What’s all this talk about ‘toxic masculinity?’

The world may be going to Hell in a proverbial handbasket, there’s trouble brewing along the southern border, Congress seems at an impasse with the White House over “the Wall,” and Donald Trump just postponed a trip abroad that had been scheduled for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


John Wayne, shown here in a screen snip from an interview he did with Phil Donahue many years ago, represented masculinity for generations of Americans. YouTube)

But a lot of headlines are discussing the complaint du jour, otherwise known as Toxic Masculinity. According to The Independent, “Toxic masculinity refers to harmful behaviour and attitudes commonly associated with some men, such as the need to repress emotions during stressful situations, and to act in an aggressively dominant way.”

According to a website that has 40 quotes from the epitome of American masculinity—fella by the name of John Wayne—he had what perhaps was a somewhat different perspective.

“I define manhood simply,” the late Mr. Wayne reportedly observed. “Men should be tough, fair, and courageous, never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either.”

Always be gallant to the ladies, especially if they look like Maureen O’Hara, but if someone hits you with his fist, you hit him back with a chair.

This all started over a televised message from Gillette, the razor company. The message is about being “The Best a Man Can Be.”

And how good is that? According to another Wayne quote, “A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by.”

His final character, John Bernard Books in the cult favorite The Shootist, spelled out that code in language anybody, with the possible exception of a left-leaning late night comedian, should understand.

“I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on,” said the dying-from-cancer gunslinger. “I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.”

Another western also spelled it out in the musical ballad. Waterhole No. 3 noted, as sung by Roger Miller, “The code of the west ain’t some words on a page. You just naturally know it when you come of age. You eat when you’re hungry, you drink when you’re dry. You look every man in the eye.”

Known admiringly and affectionately as “Duke,” the late actor had True Grit both on and off screen. His masculinity would never be considered “toxic,” except, perhaps, by some lilting leftie who couldn’t build a campfire in the desert, much less in western Washington or Southeast Alaska, where fire-building is a necessary masculine and hardy feminine art form, and that’s just the least of the problems they might face.

Questionably deprived of Oscar nominations for his roles in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (Capt. Nathan Brittles), The Quiet Man (Sean Thornton), Red River (Thomas Dunson) and The Searchers (Ethan Edwards), Duke Wayne did what men do. He sucked it up and kept making films that pleased audiences, which incidentally, included a lot of very admiring ladies young and old. If they thought of his masculinity as “toxic,” it never showed in box office receipts.

Has society changed so much in the decades since Duke graced the silver screen? Or is this “toxic masculinity” just another manufactured whine from people who shudder at the thought of little boys growing up to be big ones with a solid work ethic, a sense of responsibility to family and friends, and a full set of…morals. (What did you think we were going to say?)

As explained by psychotherapist F. Diane Barth in an opinion piece posted by NBC, “The idea, which has taken root in popular culture, originally started as a concept along the lines of what Olivia Petter once wrote in “The Independent”: That toxic masculinity “dictates that men should be stoic and strong, both emotionally and physically,” and recognizing that as a problem provides men an opportunity to rethink “what it means to be a man today, and what is generally expected of them by society.”

That may be how others see things, but another observation from The Duke counters, “I’m responsible only for what I say, not what you understand.” How could that possibly be “toxic?”

Could all of this be much ado about nothing? Presumably, that may depend more upon one’s politics than anything else.

Regardless, this is still America, and for many people, all this talk about “toxic masculinity” amounts to so much toxic waste. People can believe what they want, and live by their own personal code. If there’s something toxic about that, there’s a problem. But it’s your problem.


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