Toxic masculinity… Do we want mice or men?



You know that situation where something goes wrong and you can’t fix it? I remember it happening once when I was facilitating a pre-retirement course held in a school in Cape Town. I went to the loo and found to my horror that the handbasin tap wouldn’t turn off. There was no janitor around as it was an evening course, so I went back to the class room and asked if anyone could help.
With one accord the men present raced off loo-wards in a posse and stopped the flood in a trice. Men have a way of coming to the rescue. It happened the other day too when our local electricity supply failed. There were about 10 ESB guys dealing with the outage, putting up poles,wires, wielding machinery, sawing up a tree that nearly decapitated them in the midst of the proceedings and they had the power back on by evening like they promised.
I think it’s time to hear some praise for men for a change. Not just for fixing things, not all men are handy, I once wrote about a guy who had business called Hire A Husband. The title led to occasional misunderstandings with husbands who thought they were being usurped but led to a lot of small jobs around people’s homes getting fixed.
To me, men can often be heroic, shouldering the burden – or part of it – of providing for their families, chained to their jobs and working their butts off for 40 years or more.
I take my hat off to all those stalwarts: crane operators, long-haul truck drivers, plumbers, electricians men down mines, tree surgeons, firemen and all those guys whose work would scare the wits out of me even if I were trained to do such challenging jobs. They keep the world working and they are, in a sense, modern knights in shining armour.
There’s a risk though these days that perceptions about men and men’s view of themselves get tarnished by all the negative publicity about the male sex, it’s enough to turn knights in shining armour into shites in whining armour.
The expression ‘toxic masculinity’ is bandied around these days by judges and others in relation to for crimes and brutal murders of women. But is it hardly the masculinity that is toxic surely it’s the behaviour of the men involved. It seems that that term toxic has been linked with masculinity due to outdated constructs around what it means to be a man, like the cult of machismo or the hard man and the effect that such attitudes may have on men’s attitude to women.
Violence against women, coercive control, to the point where an individual feels entitled to take life in order to gain control, sexual abuse and rape are all abhorrent but I don’t buy the idea that they are attributes of masculinity. They are crimes.
The attributes of masculinity are after all partly a social construct and partly the innate characteristics of being male. Men have changed a great deal over the last half century, we all have. Back in the day you would never see a man pushing a pram much less complaining that that maternity hospital Covid regulations have prevented them attending their partner’s scans and labours and of course there is far more to the way things have changed, the word partner says a lot about the way relationships between the sexes are now.
We need to call out the bad stuff with campaigns like “Me Too, making behaviour like coercive control an offence has been long overdue. But let’s leave men their masculinity and remember the positive qualities associated with manliness, courage, valour, chivalry and not forgetting their ability to fix things.

Previous Finding yourself as the pandemic alters
Next Tudor Kitchen at Rothe House is venue for Kilkenny group Sola