“The problem is not toxic masculinity; it’s that masculinity is toxic.”
- Lisa Wade
The above quotation is from an article entitled “The Big Picture: Confronting Manhood After Trump” , and it is authored by Lisa Wade, a sociology professor at Occidental College. The perspective taken is pretty “cookie-cutter” modern feminism, paying lip-service to the standard talking points of toxic masculinity, rape culture, and a “gender revolution”.
Now, I could easily pick apart the article for the sake of discrediting it. I could point to quotes within the article like “We need to start honest about what being a man has come to mean“, and speak of how a woman is really ill-equipped to engage the topic of what being a man means– just as a man would be ill-equipped to delve into what being a woman has come to mean.
But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to talk about the very real problem of “toxic masculinity”.
Like most of her peers, Prof. Wade espouses the belief that masculinity is simply a social construct like everything else, and as such, masculinity is a belief system that can and should be discarded. But the problem is that it’s not. Masculinity is the expression of the Divine Masculine Principle as it manifests in human men; just as Femininity is the expression of the Divine Feminine Principle as it manifests in human women.
But despite this misconception, toxic masculinity is indeed a real thing. But it is not that masculinity is toxic, it is that masculinity has become toxic. This problem stems not from masculinity, but from the modern society it resides within.
Masculinity can be a fierce, wild thing, and almost always seeks, consciously or unconsciously, to manifest a progenitive legacy of some kind. This is something that needs discipline and direction, but it isn’t a matter of getting it to “behave”- we’ve already tried that; it’s called human domestication, and that’s part of the problem as men have created a cage for themselves and thrown away the key.
The key was the initiatory rites of passage of traditional societies, and the brotherhood and community that supported them. These initiations served as a way of not only bringing the individual fully into the tribe and the responsibilities that came with it, but it was also very much about the alignment with the individual with the greater forces of Heaven and Earth.
With women, Nature gave them an in-built initiation through the fertility cycle, and the suffering and rewards that came through it (with the apex of that being childbirth). In traditional societies, these initiations were celebrated amongst the women. These initiations helped bring the women to a place of maturity and responsibility within the tribe.
Lacking this sort of in-built rite of passage, the men had to go out and create their own initiations that allowed them to experience the journey of suffering, a point where they essentially “break” (the death) and then finally, the (re)birth, which was essential for stepping into the fullness of adulthood. These rites were seen as being absolutely crucial for maintaining a healthy society.
But these sorts of initiations by and large are gone. Now there is of course groups like the Freemasons and organizations like the military, but these things are by and large shells of their former selves or in general, scorned by a large swath of the greater society. The male initiation that involves any sort of real suffering or violence for the purpose of strength is called “hazing” and seen as a barbarous and archaic thing that doesn’t belong in modern society, and is the realm of “rapist” frat boys and criminal gangs.
But this perception is due to the fact we have created a society that doesn’t really allow for a true initiation. The “initiations” of the average man are measured through navigating the education system, sexual conquest, substance abuse, and climbing the corporate/financial ladder.
This reality becomes exacerbated when we look at the state of the two pillars that supported the initiation rite: brotherhood and community.
It was once understood and respected that it was important for men to be in the company of other men for support and guidance. In times past, they were all men who would have had the deeper understandings brought to them through the initiations and productive existence within the tribe after.
But now, male bonding is commonly a case of arrested-development full or partial “man-babies” fully devoted to leisure and narcissistic self-fulfillment- whatever that might mean at the time . And perhaps more importantly, conversation between men has become shallow and inauthentic.
After the brothers, it was the community; the greater tribe; that provided the support and structure for the man to fulfill the purpose of his initiation. But this would have been an involved and inter-connected community. Nowadays, people are more isolated then ever before, lost in their technology, not knowing one’s neighbors has become commonplace, and deep conversation is almost unheard of unless it involves spewing venom about a political “enemy”.
Men need more than this. We need the face-to-face with death in as real a manner as we can without actually dying (the point of those doing the initiating was to ensure you lived, while believing death was a possibility), and then experiencing the face-to-face with Spirit that we are so open to after surviving a harrowing ordeal. I don’t think our socially acceptable, “canned” initiations are cutting it- in fact, it’s obvious they aren’t, or modern western men (along with the women) wouldn’t be turning into sociopaths.
This isn’t the natural state of masculinity. This is the state of a sick and diseased masculinity, rotting away in the comforts and confines it created for itself. Society must have a return to true initiation rites. Society must be restructured in a way that allows for men to be as they were naturally meant to be, if we wish to stem the tide of rage that comes from men who feel bound and shackled to a world that hates them.
To quote an African proverb:
“If you do not initiate your young men into the tribe, they will come back and burn down the village just to feel the heat.”
Namaste and WRA-ALDA’s Blessings.