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Thursday, 14 March 2019

Women vs 'Toxic Masculinity'

Two men, both alike in romantic idealism, in classic and contemporary literature, where sexual scenes are laid. Their names: Mr Rochester and Christian Grey. These male protagonists in literature are often cited as purveyors of romantic desire among women.

So I've read Jane Eyre, and I haven't read Fifty Shades of Rubbish but I have read Twilight, its tweenage predecessor. When I read the scenes involving Mr Rochester, all I could think was 'this dude is vile.' I don't know how Mr Rochester is a romantic icon. He is appalling crude, manipulative, racist, arrogant and just an all-round pain in the arse. I remember not understanding why smart down-to-earth Jane ended up with that guy. He locked his wife in an attic and played deliberate mind games with Jane through pitting her against Blanche and pretending to be a gypsy. (Creepy fucker).

Edward Cullen is manipulative, possessive, stalks Bella, isolates her from her family and threatens to kill himself when she leaves him. Christian Grey pushes Anna sexually into things she isn't ready for and seeks to control her through a restrictive contract. I find these men gross and creepy, simply because to me, their behaviours scream sociopathic control freak. And yet, they are the fictional pinnacle of female heterosexual desire.

Why is that? Charlotte Bronte, EL James and Stephanie Meyer are all women, who were writing for women. The 'patriarchy' can't be blamed here; these women were writing female sexual fantasies. I have no problem with what crap people like to enjoy in their rooms; that's their business. But I find it interesting that feminists complain about toxic masculinity, yet these male idealized protagonists are the embodiment of toxic masculine behaviours. They are controlling and possessive, restrictive, arrogant, and seek to make themselves the centre of the woman's life. The woman is left feeling that she needs a rich powerful man to come and look after her and that without him she is nothing.

Again, it's not my place nor anyone's place to say 'you shouldn't like this crap!' Plenty of TV shows I enjoy can be cited as crap: Family Guy, Sex and the City, The Big Bang Theory. That isn't the point here. The point is, why are feminists criticizing traits which women find biologically desirable in men? Power, strength, protectiveness and assertion are traits that women find attractive because they emulate a feeling of security.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong, I'm not saying all women find this attractive and I'm not saying
whether I personally find this attractive or not. I find it rather naive to deny any biological weighting behind gender differences, just as I think it's wrong to ignore the societal constructions around gender differences. Animals evolved to have one male and one female; one person protects and raises the offspring, and the other protects the family from potential predators who may hurt their offspring.

Why does this simply evolutionary fact piss people off so much? We've evolved to a point where there are many nuances in gender and how we live our lives anyway. We're no longer living in a world where men 'have' to be a certain way or women 'have' to be a certain way. But we're also denying our wired biological differences by assuming that gender is 'all a social construct.' It's damaging because it affects relationships and dynamics between men and women, which is at the crux of our humanity. (And we're seeing it in the rise of single-parent homes and increases in divorce). Men and women should compliment one another and work together in a tandem, not tear one another apart.

So back to 'toxic masculinity.' Behaviours associated with toxic masculinity include men's dominance and assertion, as well as being told to 'man up' and not show emotional vulnerability. (From a psychological perspective emotional repression is deeply unhealthy for anyone, and I think it's wonderful that men are finally being told on a socio-cultural level that it's healthy and fine to express emotional vulnerability. Shepherd Bliss, the academic who first coined the term, sought to improve man-on-man relations and to encourage better father-son behaviour in a time of rising gender differences:

But here's an uncomfortable truth: women aren't attracted to weak men. Women find strength and power attractive. Do all women? Of course not. Some are indifferent and find other things like intellect, wit and kindness to be more important (like yours truly). Why are romantic male protagonists often brooding, mysterious, domineering and wealthy? Why is James Bond an idealized female fantasy? Why do tall guys on Tinder often assert their height? Because women are biologically inclined to find this attractive, just as men are biologically inclined to be more sexually visually stimulated.

In today's world where physical strength is no longer a biological necessity, what can be valued in both men and women is inner strength. Inner strength, or 'positive' masculinity (in this context), can be a man working to provide for his family; a man giving his girlfriend his jacket because she's cold, a man patiently waiting until the girl is ready to have sex with him (as opposed to pressuring her), a man listening to his friend who is in trouble, a man holding your bags and walking you home; your father giving you calm advice when you tell him you don't know what to do with your life.

We need to stop putting men down. We also need to remember that there are good people and bad people of both genders. There are positive and negative behaviours associated with both femininity and masculinity. The world is a better place when people take a gentler attitude to one another.
(And my personal male fictional crushes are Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow, both of whom exhibit 'positive masculinity' and inner strength as opposed to domineering possessiveness. Tyrion isn't physically strong, but he's mentally and emotionally strong; in the game of thrones and the game of life, maybe that's more important).

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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