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Old 05-14-2019, 10:15 AM
Manda JO is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,558
Years ago, there was a thread here titled "Men, who does the driving in your relationship?". In that thread, a poster said he was never comfortable as a passenger in a car, and to illustrate this, he told a story of a time where he drove himself to the ER with a knife in his leg and his wife in the passenger seat, because he couldn't bring himself to let his wife drive even in those circumstances. This was presented as a positive thing in an inherently masculine way: as a man, he was so stoic about pain and had such a strong compulsive need to be in control that his risked his life, his wife's life, and the lives of the people on the road rather than cede any agency to her. Clearly, he didn't think less of his wife for being a passenger: it was appropriate for a woman to be content to perpetually ride shot-gun. But as a man, he would be lessened if he accepted that status, even under extreme duress. And it was presented as a funny, flattering anecdote.

To me, that is "toxic masculinity". The poster had internalized the idea that certain traits are intrinsic and exclusive to men, and that because he was male, it was important that he exemplify those traits past the point of rationality. It was tied into his concept of what it means to be a man. To talk about this, we have to acknowledge the source of the programming: it's not enough to say "some people push stoicism and self-reliance too far"--that misses the point that people feel like they will lose their status as a member of their gender (turn in your man-card!) if they don't embrace and exaggerate those traits. We need to talk about how, as a society, we limit people's full range of expression with very narrow definitions of "masculinity" and "femininity".

I don't actually understand your objection to that. Do you feel like we need to leave the terms "masculinity" and "femininity" behind? If so, I can certainly get on board with that. But I don't think we get there by denying now that some traits that are considered "gendered" --in fact, as seen as essential to membership in one gender and negative in a member of another gender-- are actually positive and should be equally available to everyone, and that other traits--or some traits in some contexts/to some degree--that are considered essential to a particular gender identity are neither essential nor positive. They are toxic in anyone. What part of that do you disagree with?