I recently watched a video on masculinity and the need to separate out the good from the bad. By bad I mean the masculinity that leads to, as the narrator says, rape, war and murder.
But this does not mean masculinity is bad. It just means there are two types of it:
- Toxic masculinity (has any one or more of the following features) – degrades women and/or views them as meat; thinks violence is an acceptable method of solving problems; may feel threatened by women who stand up for themselves
- Non-toxic masculinity – competitiveness, feeling of duty and the need to be brave in the face of danger
Now, to be clear, this does not condone in any form the “boys will be boys”/”just boys having a bit of fun” behaviour that is toxic masculinity, but for the period that is taken up teaching them to become men boys will indeed be boys. They will want to play computer games with shoot ’em up/war/combat themes; they will go through a period of being under peer pressure to do things that are not necessarily proper such as street racing their cars and want to engage in sexual activity with girls. There will be most probably alcohol involved. It is about learning to use these devices properly and the appropriate environment to do so in. This is where having a male figurehead in the household becomes important. In in an ideal situation that male role model will guide the growing adolescent male into being a young man. This period is what I call developmental masculinity – a type that is when their understanding and exercising of it is clearly in development. It is not a permanent phase and some will quickly grow out of it.
I played Postal and Zombie Apocalypse which were both restricted games. Both involved killing everything in sight. But I understood clearly, as did everyone else I know who played them that this sort of conduct was obviously not acceptable in society. It did not harm us. I do not remember ever having any sudden compulsion to get one of my fathers guns and go kill people. I played Command and Conquer, Civilization and other strategy games and had great fun being aggressive, but at the same time – and maybe this was because I was learning about war time history and the crimes of the Nazi regime – I also would often go back and replay missions to see how cleanly I could carry out my orders.
I watched Demi Moore in Striptease at age 16, just like several others in my age group did. When Mum and Dad were not at home I watched adult only programmes on television until I saw a car in the drive and then like a bullet I was in bed, tucked up and pretending to be asleep – pretty sure others did that too. Did they adversely affect my mind or make me want to do bad things? No.
As an adult I like to go white baiting on the Waimakariri River. I like to have a beer, and mow the lawn. I go to the pub on a Friday night and catch up with a regular bunch of guys for a yarn, a laugh, and something to eat. I watch sport, have no problems with watching the restricted rated movies on the Sky movie channels – some of which are tainted with excessive nudity, violence and other content – all the while knowing just as I did as a teen playing graphic computer games that this is not proper conduct in society. And that is fine with me.
The best men in my life are non toxic. I have a father. He is a man and not apologetic for being one. He drinks beer, is happy to go duck shooting, bag a rabbit with the rifle or hook a 26 pounder from one of the hydro canals in the Mackenzie Basin. He was the coach of my cricket team and taught us all aspects of the game – batting, bowling, and encouraged all to have a go. He was the primary income earner as an environmental planner. But at the same time he taught my brother and myself right from wrong. He taught us never to lay an injurious hand on a lady; that we must have her consent. He and my mother never acted without the other at least knowing.
I have a brother. Like me he did many if not all of the things I have listed above. He turned out just fine. He is very happily married to a lovely lady and is well liked by her family. He has a good paying job and they own a house in Nelson. He tried cannabis at University (I was offered it too, but declined). He has drunk and gotten drunk. He has brought friends home to crash after nights out on the town – all of whom likewise turned out to be thoroughly decent people.
All three of us have maintained our masculinity. Because it is not about whether a man is masculine or not, but whether that masculinity is toxic or not.