Toxic Masculinity of Wolves and Men?

By Scott Keith

“Traditionally, masculinity is what stands between the innocent and the wolves.” – Ben Shapiro

Well, I’m back. You can call me Pappy or call me Cantankerous. At this point it doesn’t matter. What I am today is mad, outraged, and oddly—at least for me—a little sad. The Gillette commentary on masculinity which was closely followed by Harry’s not-so-subtle jumping on the bandwagon has pushed me over the edge. I didn’t want to be the Cantankerous Critic, but apparently someone needs to be.

What is a man to do when his preferred razor company tells him he is toxic? Well, unlike Gillette and Harry’s (the Harry’s ad has since been taken down – ED), I refuse to tell you how to act even if it might be “for your own good.” I will not tell you to boycott. I will not ask you to write a comment, review, or blog. I will not tell you to stop shaving, though more men with beards wouldn’t be a horrible thing. I think all we can do at times like this is think, be discerning, and call out bullshit when we see it. And let’s be clear: both the advertisements are a load of misplaced bullshit.

To my way of thinking, there are at least two deeply seated errors with both advertisements. First, both assume that all masculinity ought to be labeled as toxic and therefore identified as negative and harmful. This is evident from the examples given. If a man fights, it is always toxic, never mind that men fighting have kept us free in this country for going on 243 years. Taking charge in a group of people is harmful, never mind that men taking charge, sometimes even when they didn’t want to, built this nation. Allowing boys to be boys instead of acting like little girls is harmful, even though stopping our boys from being boys is having devastating consequences on them, not least of which are considerable failures in school, the workplace, and social life. This is evidenced by the ever-increasing feelings of loneliness and despair reported in young men, which is in turn evidenced by a skyrocketing suicide rate among them.

Can masculinity be toxic? Perhaps. But if so, it can be toxic in the same way any human trait can be toxic if taken to absurdity. In this sense, an excess of femininity can undoubtedly be toxic, as could an excess of compassion and so on. Many of the examples of masculine toxicity provided in these advertisements can, and do, swing both ways. Has a woman never spoken for a man publicly or corrected him in front of his peers? I suspect most married men would say this is a common occurrence. “Mansplaining,” (as depicted in the Gillette advertisement) is perhaps misplaced and even personally embarrassing or offensive, but is it toxic?

Second, the direct inference of both ads is that identifiers, such as strong, competent, bold, etc., which once were used to describe what it means to be a man need to be replaced. With which identifiers ought they be replaced? Well, with those that have historically been used to describe women: nice, sweet, tender, caring, etc. According to this “logic,” only boys who can be described to be like girls are good, and only men that kind be described to be like women are good. Or said more simply, boys who act like girls are the only “good boys.” Men who act like women are the only “good men.” This is nonsense. The data is clear: society needs men to be men—masculine men—and fathers. Not men who act like women and not fathers who act like mothers. Perhaps it is not an abundance of masculinity that is causing toxic problems in our society but a lack of truly masculine fathers being present in the lives of their children.

Maybe that ought to be our focus. At the risk of repeating myself, boys who grow up in homes where they were raised by their mothers alone are more likely (much more likely) to fail in school, suffer from anxiety disorders, drop out from high school, become addicted to drugs or alcohol (or both), get arrested, be imprisoned, or at the end of the spectrum, be suicidal. They genuinely become toxic to themselves and others at a much higher rate, not because they are too masculine but because they are not masculine at all.

So, what does it mean to be masculine? Well, there is probably not much agreement on the answer to this question these days. But in days gone by, it seems there was a kind of universal sense of what it meant. Then, descriptors like strong, brave, wise, capable, self-guided, entrepreneurial, self-sufficient, gracious, kind, and good would have summed it up nicely. Men like this protected people. Men like this literally moved mountains and built cities. Men like this dispensed justice when needed and mercy when called for. Men like this tamed the wild places and used enough wisdom to retain some of those places as wild. They were brave enough to be frontiersmen and gracious enough to be good fathers. These men knew when it was necessary to fight and when it was time to make peace. Because, let’s not be deceived, it is sometimes necessary to fight. In short, they were men, which is why it was not then, and ought not be today, a bad thing to say to about a good man, “He’s a man’s man.”

