People are People

The cover article in this month’s edition of Harper’s, “Manhood in the Age of #MeToo,” stimulated more than a little interest when I got it out of the mailbox. In it, Barrett Swanson attends an Evryman retreat to test whether or not there is a masculine cure for toxic masculinity.

The article presents moments from the men’s movement from Robert Bly’s Iron John to the present, and does its best to reckon with the American Psychological Association’s decree that “traditional masculinity” was toxic, and that it should be treated as such by counselors. Swanson’s article invites the conclusion that an Evryman weekend resembles a visit to the tenth circle of hell. But it offers one insightful assessment of gender studies: “Keen ironists will note that when biological factors such as testosterone are pegged as the locus of toxic masculinity, the argument relies on the same sort of essentialism that gets invoked by chauvinists who claim that women are biologically determined to be more emotional or diffident.”

Studies of masculinity and femininity beget all sorts of questions about whether male and female behaviors are innate, learned, or both. The larger issue for me involves this: why associate toxicity with masculinity? Aggression and stoicism have a rightful place in the pantheon of human activities; so do nurturing and open emotion. Too much of any of those can seem toxic.

What would happen if we tried to separate evaluations of a person’s actions from that person’s gender? People are people, right? Can we accurately judge a person’s accomplishments (or mistakes) by using gender as context rather than explanation?

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4 Responses to People are People

  1. Gracie Rowland says:

    The term “toxic masculinity” is widely misused, and is consequently viewed as a radical idea that has no hold on truth. However, toxic masculinity does indeed exist, just as toxic femininity exists. The reason that toxic masculinity is discussed more is because its effects are often much more serious.

    Toxic femininity often entails diet culture, pitting women against other women, finding self-worth in beauty, and internalized misogyny.

    Toxic masculinity often entails encouraging men to suppress their emotions, to “man up”, and to be hyper-masculine even if it isn’t their personality. Oftentimes the only emotion that is deemed acceptable is anger, because sadness and melancholy are seen as “weak” or “gay”. This can often lead to violence, as illustrated by the countless studies surrounding the issue. For example, 92.9% of prison inmates in the US as of October 19, 2019 are men. (https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_gender.jsp) The gender disparage is indicative of the culture of violence that is widely prevalent.

    Statistically, men are culpable for the large majority of violent crimes. “Since 1982, an astonishing 111 mass shootings have been carried out in the United States by male shooters. In contrast, only three mass shootings (defined by the source as a single attack in a public place in which four or more victims were killed) have been carried out by women.”(https://www.statista.com/statistics/476445/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-gender/)

    Toxic masculinity can have dire effects. According to Forbes, ” In just about every country, men commit suicide more frequently than women, which is intriguing since women typically have higher (at least, reported) rates of mental health disorders like depression. ” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/09/24/the-gender-inequality-of-suicide-why-are-men-at-such-high-risk/#eb0f2da3ba87) Seeking helping and employing emotional vulnerability is in no way a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.

    People are definitely people, but there is also a definite correlation between unhealthy and problematic behavior and designated gender.

  2. Ebenezer Scrooge says:

    It is true that people are people and should be judged on an individual basis, but overall correlations do tend to come with gender. However, these correlations are minute in everyday life. For instance, most people would agree that men tend to be more aggressive, but not very often do boys, on an individual basis, actually wail on each other in the hallways. Although it might be true that the majority of school fights are performed by boys it can not be said with complete certainty that any one male student is more likely to get into a fight than any one female student. This is why broad overarching terms like “toxic masculinity” are so toxic. These type of trends are only useful to someone who doesn’t know any other aspect about the person in question. There are almost always better indications to determine how a person will react in a situation than gender.

  3. William Shy says:

    If we eliminate gender from our judgement of people, I think we get closer to accurate opinions of people than if we simply throw them into a large category based on gender. It is true that many behaviors and thoughts are correlated with gender, but if we view people on an individual level and not simply based on gender, we will get a more personalized opinion of them. People should be judged on their actions, not their gender. If they happen to conform to expectations based on gender, then whatever, but their entire character should not be judged on merely their gender.

  4. Bob says:

    I firmly believe that eliminating gender from people judgement would benefit society for the good. So many times people’s individuality and skills are overlooked based on gender. This is what happens when we generalize people-they stop being unique. Therefore, eliminating judgement by gender would help us get a more intimate opinion of a person, judging them based on themself, not their gender. Nobody should be judged solely off of their gender.

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