Today, I read an article by Jaclyn Friedman about how the misunderstanding of what “masculine” means is a big factor behind rape. The catalyst for this article is an incident that happened last summer when “…two young football players in the Ohio town of Steubenville carried the unconscious body of a local girl from party to party, violating her in ways you’d probably prefer not to think about.”
Friedman then identifies the core issue as one of “toxic masculinity” and supports her statement by using events surrounding the investigation into this horrible tragedy. And, you know what? I agree with her on that. For the most part, we have the idea of “masculine” very wrong. But her approach to correcting the issue is either dead wrong at worst, or incomplete at best.
She defines Toxic Masculinity as follows:
It’s a masculinity that defines itself not only in opposition to female-ness, but as inherently superior, drawing its strength from dominance over women’s “weakness,” and creating men who are happy to deliberately undermine women’s power; it is only in opposition to female vulnerability that it can be strong
I think that we all agree that this is not what true masculinity is supposed to be. Regardless of your view on gender roles, or even Christianity, we can all agree that this is just wrong. But it’s how we fix the problem that is the issue here.
Friedman suggests a couple things:
It’s time for a serious intervention in masculinity. It’s not enough to not be a rapist. You don’t get a cookie or a Nobel Peace Prize for that. If we want to end the pandemic of rape, it’s going to require an entire global movement of men who are willing to do the hard work required to unpack and interrogate the ideas of masculinity they were raised with, and to create and model new masculinities that don’t enable misogyny. Masculinities built not on power over women, but on power with women.
Taking action can be as simple as men publicly owning their preference for “female” coded things, whether that’s child-rearing, nonviolence, feminism, or anything else—and being willing to suffer the social consequences.
I think we can all agree that misogyny, the hatred of women, is wrong. What we define as hatred may be a different story though. To keep this simple, women have the same dignity, value, and worth as men, regardless of their role or function within the home, church, etc. The definition of “hatred” I’m working from in this context is “anything that intentionally violates this intrinsic dignity, value, and worth.”
The problem is that the solution isn’t a simple one. It isn’t enough for men to simply “own” that they like reading instead of football or that they prefer talking things out instead of getting into fist fights. Real men do need to step up and stop putting up with this crap from “boys who can shave,” and definitely need to stop PROTECTING them for the sake of a sport! Getting the communities that surround tragedies like these is important, and crucial! But it can’t stop there.
Peer pressure won’t solve the problem
Peer pressure will only create a new kind of hatred. A hatred of those who are currently being hateful, or those who exhibit “toxic masculinity.”