Masculinity is not toxic, but calling it so indeed is. It’s toxic for our society, for our families, and for the men we wish to turn into women. To quote the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro: “Traditionally, masculinity is what stands between the innocent and the wolves.” We should be very careful not to be ignorant of our history and current reality. If we eliminate truly masculine men from civilized society, the wolves will come. Perhaps they are here already. What will we do if those wolves find us and there are no masculine men around to keep them at bay?

7 thoughts on “Toxic Masculinity of Wolves and Men?

  1. Great article. It is so true that the liberal mindset, being toxic and delusional in many cases, seeks to declare masculinity as something bad, something too toxic and dangerous to their easily offended worldview. Most of this anti-masculine rubbish comes from a combination of the universities and the media on the left and right coasts of America, the self proclaimed arbiters of speech, political thought, and acceptable opinions. It is all troubling and bizarre, but an indication of where the nation is headed once these ideas are firmly planted in our youth and upcoming generations. Progressives are patient. They don’t always introduce their ideas at one time, as they know many will oppose nonsense and irrationality, but over time they keep the ball moving, What the older generation may reject, the next one may accept. Molding a society into a secular humanist creature and purging things like reason and common sense, as well as faith in God, is a process. I remember my youth, when men were men and women were ladies, and it seemed good, and adults were smarter. Now, we have transgender confusion, feminism on steroids, abortion considered by some to be a virtue, and a steadily dying country. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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  2. Congratulations, you completely missed the point of their advertisement and instead assumed it was attacking your beliefs. *slow clap*

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    1. Rob, if Scott Keith missed the point of the advertisements, kindly elaborate. I think Scott is correct, because the spirit and intent of the advertisements and similar ones of this type remains a form of classic messaging and propaganda. Ads are often subtle, striving to be persuasive, intended to sell an idea, product or viewpoint. Sometimes the point of an ad may seem innocent enough, but the creator is clearly offering a philosophical point of view. Today, many ads are even less subtle, actually in your face, clearly intended to attack your beliefs and alter social values. Why do you think furniture ads on television show two men as a “typical” married couple buying a dining room set together? It is to show that the business is on board with gay marriage and “inclusiveness,” and advertises their own preferred social values. If you favor traditional values, you will easily find ads about bullying, bigotry, and tolerance…especially geared to you, to make you squirm, to make you uncomfortable, to diminish your religious and social convictions as not conforming to current views. Regarding masculinity, it is being attacked regularly in both subtle and direct assaults. At the same time, the strong, arrogant, empowered woman, a super ninja force, able to leap over powerless males, now dominate the medium. “Super woman” is smarter than most men, and therefore must be raised to be the leader of the family, the job, the country. Also, the ads today elevate the confusion for youth, depicting transgender issues in a moronic, and unscientific way to advance a rather twisted social agenda. Yes, Rob, ads like the ones under discussion do attack our beliefs, and we must speak out while we still have a voice to expose the lies being advanced.

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      1. The purpose of the advertisement wasn’t to criticize masculinity and manliness. It was to challenge the outdated and erroneous view that to be a man you must fight, harass, and argue. You can cry and be a man. You can cook and be a man. You can be a vegetarian and be a man.

        It’s funny how it didn’t attack anyone’s religion, skin color, sexual orientation, intelligence, or hairstyle, yet a certain segment of our society feels assaulted on all those fronts.

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  3. Great points by all contributors. I don’t agree with all that was said by Eric and Rob, but it was a good discussion and brought up relevant aspects.

