Toxic Masculinity


In a statement on Tuesday, Harvey Weinstein’s spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister said: “Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.”

What? “Never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life?” Something smells foul.

Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, R. Kelly, Tiger Woods, Ray Rice, Kevin Hart, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Bill O'Reilly, Joe Mixon, Roger Ailes, and now Harvey Weinstein. The latest episode of Toxic Masculinity begins with sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein which include harassing a woman employee, cornering her in a restaurant, and jerking off in front of her. When the story broke, I felt embarrassed and shied away from thinking about another man doing something cringe-worthy. It’s challenging enough being a man. I feared being judged for another man’s dumb, abusive, criminal behavior.

Once I heard the sexual harassment allegations, I concluded he was a sex offender. Suffice it to say, he’s no beginner. His behavior would be funny if it wasn't so serious. I can hear a stand-up comedian, “I didn't say ‘bonus,’ I said ‘boner’.”

Mr. Weinstein found himself consumed by behavior he could not control like a passenger on a train which had blown past the pleasure station long ago. Obsession and compulsion are destructive forces in his life, racing down the rails, destroying everything in its path. He now finds himself hanging on for dear life to his career, his wife, and, ultimately, his freedom.    

Toxic masculinity is a problem derived from unhappiness and manifested by sexual conquests, narcissism, grandiosity, aggression, and power which are poisonous to the host and others they come into contact with. We have a tendency to live what we believe. Harvey Weinstein behaved in ways that showed disrespect for women, his wedding vows, and his job. As indicated by his using women to gratify himself, reduce shame and guilt, and to relieve unhappiness. He lived behind a carefully constructed mask that allowed him to behave monstrously.

Bad things happen when men cultivate toxic masculinity. On one end of the spectrum, they believe women are an extension of themselves, feeling the same way they do, particularly about sex. On the other end of the spectrum, they don’t think about women at all. Why should they? They see themselves as all-powerful and if they possess money and status, so do others around them, including their victims. Toxic masculinity forces men to behave as stereotypes, motivating many to break the law.

It can also create an opportunity for men to talk to other men about our miseducation and its disastrous consequences on our lives and the lives of those around us. As I explain to the men in my domestic violence group, there is no such thing as a first offender. You are in this group for what you got caught for. What about the numerous things you did that you didn't get caught for? Harvey Weinstein’s now facing three additional rape allegations. Toxic masculinity will catch up with you.

Misguided men, who have fallen victim to our culture’s more pernicious version of manhood, have lowered the bar so much, have behaved so poorly, some women are trying to be men. With the absence of suitable men, women pleasure themselves, each other, raise children willingly alone—and have been doing it on their own terms for years. These characters have also provided the well-meaning man with great opportunities to be a “good man.” While toxic masculinity narrowly defines men, stripping them of the qualities that make men great—confidence, kindness, honesty, integrity, and courage—the responsible, mature man makes an effort to rise above it by cultivating empathy for others. Don't cheat on your partner. Avoid promiscuity. Accept no for an answer. Don't act like a sex offender. Don’t drop anything in anyone’s drink. Don't break the law. Use anger constructively. Have some integrity. Get in touch with your misogyny. Work hard. Cultivate gratitude. How could one possibly fail at being a good man? Even if you have transgressed, who among us will cast the first stone?  

This is a great time to be a man. The world needs good men. Real men are around, rarely grabbing headlines, but they do exist.