We need more masculinity in our lives

Traditionally masculine traits are necessary


(Collegian File Photo)

By Greg Fournier, Collegian Columnist

Last September, the American Psychological Association determined that there was a connection between “negative male socialization and violence.”  Subsequently, the razor company Gillette released an ad intended to address men’s behavior regarding bullying and harassment by showing various instances of what they deemed ‘toxic masculinity,’ in which, for example, two boys wrestled while all the men around them simply proclaimed that “boys will be boys” and did nothing to stop them.  Putting aside the absurdity of some of these examples (and the fact that Gillette’s primary consumer base is men and explaining to those men how evil they are likely won’t help them sell more razors), Gillette and the APA are actually dead wrong about masculinity.  They are right to decry toxic masculinity, but reading the APA’s report or watching Gillette’s ad might lead one to think that all iterations of traditionally masculine behavior are toxic.  Men (and women) need masculine traits in order to succeed in life and, indeed, masculine influence on children is required to ensure that boys don’t grow up to be overly aggressive.  We need more masculinity in our lives, not less.

There has been a dramatic increase in single-parent households over the last century.  According to the United States Census Bureau, “between 1960 and 2016, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88 to 69.”  The majority of these households are single-mother families.  This may not seem like such a bad thing on its surface: indeed, the rise of access to contraceptives and more progressive views of women would lend itself to the production of more families in which mothers feel they don’t need a husband to help them with child-rearing.  However, any positive ideals about single motherhood must be thrown out the window when going below just the surface.

Unmarried parents, according to a study by Princeton, “are much more disadvantaged than married parents.”  For instance, unmarried parents are more likely to have started parenting in their teens, are more likely to be poor, are more likely to suffer from depression, are more likely to report substance abuse and are more likely to have been in jail at some point.  No matter how you spin these facts, it is impossible to suggest that they are inherently ‘good.’  Additionally, even among cohabiting parents who are not married, “most parental relationships do not last, and as a result many children experience high levels of instability.”  Children can be extraordinarily fragile; any instability in their upbringing might be detrimental to their mental health later on in their lives.

One of these detrimental effects is the crime rate. In a given neighborhood, the lack of married parents is an important factor in increasing crime. As stated before, the majority of single-parent households are run by single mothers.  This means that single motherhood, and more importantly, a lack of fathers in households, has contributed in large part to the development of criminality in the United States.  This is not to insinuate that women aren’t good at parenting, but rather to suggest is that there is inherent value in having a two-parent household.  Men and women can be fundamentally different, and therefore have different approaches to parenting that are ultimately beneficial when complementing each other.  Therefore, masculine influences on young children are necessary to decrease the aggressive behavior described by the APA and misleadingly depicted by Gillette.

Further, masculine behavior is necessary to help people succeed in life.  Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL, explains why masculine traits such as competitiveness, aggression, dominance and stoicism are not harmful.  He argues that all of these traits are actually necessary in order to excel and be successful – to get you to the top of the ladder.  Aggression, for instance, is required because “good things in life don’t just appear on your doorstep – you have to be aggressive and make them happen.”  If you don’t have any masculine traits, “instead of you being in control of your life, life will be in control of you.”  This simple but powerful wisdom demonstrates the invalidity of claims that all aspects of traditional masculinity are harmful.

Willink knows, however, that masculine traits can go too far.  This is what Gillette and the APA should mean when they talk about ‘toxic masculinity.’  Willink writes that, while masculine traits are necessary, “don’t let those traits, or any other, drift to the extremes.  You will fail as a leader, as a man and as a person.”  It is amazing to me how a retired Navy SEAL is more right about the world than one of the most prestigious psychological institutions in the country. Listen to Willink, not those who would seek to demonize all forms of masculinity.  Masculinity is a valuable tool in a world of uncertainty and chaos; but too much of it, as with anything, is harmful.  So, let boys be boys; but don’t let them be savages.

Greg Fournier is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]