Lance Scranton: Toxic masculinity?
The movement in the social sciences to define masculinity as toxic has taken on some pretty interesting nuances, especially in light of the number of claims of sexual harassment popping up in the news seemingly every day. The role societal norms play in the development of boys and young men is a critical responsibility for parents, educators and people in the community.
Personal responsibility should always be at the center of any behavior deemed inappropriate and unwarranted. Social scientists seem to believe that just living in American or European society leads to detrimental psychological and social attitudes among men. Is it fair to paint every young man with the brush of toxicity in a culture that has spent most of the past 50 years upending the definition of manhood and the role of men and women in society?
I spent most of my childhood being told that girls are special, should be treated as such and are unique in their contributions to the world. Perhaps it was a little old-fashioned, but I always thought it was important to protect the dignity of the opposite sex and that men who took advantage of their physical stature and mistreated women were to be held accountable for their actions.
I was surrounded by both women and men who were strong role models, and, while I certainly understood that we were different, physically, the culture was teaching me that it should make little difference with respect to career opportunities.
But, somewhere along the way, things changed; the idea of chivalry and protecting the “fairer” sex went out of fashion, and the term male chauvinist pig was used to describe many men who believed they were doing their best to be respectful to women. Suddenly, we were anti-feminist and bigoted in a world where many women demanded to be treated exactly like men. It was confusing and difficult as men of my generation waded through the mixed messages of the popular culture.
Regardless, most of us managed to figure things out and get by while still trying to understand the complicated relationships between men and women. If men in
Congress and Hollywood need training in the correct way to treat others — and it appears they do — then we have failed to incorporate the simplest standard of decency into the minds and attitudes of our culture. A societal norm that sends a message that it’s OK to mistreat anyone, regardless of their gender, seems to me to be a failure of our culture and has little to do with toxic masculinity.
Perhaps we need men to start acting like men again instead of misdirected, perpetual adolescents. If that happened, maybe some of these issues would be solved rather quickly.
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.