Toxic Masculinity and Biblical Manhood

I had an epiphany in church this morning. I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time why so many conversations about “biblical manhood” make me uncomfortable. I’ve written about it before (and that was before I became quite as much of a “rabid” feminist), but I felt like there was still something off. Obviously I want my brothers in Christ, and all men, to be liberated from the confines of toxic masculinity, but every time it came up in a sermon, it felt like the hairs on the back of my neck were standing straight up.

This morning I figured it out and posted the following statement on facebook: Churches that attempt to fix toxic masculinity without addressing the fact that it’s rooted in misogyny will never succeed.

Often the response I hear from the church to the “big boys don’t cry” messages our culture sends is “Emotions aren’t unmasculine! You can have feelings and be sensitive and still be a man!”

And while I believe that’s true, it doesn’t actually get at the heart of the problem. The reason sensitivity and emotions are so discouraged in boys and men is because those things are seen as feminine, and the absolute worst thing a boy or man can be is feminine.

Think about it – so many insults and exhortations surrounding men involve eliminating any trace of femininity. You throw/run/kick/act like a girl. Man up. Grow a pair. Don’t be a pussy (or pansy, if it’s coming from a church guy). These are all rooted in the belief that being like a woman is weak, shameful, less than being like a man.

The solution to this is not to divorce things like sensitivity and tenderness from femininity; it’s to stop acting like femininity is something terrible.

Pastors can talk about David being overcome by emotion and Jesus inviting the little children to Him until they are blue in the face, but they also need to acknowledge that our broader culture still considers those traits to be signs of weakness. And the only reason they are considered weak and invaluable because they are seen as feminine traits.

It’s misogyny. And we have to deal with that honestly.

So maybe instead of another sermon or retreat about “how to be a man,” we could start teaching men how to value femininity, whether it appears in women, other men, or themselves.

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1 Comment

  1. Yes. All of this. I desperately see this in my students every day and I have no idea how to combat the messages society, and their parents are sending them.

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