By Juan Carlos Ramirez ’18
With the recent rise of the #MeToo movement and numerous sexual assault scandals, there has also been a prevalent rise in the popularity of the term “toxic masculinity”.
Toxic masculinity is the idea that we live in a society where men are confined to live as emotionless, sexually dominating and competitive.
Religion teacher Mr. Tom Mar said he disagrees with the term because it instantly condemns the masculinity of a man, which he said is wrong.
“I disagree with the term,” said Mr. Mar. “Do we have a propensity of toxicity towards one another? Absolutely I call that original sin. With that said, I don’t like the term ‘toxic masculinity.’ I don’t like to associate masculinity with toxicity.”
“To me, the term ‘toxic masculinity’ seems to imply that those who are masculine—and here we are speaking about men—have within themselves a time bomb that can go off, and they have to be mindful of themselves,” he added. “But meanwhile half of the population, mainly females, do not have within themselves a particular time bomb, and that only men have this something to be afraid of within themselves.”
Mr. Mar does agree that we, as humans, have a propensity to hurt one another, but this fault is applicable to both men and women.
Mr. Ryan Hubbell said that he agrees with the term “toxic masculinity” and even to the extent of includes all types masculinities.
“I do not agree with that because masculinity is thing that is expressed,” said Mr. Hubbell. “It is this social norm surrounding what it means to be a man in America. Masculinity can be expressed in really negative ways, when we talk about sexual harassments like Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, and all those guys.”
“Or we it can be expressed in positive ways too like—Brophy boys having emotional experiences on retreats,” He added. “That is a healthy, positive and compassionate expression of masculinity.”
He said that he is not saying that all men are toxic, but the way we think is toxic.
“We are not that saying all men are toxic,” said Mr. Hubbell. “We are saying that the way we think about what it means be a man in today’s America is toxic.”
Jack Fyan ’18 said that after he read Adams Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation by Franciscan brother Richard Rohr, which is a novel that touches on masculinity.
Fyan said that he learned that toxic masculinity does exist because our culture has had an absence of an initiation for men into the community.
“He said essentially that men today don’t have an initiation like there was hundreds of years ago in tribes,” said Fyan. “What a lot men struggle is finding what it means to be a man for themselves. That leads to boys having this self reassuring ideals to be a man.”
Fyan said that most modern boys reference a lot of pop culture to reassure themselves of their masculinity, but they only confuse themselves into practicing hyper-masculinity.
“I feel that this leads to men using sex as self-validation of being a man, and that, in itself, is very dangerous and toxic,” said Fyan. “You also see this with violence. You need to fight and be very masculine to be a man.”
English teacher Mr. Austin Pidgeon ’08 said he would not get caught up on the term, but the idea is important and exists.
“I think the idea is a set of social codes, social norms, dictated behaviors—specifically from men that are perceived to be toxic in our society or culture,” said Mr. Pidgeon.
Mr. Pidgeon said that he agrees that Brophy does exceed better behavior from the student community, but he also ultimately thinks we are not immune to the prominent culture around us.
Brophy President Ms. Renke said she is sickened by the term and completely disagrees.
“Let’s go back to St. Ignatius and Jesuit teaching and freedom,” said Ms. Renke. “You are free to be exactly the child of God that you were created to be, and you happened to be masculine. The same goes for me. I am free to be feminine.”
Ms. Renke said that being masculine is a man’s identity and each man has their own uniqueness.
She adds that these famous men who have been convicted of these sexual assault charges is because of their choice and not because of their masculinity.
“Harvey Weinstein got himself in that mess because he is an immoral pig,” Ms. Renke said. “He is a man who made terrible choices and lived with them and thought they were cool. That was his identity and he picked it. He was free.”
Mr. Hubbell said that the #Metoo movement responded to toxic masculinity that is built into institutions.
“What I think the #Metoo movement was responding to is this idea that toxic masculinity is built into institutions,” said Mr. Hubbell. “There’s the interpersonal interaction that Matt Lauer sexually harrasses someone, but then istitutionally, there is this whole framework where he was able to do this for decades without any repercussions.”
“He has a team of lawyers, a team of publicists and he just just holds so much power in that positions that all these women do not think they can speak up because they are worrying about their jobs,” He added.
Nicole Navratil ’18 said that a few of the girls in her class and herself heard rumors of guys talking about the girls that take her particular class at Brophy.
“The beginning of the class, the three girls and I had heard rumors of guys talking that the only reason girls would take this class was to meet other guys and to find potential future sexual partners,” said Navratil. “That was a little like—okay girls can take an english class without having any bad intentions. So that a was a little inappropriate and ridiculous of them to say.”
Sofia Ford ‘18 said that she has felt, to a certain degree, the effects of toxic masculinity.
“My dad—I really don’t see him ever or like talk to him because he left us when I was very young,” said Ford. “Whenever I do see him and talk, he pretends it’s not his job to take care of us and empathize with us. He is a man, more of a provider, and that’s where I feel I do not have a connection with him.
Ford adds that she has also witness lack of emotion in her past relationships.
“Also with past relationships, I felt that there were times where I was the only one who was able to show emotion,” she added.
Another problem that correlates with toxic masculinity is its constraints on females and female representation.
Mr. Pidgeon said he feels that a step we should take to create a solution is to buttress female representation.
“I think a major factor—in my opinion—is female representation specifically in leadership positions throughout our society,” said Mr. Pidgeon.
He adds that he does not feel that the lack of numbers is inherently bad, but he said that he believes that it is an opportunity for growth.
History teacher Mr. Kristen Venberg said that she does believe in the idea that there are men who believe in the patriarchy and give an upper hand to men, but she does not believe it is prevalent.
She adds that masculinity is not bad and men should not be ashamed about it.
“Personally, I do not think that masculinity for a man is bad,” said Mrs. Venberg. “You are a male. Other parts of the population are female. Are there traits that we share, absolutely. Are there traits that biologically makes us different, absolutely. I think we need to be realistic that those certain traits are going to make us different human beings. That does not mean one is better than the other.”
Ms. Renke said that the reason we see many powerful and influential males is because of women’s responsibility of childbearing and caring.
“There are more male CEOs because there are males that have the staying power to continuously work for 20 to 30 years to get in that CEO chair,” said Ms. Renke. “Where as women, up until the generation right after me, would have to take a break and raise a family. There was not any nannies. When I was raising my children, there was no day-time daycare unless if you were a really rich person.”
“I started working outside the home after my children were older,” said Ms. Renke. “So I did not have to worry about them getting the flu or having a baby. I bypassed all that, I am not your typical.”
Mrs. Venberg said that we should appreciate the counterpart, embrace their differences and recognize our own uniqueness.
Even as a female, I can totally understand aspects about the males,” said Mrs. Venberg. “I think males can understand certain aspects about the females. That does mean I should try to be male or men need to try to be female. I think we need to celebrate the difference and diversity because that’s what makes us a richer community.”