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  4. I agree with Erik and Rob above. The concern for “toxic masculinity” is not about making men into women or vice versa. I wonder about reflexive responses against and how they tend to claim that “liberals” are trying, to put it crassly, to castrate men. Isn’t properly speaking, good masculinity about leveraging our masculinity to garner hope and benefit for our neighbor? Like any of our various vocations, the ways in which we coerce, kill, and destroy are toxic. It is Christ who shows us what leveraging our grace to benefit the neighbor looks like. As a pastor, I have frequently heard and felt the reserve of “old fashioned men” against participation in the church (especially in service) as too womanly. So, if we believe in a God that old fashioned masculinity calls womanly, does that God call us to be those kind of men?

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  5. Dear Cantankerous Critic,

    First of all, thank you for your continued advocacy for masculinity and grace-focused fathers.

    I couldn’t find the Harry’s ad online but I have seen the Gillette one. I’d appreciate some clarification on your article if you have the time:

    I see this video as advocating for men to be strong leaders in opposing sexual harassment (0:40sec), encouraging our brothers to not lust (1:03), protecting the weak (1:12, 1:24), instilling confidence in our children (1:15), respecting women (0:19, 0:29), and keeping other men accountable for their behaviors (0:55).

    I do not see this ad as devaluing the need for strong men, promoting gender role swapping, claiming that masculinity is negative/harmful, or stating that fighting is wrong.

    If anything, this video says that men need to be strong to defend the weak and keep each other accountable. Is it not manly to break up a group of bullies beating up on a kid? Or to bravely call out someone to stop lusting? Or to hate sexual harassment and abuse of women? Or to instill confidence in your daughter?

    This video is preaching the same thing that you usually preach: that men need to stand up as strong leaders.

    You say that “mansplaining,” or talking over someone else, is something that both genders do. That seems to be the case. But why can’t men lead in deciding to not participate in that? Men are called to be leaders, right? Men can surely be leaders in kindness, compassion and love- and they can also lead in strength through combat (fighting to defend), dispensing justice and being self-sufficient, as you described.

    The phrase “boys will be boys” is portrayed nowadays as a throwaway answer that allows men to get away with doing naughty things (like groping women or bullying). I don’t see where the video is saying that boys should be like little girls (as you put it). It’s just saying that there is no excuse to bullying, sexually assaulting, etc.

    As you said in your criticism, “If a man fights, it is always toxic, never mind that men fighting have kept us free in this country for going on 243 years.” If a man is fighting as described in the video, to bully the weak, then yes it is toxic. The video does not claim that fighting to defend yourself or your brother is toxic. It affirms that you should step in to a fight to make peace.

    It never says that men can’t lead families. It even says that men need to take charge and be personable and kind to their kids. How is this a bad thing?

    How does doing anything in this video make you more feminine?

    What’s the alternative to what this commercial preaches?

    Now, here is what I will criticize about this ad:

    It is an obvious marketing ploy and preventative measure. With METOO and so many male leaders in companies being called out for inappropriate behavior, P&G is using this ad as a shield against any possible future allegations. Although the content is good and true (if taken at face value) – when paired with the fact that it is an advertisement, I question its motives. At best, Gillette is sending out this commercial in much the same way that National Geographic publicly apologized for decades of racism within their reporting. Maybe Gillette is trying to say “hey, don’t notice our sexist commercials of the past. Look at this instead!” At worst, it’s just creating this ad to rile up controversy (all publicity is good publicity). Although, I don’t see anything at all controversial about this video unless someone out there is pro bullying, sexual assaults, etc.

    I apologize if my response is aggressive. I respond because I’m confused and see a disconnect between your usual articles and this one. Isn’t being a man emulating Christ’s walk on this earth? To revel in his grace and love? To be strong and courageous against evil? To lead through both strength and servant-hood?

    You put it best: “I think all we can do at times like this is think, be discerning, and call out bullshit when we see it”

    – Erik (a fellow cantankerous critic)

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