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Toxic Masculinity

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Friday, January 18, 2019 @ 7:30 AM
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Peter Rosenberger President of Standing With Hope, Host of Hope for the Caregiver on AFR MORE

TOXIC MASCULINITY:
The Tweet that Launched a Thousand Razor Burns

Apparently, Donald Trump isn’t the only one who can set off a firestorm with a Tweet.

Gillette seems to be giving the President a run for his money with this Tweet that launched at least a thousand razor burns: “Boys will be boys”? Isn’t it time we stopped excusing bad behavior?

While there’s nothing new about the nearly 30-year-old trademarked phrase, "The best a man can get,” it becomes a whole new ballgame by marrying that message with the #MeToo movement that has many in America reeling.  

According to the Pew Research Center, there’s no agreement on the Nature vs. Nurture debate even 25 years after the bestselling book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” opining as to why men and women are different.

One key shift in gender roles is that more men have become key caregivers to a family member. According to studies, the last ten years reveals an increasing number of men serving as family caregivers.  Up from 35% a decade ago, studies show men now make up more than 45% of those caring for an aging, disabled, or chronically-ill loved one—a number reflecting more masculinity inserted into what traditionally appeared to be a role overwhelming dominated by females.

So, how does this square up with razor blade companies seemingly broad brushing the ‘nature’ of a gender being filled with ‘toxic masculinity?’ Whether a direct or indirect swipe at the president, the debate appears burrowed into the regular discourse of American life.

Simply relegating responsibility of poor behavior to mere gender ignores the ravages of our oft selfish natures when we put our personal desires ahead of love and respect.

As a caregiver for thirty years, I’ve known men who utilize their masculinity as a caregiver to take on the health care system like William Wallace, vis-à-vis Braveheart.  They do this while simultaneously exhibiting qualities of tenderness and nurture that so many sitcoms, commercials, and news reports portray men as incapable of achieving.  Yet, even though seeing so many women functioning as the loving nurturers most consider them to be, I’ve also seen women viciously excoriate and harm their loved ones with unchecked “toxic” behaviors.

To my knowledge, no term “toxic femininity” covers headlines. We don’t see any national discourse on the toxic behaviors of women—who, just like men, possess unique ways to behave poorly. While one can argue that society also pays for the poor choices some women make, making either gender pay the price for the behavior of some seems not only inappropriate but destructively prejudicial.

From every science book taught in school, I never noticed a xy-t  or xx-chromosome taught.

If there is no toxic gene, then it stands to reason that all the behavior considered toxic remains learned.  Maybe we serve men better by pulling out tiny brushes instead of mile-wide rollers to help isolate the teachings and not the gender.

As a caregiver, masculinity brings its own approach to the age-old problem of caring for a loved one with an impairment. While the stress of caregiving challenges respect neither gender, our makeup as men and women color our response. Some men will try to do a checklist and logically to ‘get it done’ while some women approach the caregiving journey as nurturers. Yet, at other times men and women respond with similar behaviors from both genders. Passive aggressive behaviors, combativeness, shaming, demeaning, insulting, and great sacrifice are all on vivid display from caregivers regardless of gender. Under the extreme stress of caregiving, we see what’s in the hearts of individuals.

The choice and responses of dealing with the stress remain up to the individual. Rather than berate one group as possessing a leaning towards toxicity, we can bore past the ‘Political Correctness’ and just see the human heart plagued by self-centered behavior — oftentimes squeezed by fear and trauma.

Rather than berate or even try to alter men, we better serve ourselves as a culture when we learn from each other and incorporate our strengths together. I celebrate my masculinity as a caregiver and admire the femininity that women bring to the role. As a caregiver, I’ve learned tips, tools, and great wisdom from many women who understand the journey.  I’ve also offered insights from my own journey to women feeling crushed by theirs. My approach as a man helps me in ways that many women can’t see.  Yet, women bring insights to help them — and men — in ways that we can’t often see.

When I fail as a man, my failures are sometimes uniquely masculine failures.  Not because of a toxic masculine default, but because I am a man – and prone to failure. While I rue the many mistakes I’ve made as a man using uniquely masculine behaviors, I extend the grace I depend upon — to women who’ve made mistakes uniquely as women. 

There is nothing like caring for someone with a disability a for a couple of decades to illuminate the toxicity in one’s heart. Attaching that or any other kind of toxicity as gender defect is a shallow approach to a deeper problem. Character issues reflect a heart condition, not a gender problem. When it comes to caregiving, we’re all in this together — we’ll either be one or need one. Rather than divide us by politically correct stereotypes, we serve ourselves better by blending our unique strengths as men and women.

Peter Rosenberger has served as a caregiver for his wife, Gracie, through a medical nightmare spanning 35 years. He hosts HOPE FOR THE CAREGIVER each Saturday morning on American Family Radiowww.hopeforthecaregiver.com

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