In an article for Public Books, Lisa Wade, a sociology professor at Occidental College (which, I’m embarrassed to say, is my alma mater) recently wrote that “we should reject the idea that men have a psychic need to distinguish themselves from women.” Why? Because “masculinity is toxic.” In fact, we should be “suspicious of males who strongly identify as men.”
Frankly, I’d be more suspicious of males who identified as something other than males like, say, toasters, or unicorns, or their great-aunt Mildred’s long-lost cat. It seems to me that those males would be delusional and therefore far more suspicious than males who actually identified as males. Since that’s what they are. It would at least display a much stronger grasp on reality than our dear friend professor Wade.
Let me break Wade’s theory down for you, because I could see how sane people might have a little trouble following it. Wade believes that there is literally no difference between men and women. And, since there’s no difference between men and women, anything that is seen as being inherently masculine or inherently feminine is actually just a social construct. And (as if that wasn’t crazy enough,) every single thing that is supposedly male is bad. “If we are going to finish the gender revolution,” declares Wade, “then, we need to call masculinity out as a hazardous ideology and denounce anyone who chooses to identify with it.”
Honestly, I despair for the male college students of America who sit in lecture halls and seminar rooms and have to listen to this garbage. Who don’t know any better than to believe it. Who sign up for classes that promise to help them reduce their own toxic masculinity, because, by virtue of having grown up a man in a gendered world, they are at risk of becoming rapists. Who passionately deny that there are inherent differences between men and women, and feel they must apologize for everything they do, or like, or say, that fits the stereotype of their “assigned” gender.
Wade’s article is ostensibly a reaction to the “vulgar and vindictive masculinity” of President Donald Trump. But it also comes in the wake of the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled at producer Harvey Weinstein and other members of the Hollywood community. Wade’s point is that bragging about “penis size and how he’d never rape an ugly woman” is simply what maleness is all about. And, therefore, it must be eliminated.
Poor Wade, your daddy wasn’t very nice to you, was he? Of course sexual harassment (and rape, and molestation, and all forms of sexual misconduct) is wrong and should be eliminated. But real men don’t do those things.
See, men and women really are different. Men, for example, are naturally more physically aggressive, have higher sex drives, and prefer to solve problems rather than talk about them. Women, on the other hand, are naturally more emotional, more nurturing, and less decisive. These differences are innate. Sure, there are variations within the rule. But no amount of social programming will cause the average man or woman to stop being an average man or woman.
What society can (and should) do is teach men and women how to master their drives and use them for good, rather than evil. Men should use their superior physical strength and their natural tendency toward using it to protect people weaker than themselves (like women), rather than just attacking whoever they feel like whenever they feel like it. Women should use their emotionality and nurturing impulses to express empathy, build strong families, and raise well-adjusted kids, rather than devolving into fits of anxiety and hysteria. Society teaches us to master our innate drives. That’s the social construct, not the innate drives themselves.
Men like Harvey Weinstein are giving in to their basest male urges. They’re not living by a code that allows them to use their male urges for the good of society. And it’s this (not their maleness) that makes them scumbags, lowlifes, and criminals.
If you don’t acknowledge the differences between men and women — if you say they don’t exist, or that women are just as interested in sex, or just as physically strong — then you create a society that doesn’t teach men how to be men. Just as it doesn’t teach women how to be women.
If men weren’t physically stronger than women, or more motivated by sex, or less in touch with their emotions, then they wouldn’t need to practice chivalry, stand up for honor, develop a sense of loyalty, determination, and drive. Just as women wouldn’t seek to be thoughtful, supportive, and kind.
A generation that, as Wade commands them to, denounces anyone who chooses to identify with masculinity, will necessarily be one that filters out self-control. Because, if you can’t acknowledge your inherent nature, then you can’t learn to exert control over your baser instincts. But when institutions of learning allow our children to be indoctrinated by people like Wade, that will be the result.