THE COLUMN: In Praise of 'Toxic Masculinity'
Like a dutiful submissive, "Second Gentleman" Doug Emhoff—husband of the soon-to-be-former vice president—recently went on MSNBC with journalist Jonathan Capehart to discuss a topic neither of them seems to know much about; to wit, genuine masculinity. In this, both males ("men" would be too strong a word) are thoroughly representative of our current, emasculated era:
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC: A moment ago I asked you about gender roles. I want to dive in even deeper on that. Can we just talk about masculinity for a moment? Has being second gentleman changed your view of perceived gender roles and what it means to be a man?
DOUGLAS EMHOFF, SECOND GENTLEMAN OF THE UNITED STATES: Oof. This is something I have thought about a lot, I've spoken about a lot. There's too much of toxicity -- masculine toxicity out there, and we've kind of confused what it means to be a man, what it means to be masculine. You've got this trope out there where you have to be tough, and angry, and lash out to be strong.
I think it is just the opposite. Strength is how you show your love for people. Strength is how you are for people and how you have their back and how you stick up for other people and pushing up and out against bullies. And that's what I believe it is. So every time I can speak against this toxicity -- we are seeing it with our younger people, we're seeing it in our discourse and politics, in the media you are seeing it as it relates to so many of the issues we are pushing back on, so I think it's a problem and I am going to continue to use this platform every time I get to speak out against this toxic masculinity that is out there.
By equating his Eloi view of maleness with the bestial ferocity of the Morlocks, Emhoff establishes a typically Leftist false premise: that males are innately predatory bullies whose basest instincts are irremediable. "You've got this trope out there where you have to be tough, and angry, and lash out to be strong." It never occurs to him that a real man is one who has those qualities but keeps them in check. It never crosses his mind that there are times when "toxicity" is precisely what's called for in order for men to protect their lives, their women, their children, their possessions, and their nations, as real men are obligated to do. To a real man, a bully is not "tough" but contemptible, and never to be admired.
As Col. Jessup says in A Few Good Men:
I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom... You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall -- you need me on that wall. We use words like "honor," "code," "loyalty." We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather that you just said "thank you" and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand the post.
Recall that Col. Jessup is meant to be the villain here, and yet that speech, so memorably delivered by Jack Nicholson, has turned out to be the high point of the movie, the "cheer moment." Because even the most liberal audience member (including the screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, and the director, Rob Reiner) understands somewhere, deep down, that Jessup is right.
Herewith, I offer Emhoff and Capehart an excerpt from my 2020 bestseller, Last Stands:
There is no sanitizing it: war is in fact, to use the voguish term, “toxic,” in the sense that killing and the inflicting of severe physical pain is precisely its point. No one in his right mind would willingly engage in it were it not for a host of other factors, some of them genetic and sexual, some spiritual, some psychological; some vain, and some base, and some entirely unknown, even to the warriors themselves. And yet, from the dawn of recorded history, man have felt the need, the obligation, and the duty to take up arms against an enemy and fight for what they believed in, whether the defense of territory or in conquest, rapine, and plunder. Noble or base, it does not seem to matter.
At the same time, it is quintessentially masculine; there are no reliable accounts of nations of women warring against other women with spear, pike, hatchet, sword, bayonet, carbine, machine-gun or nuclear weapon. When war breaks out, as it inevitably does, fastidiousness goes out the window, and – in particular when the fight is defensive and dire –men, not women, are called to arms. That they go, fearful but generally unflinching, is a continual wonder, but is also a “celebration” of masculinity – which, in its essence, is simply another word for duty, honor, and country. In the view of the demon god Thanatos, women are born to give birth, to provide the next generation of cannon fodder; in the view of the priapic god Eros, women are born to provide the next generation of heroes.
None of this is diminishment. Rather, it is complementary. The sexes are different. A country whose women lose their virtue and whose men lose their nerve – the Soviet Union is the most recent example of this historical truth – soon vanishes into history. When every man is a petitioner, a lackey, or a slave, and every woman a whore, that country is finished. A land of “strong” (i.e. in defiance of previous social norms with no immediate consequences, or even opposition) women and weak men is a dead country.
Contemporary pacifists and feminists will argue that war is the result of “toxic masculinity,” and that in a female-dominated world disputes will be amicably settled by tribal councils of conciliation and jawboning. Why, then, are contemporary feminists so adamant about women in the military?
The problem with capons like Emhoff and Capehart is that having led lives of pampered luxury (lawyer, journalist), the idea of an existential struggle is utterly alien to them. Heedless of any consequences, they "advocate" for causes with no skin in the game. Even with the barbarians at the gates, they throw around words like "justice" instead of honor; pride themselves on "removing barriers" instead of celebrating adherence to a moral code; and obsessing about "gender roles" instead of embracing loyalty.
And when the barbarians break through—as they inevitably will when both the walls and the defenders are unmanned—they'll be handing out business cards right up to the moment when the axe falls. Only then will they understand, fleetingly, just how valuable "toxicity" really is, and what it means to be on the receiving end of it.