Note: Article also available in Portuguese.
Michael Kimmel is correct—masculinities are toxic.
A few months ago, I encountered one of these masculinities. A couple of teenage boys were checking out some girls. This was rape culture.
In the past two weeks, President Drew Gilpin-Faust informed students at Harvard that in response to another one of these toxic masculinities, she would penalize members to same-sex sororities and fraternities in an effort to destroy those organizations.
Just yesterday, I saw a third form of these toxic masculinities. It was a homeless veteran—dirty, drunk, stinking, yelling at passersby and begging for money: again, rape culture—(truly, this one).
Masculinities are toxic. They are as toxic as shattering glass: its shards lacerate.
These days, Women’s Centers, bereft of problems and having to create their own, are deconstructing masculinity into masculinities. However, none of them ever defines “masculinities.” They don’t even define masculinity, for that matter. They deconstruct what they have not defined into subsets they have not defined—the feminist mind is a wondrous algebraic tool.
There are no masculinities.
There is masculinity, and one can only describe it, not define it. It is transparent—an elusive ideal. I see it in my mind. Its face—black, white, Asian, at once—is beautiful. Its body moves with the grace of Nureyev or Michael Jordan or a coal miner. Its mind focuses with the force of Newton or a construction worker. Its chest heaves with the muscle of a bodybuilder, vibrates with the resonance of Pavarotti, and ripples with the tearful laughter of Robin Williams. It reveals the treachery of Darth Vader through the wisdom of Luke Skywalker.
Men know masculinity—as men. I love it so much that my desire to emulate it borders on the sensual—and that’s cool. The desire for something and desire to be something are in close proximity. I do not fear when desires cross.
I compete against the facets of the “one” masculinity; and always lose. However, the loss makes me compete again: work out more in the gym, care for my body by eating the right food, study longer, work harder, sleep more, laugh, sing, dance, play with my children and make love with my wife.
However, when that “one” is deconstructed, it no longer reveals itself as a facet of the “good” but as disintegrated shards; and then I find myself competing not with masculinity, but in urgency to sidestep broken glass, with my fellow men.
Kings and queens, both, constructed the code of chivalry to get men—often, boys—to die for them. Later, society usurped the code—made it about women. The construction of chivalry inevitably leads to the deconstruction of masculinity. The deconstructed facets of masculinity then become sharp weapons—to use, to abuse and to wage. Chivalry compels men not to compete with the form of the one ideal masculinity; rather, it drives men to compete with each other. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that validates Michael Kimmel. Kimmel is correct but only because he lives amidst the shards and, like an effete knight on a fluffy unicorn, comes racing, bare-chested, to save men from the pain his very agency tries to inflict upon us.
How do Kimmel and the feminists justify this deconstruction? This is true womansplaining here: they expect men to respect masculinities the way they respect femininities. Feminists are so occupied womanalyzing pluralities they forget that men find truth and comfort in the quest for singularities.
In fact, Raewyn Connell, Kimmel’s teacher, first validated the word masculinities. Shortly after declaring the existence of masculinities, she changed her sex—great for her—and then identified a shard that hurts women. She then described, but never really defined, several of these masculinities based on a shard. However, Raewyn was never a man. She was a transwoman—I am happy she figured out she was female—and this means she had the brain structure of a woman; she validated the same old pluralities and was biologically restricted from envisioning the beauty of a singular masculinity—I get it. Kimmel didn’t. Even if, in some ivory tower, one could validate a plural, does it help our sons become men? No, it only builds Kimmel’s CV: the more masculinities, the more research papers—yes, we know the game.
But let’s check out a few femininities that are valued by feminists—for the fun of it.
Last year, feminists hailed Meghan Trainor’s song “All about the bass” as a new anthem. The lyrics were a noble crusade of contemporary feminism. This singer is not bringing Jerusalem back—this soldier is ambitious—she is “bringing booty back.” Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, befuddled by this hullabaloo, would lay down their swords and shields and genuflect before the altar of such divine inspiration.
