Are Men Being Trained Out of Their Masculinity?

Feminists are rooting out what they have deemed “toxic masculinity,” not by giving men a positive model of masculine virtue (chivalrous knights, dedicated husbands), but by neutering them until no masculinity exists in them at all.

The latest weapon in this war on “toxic masculinity” is a class called “Rethink Masculinity,” where men are invited “learn how social constructs of masculinity harm them and the people around them, and work to construct healthier masculinities.” The group’s website does not precisely define what exact kind of “healthier masculinities” they replace the toxic ones with.

One such male in attendance is Stephen Hicks, profiled by The Cut, who began taking the class after a relationship ended.

“My relationship ended, then a lot of things started collapsing in front of me,” Hicks says. The clue for exactly the kind of “healthier masculinities” one should expect to leave the class with is hinted at in what Hicks said next: “The bar is really lowered for cisgender guys.”

If a man walks away from a “toxic masculinity” class using social justice terms like “cisgender,” then it’s safe to assume that his instructors did a little snippety-snip in his nether regions while his head was turned.

“It was eight weeks of guys discussing how they can address their actions with better self-awareness and less toxicity,” Hicks continued. “We spoke of emotional labor, consent, violence, communication, empathy, and vulnerability.”

Vulnerability was difficult for Hicks to grasp because he was “trained and conditioned to be tough growing up.” More from The Cut:

The Rethink program is the latest in a growing number of courses targeted toward people who identify as men, including the Men’s Project at the University of Wisconsin, Masculinity 101 at Brown, and the Duke Men’s Project at Duke. The goal, proponents say, is to help men examine their own biases and behaviors in order to cut down on misogyny and gender-based violence.

There’s no doubt that the problems these classes aim to tackle are pervasive ones — a reality that’s been made especially, painfully clear in recent days and weeks, as the Harvey Weinstein revelations have pushed discussions of sexual assault and harassment to the forefront. But can a class really be enough to chip away at something so deeply entrenched?

Eric Mankowski, associate chair of the psychology department at Portland State University and head of the school’s Gender and Violence Intervention Research Team, has been seeking to curtail “toxic masculinity” for 25 years with his course “Psychology of Men and Masculinities,” which he says seeks to “deconstruct how masculinity is socialized as a performative mask rather than a biological imperative.”

“It’s a promising approach,” Mankowski says of the new class, “but we don’t know whether they prevent sexual violence. Some studies show promising effects on attitudes and behavior intentions, but a single class is unlikely to undo years of socialization in toxic masculinity.”

“We’ve spent many years addressing survivors and victim behavior, but ethically, and in terms of efficacy, that’s incomplete,” he adds. “We have to address the roots.” And while course evaluations show that his students typically absorb what he teaches, Mankowski notes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the class is making a real-world difference: “It may change beliefs about gender,” he says, “but does it change behavior?”

Hicks certainly feels his behavior has changed and that he has “been more deliberate about expressing emotions and making space for people.”

“You won’t be transformed by a ten-week class, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And ten weeks is better than no weeks,” Mankowski says. “The key is continued examination. You will have a difficult time maintaining anything unless you continue working on it.”

Both Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh, not to mention myself, have issued constructive responses to this so-called “War on Toxic Masculinity.” The prevailing theme amongst us: masculinity is a powerful force that must be harnessed correctly towards noble goals like marriage, family, country, God, Truth, and beauty.

Ironically, the same feminists who decry this culture of “toxic masculinity” simultaneously denounce their remedies as patriarchal conspiracies that oppress women. If Christianity teaches men to grow up, take responsibility for their actions, and seek monogamy with one woman for as long as they both shall live, then feminists teach women to avoid such men for fear of succumbing to the patriarchy.


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