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Is Toxic Masculinity A Real Thing?

Excessive testosterone was blamed for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  Such was the recent comment of a Jerusalem Post reader who used the latest term of “toxic masculinity” in order to define the personality defect which is responsible for the unthinkable carnage which is currently taking place in that part of the world.

As someone not medically qualified to address the issue of testosterone levels in males, I deferred to a quick Google search, revealing that “in males, high testosterone is most frequently due to anabolic steroid use or testosterone supplementation.” (Medicalnewstoday.com, What are the signs of high testosterone? May 27, 2020)

That means that, in most cases, an excessive level of testosterone is self-imposed and not an inborn trait which is attributed to the male gender.

The JPost writer further goes on to suggest that what Russia needs is a female president or at least a man who is normal.  But what is normal for a man? Today’s woke generation seems convinced that “toxic masculinity” is a widespread malady which every boy inherits and which needs to be rejected in order to make them “normal.”

The claim, per medical data, is actually fraudulent but acts as a prospective argument for the emasculation of men in today’s global society.  But, nonetheless, it is the reason we are seeing the traditional masculine stereotype replaced by the new “pajama boy” image dressed in a onesie outfit, sipping hot cocoa.

As one of many mothers who have raised sons, probably a great number of us would agree that toxic masculinity, if there is such a thing, is really another term for an out-of-control boy who has not been properly disciplined, educated or nurtured by his parents in order to respect boundaries, people and the rights of others, all of which are central values for those who have been tasked with child-rearing to transfer onto their offspring.

Probably every parent knows that excessive aggressive behavior in boys, as well as girls, is generally not a function of too much testosterone levels but rather bad parenting or absentee parenting.  It usually testifies to the fact that a child’s inappropriate behavior has not been recognized, challenged or held to accountability.  The end result of that is almost always aggressive and inappropriate behavior carried through to adulthood.

But is it fair to blame the behavior of all aggressive men on a condition called “toxic masculinity?” If so, shouldn’t the aggressive behavior of girls or women, likewise, be labeled “toxic femininity?”

The Urban dictionary defines “toxic masculinity” as:

  • Interactions between men and women always having to be competitive and not cooperative;
  • Men never truly understanding women and that men and women can never just be friends;
  • That real men need to be strong and that showing emotion is a sign of weakness…unless it’s anger which is considered okay;
  • The idea that men could never be single parents or be very interactive in their child’s learning and development;
  • The idea that any interest in a range of things that are strictly considered feminine would be an emasculation of a guy.

Oddly enough, all of the above notions seem to have been developed over the past generation and have been widely promoted to justify the need for men to dramatically change their general makeup, emotional response and level of involvement as it concerns the amount of input they contribute to the overall outcome of their children.

Instead of using novel definitions in order to further a specific agenda of making men less dominant, it might be helpful to explore how good parenting can defeat aggressive behavior and produce loving, caring, sympathetic and thoughtful men in particular, as well as women who, by the way, are just as capable of displaying levels of aggression that would cause many men to blush. (Have you ever watched Real Housewives?)

Setting boundaries at the earliest age must be the first course of action in order to avoid any toxic behavior.  Failure to do so will send a message to the child that they get to decide what is accepted. Parents must never forget that they control behavior, because they are the adults who know better, have lived longer and are, therefore, tasked with molding the habits and temperament of the children who will either show respect to others or bring a level of shame to those who obviously shirked their responsibility.

In Putin’s case, most accounts seem to indicate that he was terribly neglected at a young age which likely means that proper discipline, respect and regard were absent in his upbringing. One writer says that kindness and affection were definitely not part of Putin’s world, and there is no question that the constant bullying he experienced contributed to his later aggressive behavior and toughness which, undoubtedly, adversely affected every subsequent decision and relationship.  Could he have avoided becoming the brutal dictator we see today? Unquestionably, but it would have demanded a great deal of personal reflection, professional counseling and behavior modification, all of which he obviously rejected as deterrents to his specific goals.

While Putin is more of the rare exception, men today have been very much conditioned to tone it way down for fear of being accused of sexual harassment, dominance or other behaviors deemed to be too threatening to females.  But has it been accurate or even justified to cause men to believe that by being silent, overly gentle or subjected to women will help rid them of the dreaded toxic masculinity label which looms over them anytime they step out of line?

The truth is that all humanity – whether male or female is subject to bad, selfish and inconsiderate behavior.  As fallen creatures, we are all in jeopardy of displaying an ugly and base side of ourselves if we do not take personal responsibility for how we treat others as well as how we function in society as a whole. To the extent that we see others as expendable or a means to achieving our desired end, all of us will emit toxic behavior which has nothing to do with our gender but everything to do with our defective emotional and spiritual state.

Isn’t it time that we stood up like grown, responsible individuals who are willing to be accountable for our bad behavior, whether or not it stems from improper parenting or from our own self-absorbed needs?  To redefine bad behavior is simply a poor attempt to shift blame, control others and ignore the biggest fact of all.  We are the problem!  But we can also be the solution.

There are many ways to identify and modify aggressive tendencies, but it must first begin with the admission that we are human and highly flawed.  Once that is acknowledged, the toxicity of our actions will be manageable, whether by counseling, self-control or personal accountability to our Creator.

Each one of us is toxic, but there’s a better and more honest way out of the dilemma other than finding a modern accommodation for our human condition through the Urban Dictionary.

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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