Gloria Steinem clamored upon the altar to inform women that they need a man the way a fish needs a bicycle. In counterpoint, a man needs a woman the way Beethoven needed hearing—he didn’t. Newton invented the Calculus, Michelangelo sculpted The David, Dostoevsky wrote “The Brothers Karamazov,” truckers drive the rigs, and the United States landed men on the moon and brought them safely home—without women. Gloria Steinem is still a fish. Her protégé, Andrea Dworkin—that captious admirer of men, was still a whale. Gloria swims in an underworld that would be bereft of art and science if not for men, while she informs her sisters there is a special place in hell for them if they don’t vote the way she demands. (Actually, it could have been Madeline Albright who said that—heck I don’t remember which one said what. You know how it is: once these feminists get old they sound cantankerously alike.)
We also have the feminism of Beyonce, who, in the same release, sings “if he fuck me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster.” Later, she takes a bat named “hot sauce” to smash car windows because the ass cheated on her. If this woman stopped excusing her sister for domestic violence she might be able to make peace with her ass. I appreciate the spirit of her songs, but her contradictions inform my compassion for my black brothers who are suffering the arrogance of her misinformation.
Then we have the feminism of the Women’s National Soccer Team. They claim they bring in as much money as the men’s soccer. The team is inspiring and deserving of accolades—President Obama called them bad asses, but they do not bring in the same money. Their argument is deceitful, if not laughable.
If feminists prefer the plural for femininity, who am I to argue?—but there is one masculinity.
The form of the one masculinity does not hurt or damage men and boys. Men see the one—we perceive it in out mind’s eye with both its virtues and vices. Just the other day I took my twelve-year-old son to see the new superhero movie. Unlike Michael Kimmel, my son knows this movie is silly—but my son is intelligent. When my son imagines having superpowers, he knows he is playing. I do not lecture him that his imagination disrespects women. I guide him to respect the ideal form of masculinity, revealed by superheroes: Newton, Beethoven, Michelangelo and Dostoevsky and the men who collect the trash from our homes. Just because feminists have only fish and whales to admire, does not mean I will shirk from admiring civilization-building masculine achievements. The positive accomplishments of masculinity empowers my son; its negatives keep him from the dark path; and he must see them both as one. We do not deconstruct men; we respect masculinity and its continuous flow into itself through light and dark. A boy’s respect for women should follow his respect for masculinity, not precede it and never replace it. I teach my son that the singular form of masculinity is good and he should aspire to it and compete against it, but never deconstruct it or disrespect his fellow man.
Only when it is deconstructed do masculinities becomes toxic. If Michael Kimmel wants to deconstruct it and see a superhero as toxic, we can only laugh at him. Word on the street is that he is now calling for a Holy War: a crusade through the Barbie aisle in Toys R Us. In this sacred battle, I place my bet on Lady Barbie of the Long Legs.
In fact, more word on the street is that the Women’s Centers of the country are now in collusion to eradicate toxic masculinities. They’re rebooting a classic movie. The female lead (they’re considering Gilpin-Faust for the role), facing the carnage of the country’s war on women—a carnage leaving homeless women on the street, dirty, drunk, stinking, yelling at passersby and begging for money (truly fiction, this one)—will reissue the famous phrase de la terreur modified for the feminist agenda: “But Luke, darling, I am your mother.”
I also teach my son and daughter that women and men are strong, good, smart and beautiful and that feminism is a toxic movement of the bowels. Feminists, preoccupied with kicking ass, are growing hysterical. (Have you ever noticed that feminists are obsessed with girls who kick ass, taking asses to Red Lobster, bringing booty back and being badass athletes? What is it with feminists and the rectum?) In the face of war with no defined enemy, armed to the teeth, they are flushed with neurosis.
Men should continue to ignore the word “masculinities:” the word is artificial and ridiculous. There is one masculinity, and, to reclaim the chorus of the ninth, it is joy: “[And] all men will become brothers under [its] gentle wing.” Gay and straight men must continue forging final fraternity in respect of masculinity. We should focus on its facets and never dare to define it, but revel in its singular conception; not fear it—aspire to become it and accept when we fail; encourage each other to climb again; turn our ear to a voice for men and the deaf one to feminism.
We are not Beethoven; but, like Beethoven, we are men.