim the Gospel and show how Christianity deals with all of reality, it is total truth as both Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey would say.
Thankfully for both men and women, Christ redeems all the broken places within each gender. Neither gender is outside the boundaries of His grace. But if we want men to act better, or women, then there needs to be a stronger foundation than, “We just want them to be better.” God is the ultimate foundation for morality and ethics, there is no other foundation which works.
So, I am not against calling out toxic people. I am not against saying, “What you are doing is toxic.” I’m not against dealing with the fact that men commit particular toxic acts compared to women. I’m even fine with focusing on those things particularly. I will gladly join those who want to fight against injustice against women, or injustice against men.
My concern is that we can’t just focus on one gender as though only one gender is causing all the world’s problems. Nor can we paint too broad of strokes by how we discuss these issues because not all men are at fault. Nor can we leave people foundationless. Finally, there needs to be recognition that sin causes the world’s problems, and all genders commit sin. Thus to fix the sin problem, the true root of the problem, is to look to Christ alone. Men need Christ. Women need Christ. Thank God Christ has come.
Soli Deo Gloria,
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