As a person of male biology, and one who describes himself as an egalitarian, I must say, I was shocked the first time I heard the phrase "Toxic Masculinity" come out of the mouths of third wave feminists. I say "shocked" because it surely wasn't surprise, as I could see their thinking a mile off, but I was nevertheless angered, and well, disappointed.
In case you've been living under a rock for the last decade or two and never heard the expression, Wikipedia describes Toxic Masculinity as: "The concept of toxic masculinity is used in psychology and gender studies to refer to certain norms of masculine behavior in North America and Europe that are associated with harm to society and to men themselves. Traditional stereotypes of men as socially dominant, along with related traits such as misogyny and homophobia, can be considered "toxic" due to their promotion of violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence. Scholars argue that the socialization of boys often normalizes violence, such as in the saying "boys will be boys" with regard to bullying and aggression.
Self-reliance and emotional repression are correlated with increased psychological problems in men such as depression, increased stress, and substance abuse. Toxic masculine traits are characteristic of the unspoken code of behavior among men in American prisons, where they exist in part as a response to the harsh conditions of prison life.
Other traditionally masculine traits such as devotion to work, pride in excelling at sports, and providing for one's family, are not considered to be "toxic". The concept was originally used by authors associated with the mythopoetic men's movement in contrast to a "real" or "deep" masculinity that they say men have lost touch with in modern society."
Needless to say there is no Wikipedia page or articles which feature content relating to "Toxic Femininity", and in fact a quick Google search of those key words directs one back to the Wikipedia Toxic Masculinity article, as well as Feminist sites that openly disparage any attempts at establishing the notion as a philosophic parallel. For example, the Geekfeminism Wikia fandom page demonstrably states: "Toxic femininity is a term used by Men's rights advocacy activists to construct a False equivalence between Toxic masculinity".
While I'm not a "Men's Rights Activist", sure, I'll even agree that some traditional roles pointed out in the above description may indeed be "toxic", but in the feminist movement these negatives, such as violent sexual assault and bullying, are frequently blurred with otherwise positive attributes, are thoroughly misunderstood, and are routinely applied to ALL MEN across the board. No shock that n the contrary, almost any negative aspect that occurs in women's lives are conversely seen as manifestations of a pervasive, intentionally destructive, and insidious "Patriarchy" - run of course primarily by straight, white, males, because how could it not be when you ascribe all societal interactions in life to falling within a Marxist intersectional hierarchy of class, gender, and race warfare.
Let's just face it, many members of the current feminist movement either overtly, tacitly, or unwittingly push this narrative of, well, hatred for men, while positing that women possess only attributes that are positive.
So let me tell you a little true life story.
It was 1985 or so, and here I was in my curious college years attending a movie screening at Cornell University yet again, this time at a presentation in a series that was part of a feminist film festival.
Now, I was cognizant of the women's rights movement, as any good modern male, and of course, I had a girlfriend, a mother, and a number of female friends who I supported in their equality with men, which I took as a basic assumption of reality. By this time there were no laws in America that impinged on a woman's equal status under the law, including Roe vs. Wade. Hell, the radicals hadn't even come up with the gender pay gap theory, which if you haven't heard, has since been disproved by economists as a general notion of earnings inequality, which quickly falls apart once specifics of job choice, hours worked, and the fact that, yes, some women do still stay at home and raise children.
Regardless, so I'm watching this feminist film in room whose gender disparity was extreme to say the least, but I didn't care, because, dammit, I was a feminist, or so I imagined myself at the time. The film was Dutch I believe, and though I can't recall the title, let me encapsulate the synopsis for you briefly.
In it, a group of women, out shopping for clothes, come to the rather insane, and apparently psychically transmitted notion, that the male clerk in the store was symbolic of all male oppression of their gender in their lives and society. To this end, the women shoppers gather around the small older man, and proceed to bludgeon him to death.
Now, I know what you're thinking; "That's horrible! That must be what made you realize how much hate powered this movement."
Nope. That's not it at all.
You see, this film really wasn't really about the gang of female killers, it was about a female lawyer who chooses to defend them in court. The film chronicled her arch in which she came to realize her own oppression in the Marxist-feminist deconstruction of reality. Lucky for me I had a rather chatty man-hating extremist right behind me who felt very comfortable expressing her feelings aloud throughout the film, offering commentary reflecting the worst tendencies of radical feminism.
The film in fact starts with the female lawyer, whose husband is also a high-powered lawyer, sharing a glass of Chablis in their clearly opulent upper middle class home. He is busy reading legal briefs, but she wants to initiate sex. The husband is somewhat not receptive to her advances and tells his wife maybe when he is done with his work, much to the annoyance of the feminists in the audience, who I guess expect that men must comply unquestioningly with women's requests regardless of their own wants or needs.
Anyway, the wife picks up a scissors and runs it down his chest to his crotch, which my chatty friend summarily announced as her unconscious desire to castrate her husband. In the end the tease works and the couple fall into each other arms. Scene: Cut.
Wait for it...
About an hour later into the film, the situation is reversed. The female lawyer/wife is working deep in her defense of the murderous women, which, by the way, is based on their inability to process the daily level of collective patriarchal abuse, which has driven them into "temporary insanity".
Nonetheless, at this point the husband attempts to initiate intercourse. The wife states almost verbatim what he did in the previous instance, saying that she is too busy. He complains that she has been too busy for weeks, and the husband does exactly what she did to entice her to the boudoir, minus the scissors, to which the rather vocal short hair behind me announced in a guttural, bile-filled snarling tone, "That pig!"
I knew immediately that her seething hate would not allow her to grasp the equivalence presented in the two scenes, which to the writer and directors credit, clearly mirrored one another, and displayed true egalitarian parity between the sexes.
