Ben Shapiro: the Toxic Masculinity and Emasculation Binary

"Chess Game Strategy" by Workandpix
“Chess Game Strategy” by Workandpix

I am a big fan of the American political commentator Ben Shapiro. On the Right side of the aisle, he may well be one of the most sensible, articulate, and incisive writers the United States has. I may not agree with everything that Mr. Shapiro says, or even half of it, for that matter… but when I don’t agree with him, he forces me to seriously examine what I do think in order to figure out why I shouldn’t agree with him.

(FWIW: If you are only going to media sources that agree with your politics, then you are stunting your own growth. I visit the news sources I don’t agree with before I go with the ones that I do.)

Today Mr. Shapiro put forward an article on The National Review about Masculinity that got me thinking.

His premise is that the mass Emasculation of Men is a part of a larger agenda by The Left to spread their ideology. That the idea of “Toxic Masculinity” helps to create a false dichotomy: either you are and emasculated new man (my term, not his) or you are a dangerous toxic thug. There is no in-between in The Left’s discourse about Men.

“[…] Focus instead on her [Bette Midler’s] belief that “men . . . are worthless.” It’s indicative of a general belief among members of the Left that masculinity itself is toxic and must be quashed. Hillary Clinton spoke last month at a Planned Parenthood gala where drinks called “toxic masculinity” were served; she explained that men are “doing everything they can to roll back the rights and progress we’ve fought so hard for over the last century.” Men, you see, are the problem. Men make war; men commit crimes; men rape; men infuse their aggression into everything.

“Midler and those of like mind are wrong to lump all men together, of course. It was male police officers who arrived to kill the terrorists. It is male soldiers attempting to liberate women from the depravity of ISIS terrorists.

“Males destroy, but males also build. It was male police officers who arrived to kill the terrorists. It is male soldiers attempting to liberate women from the depravity of ISIS terrorists. Males destroy, but males also build. But in their effort to eradicate the destructive male tendency, the Left has pushed emasculation as a solution. While they champion the notion that women can do anything they set their minds to (true!), they simultaneously castigate men as the barriers to progress and masculinity as a condition to be avoided. The goal of the Left, therefore, becomes to train boys not to become men. Instead, boys should be feminized; they should never be encouraged to “be a man.” That’s too pressure-filled, too nasty, too mean.

I am not comfortable as Mr. Shapiro in attributing motivations and agendas to as large and nebulous a group as “The Left”, nor am I a fan of the term “feminized” to describe what is being done to many young men (stripping you of your Masculinity does not make you more like a Woman, it makes you a damaged Man).

But, I would be an idiot if I were to deny that there are a number of influential, ideologically-driven bad actors who have declared war on masculinity and are using mass education and mass media to do their best to drive boy away from traditionally masculine pursuits and role-models. (If you want names named, read Christina Hoff-Summer’s books Who Stole Feminism? and The War on Boys, both have detailed timelines.)

I have understood for a long time that the idea of “Toxic Masculinity” is  sleight of hand; it is there to persuade young men reject the roles and ideas of previous generations of Men, and move them towards a new model of male behaviour that is anything but masculine.

What struck me as a really important nuance in Mr. Shapiro’s article is that a false dichotomy really has emerged, especially in the past few years. I remember in my late teens really thinking of things in the model of “Old/Backward Manhood” vs. “New/Enlightened Manhood”, but it was not yet explicit in public feminist discourse. It was something that was just beginning to show up in feminist ‘zines of the time without a crystallized terminology. Before reading Ben Shapiro’s article, it had never fully struck me how that binary way of thinking erases a massive range of potential masculine behaviour and expression. If you are thinking in terms of Backward vs. Enlightened ways of being a man, you blind yourself to seeing many positive expressions of masculinity. As Mr. Shapiro put it:

“The Left’s dichotomous choice between emasculation and toxic masculinity leaves men out in the cold — and leaves them searching for meaning. If they are not the defenders of their families, what are they? If they are not providers, what are they? They become non-entities — or they become societal tumors or at least tacit supporters of “men who are men!”

This is a failing that we see in almost every group that wants to change the world as we know it. When you start thinking about The Old Way versus My Better Way, you often fail to see what was good about the Old Way; you are interested only in the flaws in the Old Way that you want to change, often while losing the big picture. And of course, when you focus on My Better Way it is also easy to lose your sense of humility. It is easy to only look at how My Better Way is superior to the Old Way, and blind yourself to the flaws and unintended consequences of the changes you implement…

…especially the grievously self-destuctive ones.

Read more of Mr. Shapiro’s article at: