We all know there is a well-funded industry of toxic masculinity (with full backing from the APA, a low for psychology in America). As toxic masculinity appears in publicity campaigns and the media and marches for social justice, guilt ridden men come out of nowhere chanting: "YES WE'RE TOXIC." Nothing better to advance the cause than a man professing mea culpa at his own masculinity.
A recent advocate is Mark Manson, a self-help author, who loves to use the word F*CK in his book titles. Manson merely reechoes hackneyed points in the theory.
First, take a bombastic enough prototype to represent the species. And who's better than Pablo Escobar Gaviria?
... [Escobar] slaughtered judges, paid off entire prison staffs, flew in the best soccer players in the world to play with him on his ranch, and leading up to his demise, wrought full-blown urban warfare in the streets of Medellin, killing almost 500 police officers in the process.Manson recognizes that Escobar is a sociopath. This is odd, because a sociopath is as representative of the class "men" as Jeffrey Dahmer is representative of the class "nerds."
Never mind, Manson enthusiastically plows on. He speedily moves from ethnic narrative into crime statistics:
Men perpetrate over 76% of the violent crime in the US. Men are 10 times more likely to commit murder and nine times more likely than women to end up in prison. Men commit 99% of the reported rapes and sexual assaults. And boys perpetrate 95% of the violent crimes at the juvenile level.This is a favorite mantra/point of toxic masculinity theorists. The point?
men have a propensity for violent crimes, thus masculinity is toxic.
Not so fast.
Let's see: In 2016, 1.2 million violent crimes were committed in the US. Suppose 76% of those were committed by men. That means 912,000 men committed violent crimes in 2016. The 2010 census has 151 million men living in the USA. 912,000 is about 6% of the whole male population.
If you feel inclined (based on these numbers) to make a statement about men in general, you are taking the part for the whole (that my toe hurts doesn't mean that my foot hurts; that 24% of men in America die of heart disease every year doesn't imply that men have weak hearts).
Let's put it in the context of set theory: The class of MEN has a subclass of VIOLENT MEN, and that subclass has yet another subclass of VIOLENT CRIMINALS. So, there are violent men who are not –and will never be– criminals, and men who are not –and will never be– violent.
Making the set of VIOLENT CRIMINALS representative of the set MEN is pure bunk.
Typical Manson throws anything gluey at the wall hoping it sticks. Next, he presents a "Brief History of Male Violence":
Human history is rife with competition and violence. There has pretty much never been a point in human evolution that we weren’t killing each other in one way or another.So, evolution is the theater of men killing each other? What nonsense!
Evolution is a natural process comprising a plethora of things, not to mention that by stressing the horrors of men at the expense of their achievements, Manson shows sampling bias.
Men have killed plenty, no doubt. But men also hunted for food, contributed to technological advancements, enacted legal codes, designed buildings and works of art, wrote tragedies and poetry, farmed the land, engaged in commerce, enjoyed sports, made love, had children and loved their families.
When Aristotle talks about virtues (circa Fourth Century BC) he's not thinking about masculinity or femininity. In the end it's about phronesis, a sort of wisdom men and women cultivate by practicing the routine of self-governance. The philosopher discusses practical virtues by presenting a careful scalar gradation of excess, balance and defect:
Courage (needed in times of war, which is 24/7 in ancient times), temperance (between insensibility and licentiousness), right ambition, high mindedness (between vanity and pusillanimity), good temper, civility, modesty (yes, between bashfulness and shamelessness) and right indignation (between callousness and spitefulness).Aristotle's phronesis proves that ancient societies built moral safeguards in order to normalize human coexistence. There's neither intrinsic, nor extrinsic human fault here. We did what we were supposed to do.
Manson's idea of masculinity has to suppress these subtle gradations that make men REAL MEN. No wonder he counsels his readers with this babbling:
Why are men such dicks? Even the word itself, “dick,” the male sex organ, refers to someone who is being rude and offensive. Why us? Why men? Is it in our biology? Did we evolve this way? Or is there some broader cultural force at work?No comment.
So, are men supposed to give up masculinity? Suppose you say, NO, it's the TOXIC part that needs to go. You mean gratuitous VIOLENCE? Then why is Mason's message so asinine?
The toxic part is not violence (not if you defend your family from arbitrary injustice) but GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE. And men that pursue gratuitous violence are evil. Why not address gratuitous violence in particular individual men?
Uh uh! That would make TOXICITY so feeble as to become superfluous. Masculinity is not the problem. The problem is human fallibility.
THERE IS NOTHING MASCULINE ABOUT TOXIC VIOLENCE.
VIOLENT CRIMINAL MEN DO NOT REPRESENT THEIR KIND.