Here is an excerpt from a powerful blog post about toxic masculinity. Enjoy the full read at the link-back below.
Unlike the maleness of a body, manhood is a standard that defines and measures the man, as a status to be deserved, achieved, and conferred. And because we cannot confer it on ourselves, we must look to other men to see if we qualify or not. And all it takes to be unmanned is for some men to decide that you’re a pussy or a girl or a queer or a fag or their bitch. And then, until you find some men willing to recognize your manhood, you are not a man.
But there is more, because manhood, unlike the body, is only an idea, which means that, outside our imagination, it does not exist.
Only an idea, and yet, a powerful one, the foundation on which patriarchy and male privilege are built, its purpose to distinguish the man not from the boy, but from the woman. To make real the fiction that ‘men’ are fundamentally different from and superior to ‘women,’ that men are smarter and stronger and braver and more of anything else that matters, elevating them above the woman and her womanhood.***
Manhood is the roadmap for what a man is supposed to be and how he is to live, inside and out, and what holds it all together is an obsession with control by which men must never appear weak or vulnerable or otherwise not in command.
A real man is one who knows, who decides, who makes things happen. He is expected to be tough and logical, dispassionate and detached, decisive and never wrong. He never quits or backs down or admits to doubt. And he does not display, or even feel, any emotion that might interfere with that impression.
And if violence is needed as an ultimate instrument of control—whether to keep ‘his woman’ from leaving him or get the football across the line or control another country—the capacity for violence becomes manhood’s ultimate test.
Every man knows what it’s like to have his manhood put at risk, how quickly it can happen, how impossible to see it coming, this occasion for shame and humiliation—all the ways to get it wrong, not have the answer, a show of doubt or fear or tenderness, a lack of toughness, a display of tears, being accountable to a woman.
Any situation, no matter how small, can become a test of manhood, with control or the lack of it always at the center, making a lens through which everything appears as an object of control.
But an object is a thing, and a thing has no feelings, no inner life to imagine. An object does not invite empathy, or compassion.
It is here that the man and his manhood separate from the human being.
Because the absence of empathy and compassion is the bedrock of an indifference that makes cruelty and violence possible, by contradicting the core of what it means, and what enables us to be, human beings.
It is why appeals to our ‘humanity,’ to be ‘humane,’ are never made in terms of manning up. To be human calls upon the very qualities that manhood would discourage, if not deny, in any man worthy of the name.