Detangling #MeToo and Toxic Masculinity?

I am the father of a daughter. My wife and I have been married coming up on 40 years. I have two young granddaughters and an amazing daughter-in-law. My congregation is made up of hundreds of remarkable women and girls. I care deeply, in different ways, for these women and girls in my life. And I stand with them against any ideology, behavior, or system that robs them of their humanity, their dignity, their safety, and their core being as women. That includes any man (better said, any “man”) who feels entitled to harass, assault, harm, or “lord it over them” in any way shape or form. That’s why as I man I stand in solidarity with the #MeToo Movement.

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I am the father of a son. I have a great son-in-law. I have three young grandsons. My congregation is made up of hundreds of remarkable men and boys. I care deeply, in different ways, for these men and boys in my life. And I stand with them against any ideology, behavior, or system that robs them of their humanity, their dignity, their safety, and their core being as men. That includes any man or woman who feels entitled to label their masculinity as dangerous, harmful, flawed, or broken. That’s why I stand in solidarity with men and women against the label, Toxic Masculinity.

And that puts me, along with many men and women, in an unnecessary dilemma. The heartache and pain inflicted on women by some men, which led to the outing of these monsters in the form of the important #MeToo Movement, also gave birth, or at least energy, to the phrase: Toxic Masculinity.

Toxic Masculinity suggests that masculinity in and of itself is bad, flawed, dangerous, and needs to be fixed. And when someone like me suggests that that is simply not the case, some see that as a defense of the toxic actions of some men.

Masculinity in and of itself is not toxic. It is a sacred energy, a good energy, a necessary energy. It is an expression of the Image of God as is the feminine.

Not every male denigrates, harasses, belittles, or assaults women. In fact, most men don’t. Most men treat women with respect.

But some men do act in ways that are in no way representative of masculinity. Their behavior is toxic, degrading, criminal, and wrong…not the fact that they are men.

I don’t want my grandsons growing up believing that because they are masculine they are flawed, dangerous, and toxic. Imagine what that belief does to our boys as they grow! I want them to know that they have been created in the image of God and have been created to be good men.

I don’t want my granddaughters growing up believing that all boys/men are toxic, flawed, and dangerous. That ideology will rob my granddaughters of strong healthy relationships with men. It will make them suspect of men.

Is it possible to stand with the #MeToo Movement and at the same time stand against the ideology of Toxic Masculinity?

Can we fight against toxic behaviors in some men while at the same time calling out the best in our boys and men, not through shaming them but through inspiring them?

Perhaps detangling #MeToo from Toxic Masculinity by instead using “behavior” language—toxic behavior, criminal behavior, abusive behavior, and so on—will give us the chance to really get at these very important issues without labeling and misunderstandings.

After all, what most men and women want is for men and women to thrive as men and as women, and as men and women together at work, at school, at home, and in life.