The unfolding horrors of Toxic Masculinity

Tue 02 April 2024

Content Warning: This post deals with the issue of toxic masculinity. If that (or the discussion thereof) is upsetting to you, please skip this one. Also, a minor bible reference is included.

I thought I had a pretty fair grasp on the idea and archetypes of toxic masculinity. I am, after all, Middle-Eastern, and I saw plenty of it growing up. Chauvinism, fragile egos, ridiculous posturing, drunken behavior, abusive speech, the whole nine yards.

What I've seen on the internet in the past couple months has utterly floored me. It honestly makes me nauseous, and more patient to bear with the sad foibles of the milder forms I saw as a youth.

I won't be using any names, partially to avoid the flaming keyboards of the vacuous apologists of cultic personalities, and partially in forbearance towards those I find less harmful, yet still within the sphere of Toxic Masculinity.

Starting a couple months ago, I developed a particularly nasty habit of spending a lot of time perusing Youtube Shorts (which to be honest, is a mildly distilled version of TikTok, which is to say, horrible). Most of what I saw on that platform was your typical vaguely cringey influencer fare. But after an embarrassingly large number of hours perusing random TikTok offscourings on Youtube, the algorithm started ducking me into darker and darker corners of the feed. Fitness zealots. Testosterone-jacked muscle men (who may indeed have a hard time turning their head or walking through modestly-sized doorframes, but who am I to judge)? Some of the content was actually somewhat inspirational:

  • "Get off your butt."
  • "Stop being lazy."
  • "Get out there and GRIND."
  • "Tell your brain to shut up and just do what you already know you need to do."

And for the span of a day or two, I felt inspired. I got up early. I took a long jog and shut out any discomfort my body was trying to relay to me. I became singularly focused, or at least my best facsimile of such. I kept the raspy entreaties of muscle-jacked influencers bouncing around my head.

I quickly exhausted not only my body, but the thin foam of hype and self-denial floating and bobbing upon my soul. And when I found myself unable to reproduce the kind of steely determination and drive that others spoke of, I found my end state far worse than what I began with. These words and ideas of outward self-denial might have helped others to conquer great odds and improve their lives tenfold, but to me,

"These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." Colossians 2:23 ESV

I didn't need to call myself a piece of garbage to be honest with my shortcomings. I could have both zeal to improve and grace for where I found myself. The great drama of self-flagellation at the altar of fitness rang very hollow after a short time.

But even these fitness personalities or even some that I might consider fitness "cultists" weren't what really alarmed me. For even in their breathless, self-denigrating-while-slyly-self-exalting speech I could see some form of reason and sanity, even if rather badly out of balance. It was what came after that really shook me.

There was next a steady stream of somewhat political armchair-commentators, whose opinions grew steadily inane and extreme the further I went along. Perhaps it is to my shame, but I could even see a twisted form of reason amongst some of the oddly bigoted pundits. It was the extreme masculinity influencers that really rattled me. I'm not referring to the fitness influencers anymore, although there was a small aspect of fitness in their schtick. I'm talking about the men that all but worship the fact that they are men, and expect women to do the same. I'm talking about men whose chief raison d'ĂȘtre is to justify themselves and attack those who reject or ridicule them. I heard phrases like "Men and women have different purposes and roles, so make me a sandwich." I heard men tell stories of how they were rejected by a woman when they were young so they spent the rest of their lives becoming "strong" so that they would not be rejected again. Ugh. So much sorry incel/rapist energy it clings to your nostrils and makes you gag.

And looking back on the greater part of "masculinity" influencers and the occasional ridiculous political pundits, I'm absolutely astonished that these people were able to say the things they did with a straight face. With absolutely not a shred of shame or self-doubt.

And perhaps that means that this really is the end.

Category: Ethics Tagged: Content Warning Ethics Life Non-technical post Philosophy