I recently published an article on Elephant Journal on three things I observed about men and masculinity from the show “Queer Eye.”
After posting it, I received an email from an editor saying how they loved it, how insightful it was, and how they believed men would benefit from it immensely.
I was proud to receive that. Getting feedback like that from an editor of a big publication felt great.
Then, I clicked the link to my article and found, to my surprise, the title had been changed.
It read: “3 Things Queer Eye Teaches Us (Men) About Toxic Masculinity.”
Honestly, I was livid. I hadn’t written a single thing about toxic masculinity.
Why? Because there is no toxic masculinity!
I repeat: Masculinity is not toxic. There is no toxic masculinity.
Unenlightened? For sure.
But not toxic.
Now, I know some of you might say, “You’re wrong; I know men who are truly toxic. I’ve been a victim of toxic masculinity.”
And I’m not here to invalidate your experience. It is 100 percent true that there are less-than-healthy aspects of ourselves that we all carry and perpetuate.
But if we are going to evolve ourselves, we need to evolve our language and stop referring to parts of ourselves or anyone else as “toxic.”
Why? Because the term “toxic masculinity” puts men (and women) into a bind that is inescapable and unapproachable.
Men don’t have a monopoly on masculinity, by the way. Women can express masculinity, just as artfully as any man, just as any man can express femininity.
To think of oneself as “toxic” compounds a sense of self-shame—a shame rooted in the core of who we are. It leaves us with only a vague feeling that something is wrong with us, though we can’t quite put our finger on it, and we don’t know quite how to fix it.
It is devoid of the compassion needed to actually heal the unevolved psychology the term is attempting to point toward.
Did the editor have some negative motive when they added the word “toxic” to the title? I don’t think so. (In fact, they changed it immediately after I requested.)
Sadly, what is more likely is that this term would make the article trend better.
So, what do we do?
To really do something about the qualities that this term is pointing to, we need to address those aspects of ourselves and others associated with “toxic masculinity” in the same way we would address a hurt child’s wound.
We should address it with care, compassion, understanding, and love—not shame and judgment.
Those things that are being called “toxic” are really just unevolved, unloved aspects of ourselves. They are parts that have yet to be shown the right, mature way of being expressed.
So, ladies, please don’t tell your men that they’re toxic or that they’re acting out due to their “toxic masculinity.”
Instead, approach those unevolved aspects of men with compassion, nonjudgment, and a healthy dose of understanding.
Because deep down, they want to grow.
They want to show up.
They want to be the best version of themselves they can be.
And, brothers, please stop believing any aspect of who you are, or who your fellow men are, is toxic.
Any parts of you deemed so are really just parts of you yet to be loved, held, understood, and matured.
Take responsibility for the growth that’s required of you, but don’t stand for any shame that accompanies it.
Together, we can lift each other to the heights we know we’re capable of.
We may be wounded, we may be unenlightened, but we are definitely not toxic.