Masculinity is not ‘toxic’ – it is a gift!

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by Michaelyn Hein –

The family room television flashed from commercial to commercial as my son lounged in front of it, exhausted from the heat of the summer day he’d just been out running around in. From the kitchen, I half listened to it as I bustled about, preparing dinner.

The next commercial that came on barely registered with me. I was too busy looking for the skillet that, for some reason, wasn’t with the rest of the pots and pans. Still, I caught glimpses of girls my son’s age winning a race, earning an academic award and reaching the top of an indoor rock wall. Praises for the girls poured from the narrator’s mouth.

“Girls can do anything they set their minds to,” the ad asserted. “You are strong, determined. You persevere.”

The compliments and encouragement toward young females continued, and my mind focused more on my own frustration at a lost pan than on a frustration I didn’t know was mounting in my son.

“Mom,” he asked pointedly from the adjacent room. “How come nobody thinks boys are great?”

It was a sincere question. As soon as he asked it, the seemingly innocent lauding of females that had echoed in the background was pushed front and center in my mind.

“Because of the commercial?” I asked.

He nodded. “Everything is about girls. Everybody loves girls. But nobody loves boys. They just make us look stupid and tell us we’re bad,” he responded.

And that was the point. Not that girls shouldn’t be encouraged. Not that they shouldn’t be revered and applauded and praised. But that in our contemporary society, while girls are commended, boys are ridiculed. Their maleness mocked and spat upon. Their masculinity denounced as toxic.

As much as I try to shield my son from this tragic truth, it has still apparently seeped through the cracks in our home’s foundation and wormed its way into his developing, impressionable brain.

I could only nod in agreement at my son’s resentment. “You’re right,” I acknowledged. “Our society does paint boys in a very bad light, doesn’t it? But you know what? It actually needs your goodness – the virtues that make you male – desperately. As much as it needs the virtues that make your sister female.”

We have a very real problem on our hands when our boys learn from their youngest ages that their masculinity is something to feel ashamed of.

Indeed, our society ironically needs to be saved by the virtues of masculinity, even as it shuns it as nothing but destructive. Because masculinity, as God created it, is actually productive, and it’s about time we let our husbands and sons and fathers know it. It’s about time we, as women, build up our men rather than participate in their tearing down.

For how can society encourage the razing of one of the pillars upon which it rests? How can the family stay silent while one of the legs upon which it stands is knocked out from under it? How can women support – either aloud or by their silence – the attempted ruination of their other half? And how can mothers do nothing but watch as their sons are told – either directly or indirectly – that they are not only useless but dangerous?

No, we need to stop sending our men and boys the message that we don’t appreciate their God-given gift of masculinity and start letting them know how much we desire it.

For it is authentic masculinity that defends and protects. It is true masculinity that builds and constructs. It is genuine masculinity that leads and provides and sacrifices.

“But what about men who use their strength to cause harm? Indeed, their masculinity is toxic, isn’t it?” comes the inevitable question. The answer, as it always should be, is that we don’t throw out the virtue with the sin.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati used his love of mountain climbing to challenge friends to return to the Sacraments. “If I beat you back down the mountain,” he’d say, “you must come to Mass with me.” This was the virtue of masculine leadership.

St. Maximilian Kolbe offered his life for another’s in the German death camp at Auschwitz. This was the virtue of masculine sacrifice.

St. Joseph ushered his wife and newborn baby boy from the dangers in Bethlehem to the temporary safety of Egypt. This was the virtue of masculine protection.

Our Lord, our pinnacle of perfect, authentic masculinity, did all of this and more. He provided with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and He still provides with His own flesh and blood in the Eucharist. He defended the woman caught in adultery. He led when He both admonished and forgave sinners.

But our society is no longer one that seeks to build; it is, these days, one that seeks to destroy. And the family, upon which the success of society rests, will be destroyed if the ground upon which it has been erected, its authentically feminine women and its authentically masculine men, is shaken.

We have a very real problem on our hands when our boys learn from their youngest ages that their masculinity is something to feel ashamed of. As parents, then, our most pressing solution is to safeguard and encourage their masculine virtues so that they may one day grow up to be truly holy men.

We must be keenly aware that no matter how much we try to steer our children’s eyes away from the shows that portray men as dunces and their ears away from the apologies that male politicians make for simply being men, our culture is so saturated with anti-masculinity that our boys can hardly help but absorb it.

And so we must set to work. In our families, fathers need to embrace, not apologize for, their masculinity. In our homes, mothers need to compliment fathers on their authentically male virtues. And in our world, we need to start thanking men for being holy, good and virtuous. We need to do this so that our voices begin to push out those of our very anti-male society.

Then, maybe one day, our sons will not question if people think they’re great, too. They’ll know that when they walk in the path that God has set out for them, they can’t be anything else.

Michaelyn Hein is a Catholic writer, wife and mother who resides in Hopewell, NJ. This article appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Soul.

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16 Responses

  1. Thank you for saying what I’ve thought and felt for many years. Having been blessed with wonderful men in my life, I totally agree! Sadly, both sexes have been under attack in our society, and I love to point out that many great women in history found their greatness in the power of their femininity. Praise be to God who made man, both male and female and saw that it was good.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Indeed, men and women, when they are true to who God created them to be, are such a gift to their families and our world. God bless you!

    2. Our society has somehow fell under the delusion women are morally & ethically superior. Were that true, they would demonstrate the protectiveness & intersex empathy that men do. The current degradation of men would be an unacceptable moral affront & not something they embraced. If men don’t learn how to stand up to women & see they too, also have sizable failings then society will eventually crumble.

