Quick Hit: Nontoxic masculinity

Much like markers, masculinity comes in the toxic and the nontoxic variety. Pointing out that fact is enough to enrage some guys into a lather — the idea that toxic masculinity exists as a contrast to the regular kind, that the adjective “toxic” designates a specific kind of masculinity and isn’t a descriptor for masculinity in general, completely passes them by. It could be that, like many users of nontoxic markers, they haven’t yet mastered reading for comprehension and the distinction is beyond them. Or it could be that they’re being willfully obtuse because it’s a free country and they can lick the laundry markers if they want (#notallmarkers) and feminists are man-hating poopyheads.

At KatyKatiKate, Katie (does that qualify as eponymous?) explains the concept, symptoms, and dangers of toxic masculinity. And she provides real-life and fictional examples of the non-toxic variety, ranging from the strong and physically imposing (Terry Crews, Captain America) to the artistic and less imposing (Lin-Manuel Miranda, three out of the five Queer Eye guys, the other two of whom are also artistic but relatively more imposing*).

Nontoxic Masculinity:

Toxic masculinity feels like it’s everywhere – on the bus, on your Twitter, on the news, in your kids’ cartoons, at the dinner table, at the g-d climbing gym for rockin’ tots.

We spend a lot of time trying to identify toxic masculinity out loud, because we’re praying that awareness will make a difference. We hope that awareness is the problem. We hope that all you need is a heads-up.

That you could be aware and willfully poisoning the air we breathe is not an alternative that we want to consider, not when you’re our fathers, friends, and sons.

So we say, sometimes gently, sometimes furiously, “LOOK! Right there! There it is! The thing that we keep talking about that hurts everyone and is the root of so many devastating wounds!”

We spend a lot of time identifying what toxic masculinity looks, sounds, and feels like. And let me tell you, it’s SUPER rewarding and SO MUCH FUN!

As another Terry Crews example, I present his love for clutch purses, which was inspired by his wife and his own desire for accoutrement-carrying independence.

Confidence In His Masculinity Level: Expert.

*It’s hardly an either/or thing. Just ask The Boy, who’s a solidly built 6’2″ and was a ballet major in college. And who, a few days ago, wouldn’t get out of his chair for a good half-hour because our rat terrier was asleep on his chest.


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2 comments for “Quick Hit: Nontoxic masculinity

  1. FosterW
    March 31, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    “It could be that, like many users of nontoxic markers, they haven’t yet mastered reading for comprehension and the distinction is beyond them.”

    Or, alternatively, it could be that “non-toxic masculinity” simply doesn’t denote anyhting that is readily applicable to the concept of masculinity held by most people, which, in turn, would re-equate toxic masculinity with masculinity.

    I think there is a pretty simple distinction: a bully is toxically masculine, the guy who stands up to the bully, ideally defeating him, is non-toxically masculine, he may use or not use force to defeat the bully, but his strength is the mere opposition. Non-toxic masculinity is also easily identifiable by female attraction.

    Also note how this debate is reducing masculinity to visual features, which, in turn, leads to the same kind of physical objectification that feminists complain about with respect to femininity being primarily defined by optics and motherhood.

    • April 2, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      1. The comment about reading comprehension is specifically about the guys who, when you explain the difference between toxic and non-toxic masculinity, get their back up and act like you’re criticizing all masculinity even though you just finished specifying that you aren’t.

      2. I definitely don’t think the “non-toxic” nature is identifiable by female attraction. A lot of guys who are gentler in nature or interested in more artistic things are criticized as “unmanly” because of it, as are guys who aren’t willing to start a bar brawl to defend a woman’s honor.

      3. I think this post and Katie’s post show how masculinity isn’t limited to physical features. Her examples include men who are big and strong, like Terry Crews and Captain America, and who are less so, like Lin-Manuel Miranda and most of the Queer Eye guys. Regardless of their physical features, they still display traits commonly associated with masculinity without being toxic about it. (And Captain America, while fictional, is definitely an example of the guy who non-toxically stands up to the bully.)

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