The New Age Of Masculinity: What Comes After Toxic?
We could all use an update on the term “masculinity”. The old, familiar definition of masculin is drenched in toxicity. What is the new, woke-r definition of masculinity that we should try to push?
From prehistory, to today, the idea of asserting dominance has always been one of the shapers of humanity. From the Roman Coliseum to the Military Industrial complex, the idea of masculinity has also been used as a form of dominance.
In recent years however, we as a culture have been exposing the underbelly of when the idea of masculine goes too far. This is what we know as toxic masculinity.
What did Masculinity used to be?
Masculinity in its word of origin describes a display that can lead to asserting dominance. Our ideas of traditional masculinity and femininity have their roots at the dawn of agriculture. Before that, hunter and gatherer societies were more egalitarian – more equal. The roles of men and women were interchangeable.
But with the advent of the plow, came a growing rift between domestic labor and physical labor, or in contemporary terms – the men work, the women are in the kitchen.
What is happening now?
This rigidity can become dangerous – or toxic. The idea of traditional masculinity does not always hold space for moments of vulnerability. What if the man can’t provide enough? What if the woman wants to be the breadwinner? How about if the roles within a relationship are much more fluid? What about same-sex/fluid couplings? These questions have led to breaking away from the antiquated binary, and have led to an all new discussion about the evolving ideas around masculinity.
What does everyone else think?
Only in western cultures do we discuss habit, culture, and demeanor as ‘masculine vs. feminine’. In Eastern cultures, behavior and role is not necessarily looked at in a sexual binary, but more looked at as a hard vs. soft, a yin vs. yang, something not based on gender, but based on temperament.
This paradigm shift helps put western ideas of masculinity under a microscope. And not everything we’re seeing is pretty.
Where is it going?
As communication worldwide grows, we see the confluence of these ideas of masculinity begin to blur. For example, even though male K-Pop Idols may at times wear make-up and jewelry, and appear soft, they still assert a specific kind of dominance akin to the idea of ‘masculinity’ or more specifically dominance.
This display is the opposite of Western ideas of ‘masculinity’. The toxic pushback to these beauty standards from Western cultures shows the fragility of toxic masculinity. This asks the question, ‘If we aren’t being measured by how much we can lift, or how dominant our behavior is, then what is masculinity?’
Where do I fit in?
Masculinity should not be the baseline in which we measure ourselves, but just one facet of our entire being. Maybe we should take a page from other cultures as to how they ‘measure a man’. Too much of ANYTHING is toxic – even water. As we move into the new decade, it’s time to look at masculinity as just a part of the breadth of our existence whether we identity as male, female, or non-binary. Taking inventory of our entire selves, our hard edges, our soft underbellies, yin and yang, femininity and masculinity, will take us toward a path of balance.
Lumi Park is a writer, foodie, and Capricorn, from the cornfields of Ohio. He once won a NYC bartending award, a Brooklyn-wide comic book Trivia Bowl, and went to nationals two years in a year for the sport of jump roping. He is oddly not competitive.