To this day, I imagine that the woman in question, if she is still alive, has remained un-salvageable, and has probably gone through life a miserable person who is dedicated to literally hating some 3.5 billion humans that she is forced to share a planet with. I never turned around to look at her, and though I muttered my own outrage at her clear re-telling of the film story we as an audience had all just experienced - much to my girlfriend's shushes for fear of conflict. I kind of assumed that the woman in question was a lesbian, simply because her hate was so grand that even if she were not, I can't see how she could have conducted functional heterosexual relationships with such an impediment in her psyche, unless she found some kind of beta soy boy who did exactly as she wished as some sort of slave.
I must admit that I see myself as an bit of an alpha with strong beta characteristics, which I think is a god thing as true alphas are, let's face it, absolutely unbearable, and generally do not make for good mates or fathers, because, hey, they'll just move on to the next "challenge" or "conquest".
When I first started the Gauntlet, you may recall I injected much more into the "created lexicon" feature of the site, and one of my early "word of the day" contributions was the word "mishominy", which I came up with some years earlier as a rebuttal to the increasing plied "misogyny" of the feminist movement. As a small fish in the blogsphere I knew that there was not much of a chance that my created term would catch on, and lo and behold, some, I assume, egalitarian feminist coined the suiting parallel of "misandry" for the phenomena of women's hatred of men. Though I must add, feminists often deny the validity of this paradigm, since to truly accept it might force them down the dreaded road toward actual egalitarianism.
I will confess that it was not so long ago that I still described myself as a bit of a "feminist", at least theoretically, and especially where my screenwriting is concerned. As a Jeffersonian Republican with strong Libertarian leanings I support a woman's right to choose, up to a point, and I am fully for equal opportunity, but for not assuring equal outcome.
Though this particular post is very political, at this point I'd like to dove tail this article even further into the "From the Writer's Studio" feature of the Gauntlet, and focus further on screen- writing as reflective of changing societal norms and morays. To wit, I may have mentioned it many times before, but I really do enjoy writing female characters, maybe even more so than males, and I find them generally more psychologically complex, which makes for an interesting dynamism in their character arc development. I find the ways in which a female character chooses, or doesn't choose, or fails to choose, embracing their power can be fascinating, at least when compared to the stolid archetypes that males are typically depicted as, and are still required to aspire to in real life, regardless if women specify that they do not hold men to these "success object" standards.
After my company, Nevekari Enterprises, was awarded several awards from a number of film festivals and screenwriting contests, for our script, "Classical Ideal", I posited the piece as "feminist", yet, after much consideration I realized that the story was perhaps so female-centric that it would fail an inversion of the "Bechdel Test". For those who don't know what this, it is a criteria for judging female representation in screenwriting. The "rule" contends that an effective pro-feminist script must contain two or more female characters who discuss subjects not relating to male characters in the same reality for at least 85% of their screen time.
Needless to say, there is no shortage of radical feminists who deny that such a thing as an "Anti-Bechdel criteria" even exists, but I reject this in the same way I reject the notion that Marxist Intersectionality posits that only "white people" can be racist, as those who hold institutional power. All of these class relation theories may make sense by plying philosophical acrobatics to make them appear sound in post-modernist thesis papers, but in actual real world application, it does not take a far walk to find racists in every group, globally, as well as radical feminists guilty of mishominy or misandry.
Due to pondering this criteria, we set to revising "Classical Ideal" yet again, not out if a feeling that our female characters spoke too much about male characters, but quite the opposite, that our male characters spoke too much about the dominant female ones. Therefore, we intentionally added content which allowed for male characters to communicate ideas about the organizations (businesses and families) they worked for, or against, in tandem with other male characters, in order to make the script truly egalitarian.
In the end, I must admit it was only after we completed that last revision that I came to the realization, with the aid of a suggestion from a friend, that I found that my lifelong stance of being a "peripheral feminist" was much better described as a commitment to being an "egalitarian". It is one of many political identifiers that I have held to since.
We hear a good deal from feminists, both male and female, about equal gender rights in the media, but I must add that, especially in screenwriting and film making, it often seems that many writers, also both male and female feminists, find that the only way that they are able to forge strong female characters is sadly by disparaging or weakening their male counterparts.
This has been a major failing of many, if not most current films, including blockbusters, as the "Social Justice Warrior" impulse to double and triple down in response to the perceived, or imagined, authoritarianism of the dominant political party has become rampant with anti-egalitarian mishominy of misandry. Dominant female characters talk down to male ones routinely, and are presented as smarter, and sometimes even physically stronger, than males as if this were all some kind of revenge narrative for the "ditzy bimbo motif" that was dominant in the Post-WWII television era.
A perfect example of this was the remake of Ghostbusters, where the characters were almost exactly the same as in the original excellent film, except for swapping out the genitalia of the featured players. However, I must point out that the female characters of the original were quite strong, and the secretary, Janine Melnitz, played by Annie Potts, was a pithy and nerdy intellectual. In the new version, the male secretary, Kevin; played by Chris Hemsworth, is a complete "Mimbo". The sad part is that this is not unusual, and it is often male screenwriters who are penning these inept monstrosities, I assume not for the purpose of appealing to audiences, but instead to virtue signal to their fellows in the Hollywood elite.
I'm very afraid that in the long run this will not only make for some very not particularly memorable scripts and films, but that it will damage the box office, industry, and probably society at large, positing it as normal to further denigrate men for another generation of movie-goers.
Until egalitarianism is a the measuring stick by which law, culture, and art are judged, I can't see anything positive coming from this tact.
But hey, it's all just part of the culture war, right?
Till next time.
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