  2. She’s making more than is true in this
    Article. Women have been foremost in the eye of the pen in the last few years because someone thought they were the ones downtrodden ——. Because of sex! Men can have indiscriminate sex and walk away
    Women may be saddled with a pregnancy!
    But that’s the devil working in our world today. So he “invented” abortion to make women feel better! Many. Bought it and say nothing of the pain , cost , and not talked about depression after abortion.
    What should be talked about is boys and girls do have equal merits in different ways and tell your son he’ll have his day when boys are heralded for their accomplishments!

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree with so much of what you said. Indeed, our boys and girls both have much to offer this world if they stay true to the charisms gifted them by our Lord! God bless you!

  3. I’d appreciate some clarification on the author’s line, “away from the apologies that male politicians make for simply being men.” I liked the article until I read that line. I follow politics closely and I haven’t ever heard a politician apologise for being male. Perhaps I missed the numerous times this has happened. If so, I would welcome a correction. Unfortunately, I believe that the author is actually refering to male (generally married) politicians who have been forced to apologise for inappropriate, sexist comments to women. Those comments were not an inherent part of being a male! They were sinful and inappropriate! I am sure that St. Joseph and Jesus did not run around commenting on women’s “assets” because it was just part of being a male. This article does men and boys a disservice by implying that they can’t control their thoughts and comments.

    1. Kim, thank you for your comment. I’m happy to clarify. I didn’t want to get into naming names because I didn’t want to get too far off topic from the general theme of the article (and the politicians/politics weren’t the point). But, to clarify, the politicians I was referencing weren’t limited to the U.S. For an example, a leading New Zealand politician, at a Women’s Refuge symposium, literally began his speech by stating, “I am sorry for being a man”. While this has been in the recesses of my mind since he said it in 2014, it was brought to the forefront of my mind when the media resurrected it during the #metoo movement. I fully agree that mistreatment of women is sinful and definitely not typical of most men, which is why an apology like this is insulting to our men and boys – because it purports that abuse of women (which is what prompted the apology) is a typical male trait.

      I am not sure how I implied that men cannot control their thoughts and comments. On the contrary, I took great pains to praise the many virtues of men and to acknowledge that, by and large, their masculinity is not toxic and cruel, but is life-giving and good.

      I hope this offers some clarity. God bless you!

    2. Thank you. This is exactly how I felt when I read those words. Maybe it’s a sentence the author failed to reread and correct before publishing. Maybe it’s another example of how men/boys bad behavior is excused as “boys will be boys“. As parents we need to encourage boys to understand masculinity as reflected by Jesus, Joseph, and other saints as the author said. We should find models in the world who our boys can look up to. That’s on us.

      1. Thank you for your contribution to the conversation, Barb. I appreciate your comment! I hope I offered clarity with my response to Kim. I was, indeed, referencing a specific world politician who did apologize for simply being a man when he had no reason to do so. He had not hurt women (as far as we know), but was apologizing for his inherent maleness. I don’t believe anything in my wording points to politicians being excused for bad behavior. That is something I would never – and certainly did not – say.

        As a mother to two boys, it is sad to me that I am raising them in a world where they are expected to apologize for their maleness – in any degree – when they have personally done nothing that warrants an apology. As you said, it is so important that we encourage our boys to emulate the virtuous males our faith provides. Thank God for the many role models they have in the saints!

        God bless you!

  4. Thank you Mrs Hein for defending us men. So very rarely it seems, are words written anymore as those in your article. As a father of two very fine sons, with two grandsons and two granddaughters I thank you. God bless you and your family.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Lawson, for your comment. It sounds like your sons and grandchildren are blessed to have you as their father/grandfather. God bless you!

  5. Leftist feminists say that we men want to “oppress” women because we fear them.

    I think leftist feminists fear us men because we’re ordinary guys who love our wives and children and do our work to support them out of love.

    Idiot feminists….

    1. Dr. Koloze, agreed. Funny thing is that I was a Women’s and Gender Studies minor in college because I believed (naively) that it would follow in the vein of 1st wave feminism. I quickly discovered, however, that the classes were taught by 2nd wave feminists – a group that has done so much to destroy marriage and the family (though it took me a good portion of my 20’s to realize it).

      I pray women will become increasingly grateful for all you “ordinary guys who love your wives and children” and do so much to support them. My husband is one such man, and I thank God each day for him. Keep being the great men you are – the world and our families need you!

    2. Yes, anything that counters the wholesale demonization of men & angelization of women doesn’t really fly with feminists. Furthermore, they’ll always find a way to impugn & demonize the male’s motives & sanctify & angelize the female’s motives. It’s impressive mental gymnastics, the conclusion is unwavering; women = good; men = bad. That’s the sophistication of feminist apprehension & they apply that confirmation bias to all of their conclusions.

  6. I think I completely understood what you meant about men apologizing for being men. I don’t think you meant that they were apologizing because “ that’s just the way they are”. I think the men you were referring to (and I’ve heard the apologies too) were simply trying to appear “woke” in this age of political correctness. They do it at the expense of the self image of young men who are trying to figure out what being a man is all about. It’s really no wonder there is so much “gender” confusion these days. Both sexes should show each other the respect they deserve and appreciate their differences. No need to bash the other sex to build up your own self image.
    I think the article was well written and much needed. Thanks

    1. Thank you, Maureen. Yes, everything you wrote was exactly my intent, and I am grateful for your contribution to the conversation. We men and women certainly need to start supporting and praising each other’s good works, and showing each other more gratitude! Have a blessed day!

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