When I first saw the phrase “toxic masculinity”, I was struck that a phrase so ridiculously oxymoronic would not be universally panned as soon as it made headlines. And then once I remembered the times we live in, I suppose I should only be surprised we did not arrive here sooner.
The only thing toxic about masculinity is that which is mistakenly called masculine, namely the perversion of it we find in the brute, the seducer, and the megalomaniac. If this is being condemned, I gladly join in the condemnation, but I doubt very seriously that these vices are the object.
I’d like to first speak on behalf of all the women who love being women: we love nothing more than a man who is truly masculine. I’m sorry that a medical body has defined being exactly who God made you as a mental disease. We disrespectfully disagree with their diagnosis.
Man and woman, and their lived expressions as masculine and feminine, are perfect complements and need each other in order to be able to complete their individual missions. They are not competitors or oppressors. We are each made unique by God, put on this earth for very specific purpose to accomplish, one that He designed for us alone. Many of the problems in the world could be attributed to someone refusing to complete their God-given purpose (which thanks to sin is all of us at some point, let’s be honest).
Let me give a simplistic example. If I am given a specific task, let’s say to cook the main dish for a dinner party, I can freely choose not to do so for no other reason than I don’t feel like it and still show up empty handed. But because I failed in my given task, everyone at that party would lose, including me.
Just because I refuse to do a job I am meant to do, does not mean the job does not need to be done. It just means it will have to be picked up by someone else who was never meant to do it, or worse yet, the job will never be done and a void will be left.
In the same way, we can freely choose not to fulfill the purpose for which God made us, but that would make us and everyone else lose. This purpose is inextricably linked to whether He made us either man or woman.
This can be most plainly seen in dating, courtship and marriage. What attracts us to someone is that we find in the other everything we are not. I absolutely fell in love with my husband precisely because he was not me. He didn’t think like I did, didn’t solve problems like I did. The things he noticed were different from what I noticed. His way of seeing the world was decidedly masculine, and it was very attractive. We each offered the other a way to see life that was completely different from our natural inclinations. Together, we could have a more complete, exciting and challenging understanding of life that both we and our children need, due simply to the fact that we are man and woman.
We sadly seem to be a world that only prizes what makes us unique and different so long as they are man-made rather than God-made constructs. Like it or not, we are typecast from our conception into one of two genders. Those who don’t like this truth label it the cruel and oppressive product of generations of patriarchal tyranny. Accepting our true nature is not bowing to tyranny, but embracing liberty.
If you like me want to see the end of this ridiculous phrase, “toxic masculinity”, the answer is simple: intentionally fulfill your God-given purpose in life, beginning with whether you are man or woman. It’s not a sexy solution, I grant you, but conversion only starts within. I do not dare proceed to tell a man how to be a man, only a man can do that. I can however give women some ideas on how to be women.
If we women reclaim what it means to be feminine, we leave men free to be truly masculine, and I may add, inspire them to be exactly that. For examples of what it means to be feminine, we can start with the Scriptures and the saints. We have women like Esther and Judith who were called forward at times of great trial for their people and won the day. Women like Mother Mary who lived her life in reckless abandon to the will of God through which she brought forth His greatest victory and who we now call “blessed”. Women like St. Theresa of Avila who traveled across the country of Spain on a donkey into her sixties transforming the order of Carmelites. Women like St. Catherine of Sienna who counseled popes. Women like St. Joan of Arc who admonished kings and led the armies of France. These were queens, leaders, soldiers, world changers, women with an incredible sense of adventure, with stalwart bravery, and an incomprehensible faith. What made them great was that they sought the will of God and did it – as women. What also made them great is that in each case they brought out the best in their male counterparts – by being women.
To be a woman is not to be a wilting wallflower. To be a man is not to be a brute. Do not let the rhetoric of the world turn you into a victim.
We can begin again to cherish both the feminine and the masculine, not as competitors or oppressors, but as beautifully designed complements, necessary precisely because we are everything the other isn’t, and we will love that God made us so.