Toxic men are a blight but millennials are our great hope

Toxic masculinity is something that needs to be controlled — eradicated, actually, so says Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
Toxic men are a blight but millennials are our great hope
"DANGEROUS CLOWN:" U.S. President Donald Trump is the archetypal toxic male, says Colette Sheridan. Picture: AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

IN a world run largely by alpha males, every day brings a new crisis, with Donald Trump’s finger hovering over the nuclear button and him getting far too much media attention, given that he’s such a clown.

But he’s a dangerous clown because of his powerful position. Spewing venom from his twitter account, this is a man that encapsulates all that is bad and wrong-headed about men.

He is your archetypal toxic male for whom women are largely decorative and are rated in terms of whether or not they’re sexually desirable.

Trump strikes me as the kind of man who probably engaged in ‘rating’ women, from 1-10, with the blondest and the bustiest coming out on top. He’s that shallow and, of course, irredeemably sexist.

Toxic masculinity is something that needs to be controlled — eradicated, actually, but what are the chances of that? It’s the subject of a recent slew of books by men, including Grayson Perry, Chris Hemmings and Robert Webb.

In his book, Be A Man, Hemmings, a former exponent of lad culture, talks to men who have lost their friends to suicide and witness others self harming.

This blight of self-destruction can partly be blamed on the way boys are reared (by women as well as men, it has to be said) with the over-riding message that ‘boys don’t cry’.

It’s inevitable that all that repressed emotion, anger and tears, kept submerged during early childhood, has to come to the fore. It may find expression in aggression and violence or it can manifest itself internally as depression or, tragically through suicide, the biggest killer of young men.

Who would be a man? Yes, they call the shots (sometimes literally with disenfranchised men going ape for Isis or just acting as lone wolves full of bitterness, vengeance and bloodlust.)

Men get to climb the corporate ladder and outdo women in the earning stakes — often unfairly. Men are never penalised for having children. Women’s careers take a nose-dive once they reproduce.

But would any of us women actually prefer to be men? I doubt it. Because men are in crisis.

Thankfully, this is being addressed, not just in books.

Missouri State University has started a new programme to help ‘male-identifying students appreciate the impact that toxic masculinity has had on their lives’.

According to organisers of the programme, rising levels of depression, anxiety and mental health concerns about male students inspired them to provide a space to discuss how toxic masculinity contributes to male health problems.

Toxic masculinity is defined as a “pervasive idea that punishes men who are ‘feminine’ or experience ‘feminine tendencies’’.

The organiser of the programme, Matthew Banks, points out that while it aims to address ‘men and masculinity’, it isn’t a ‘men’s programme’

Toxic masculinity can affect you “whether you are designated as a man at birth, whether you identify as a man or whether you are masculine-of-centre”.

Or just plain female, one assumes, with more testosterone than tendencies to identify with all things girly?

The good news is that millennial men are “the most gender-progressive men on the face of the planet, for all their narcissism and all their immaturity”. That’s according to American psychologist Terry Real. He has predicted that “millennials (male and female, one hopes) will take over and that Trumpian masculinity will decline when they do.”

Why are millennial men so ahead of the game compared to their fathers? Part of it is economic. Real says that millennial men expect that they’ll be in dual career families. “They expect that women will work. They expect to divvy up the housework. That doesn’t mean they always do it, but they expect it. They expect to share decision-making.”

It makes sense because it’s known that egalitarian marriages lead to substantially greater rates of marital happiness while the traditional marriage can lead to anxiety, dissatisfaction and depression.

At the core of a traditional marriage is the notion that the wife and mother holds all of the domestic and childcare detail together while the husband and father is Mr Cave Man, out metaphorically hunting and gathering and probably being bolshie at the same time about domestic expenditure.

The wages of sin for toxic men are shortened life spans and depression. Depressingly, more than 60% of white men voted for Trump. And a lot of women voted for him. Why?

According to Terry Real, in times of peril or scarcity, females tend to favour the alpha male. In times of prosperity and peace, females tend to favour the relational male. (The relational male appreciates female company, is good with kids and is a nice guy.)

Let’s hear it for nice guys, often dismissed by females who think they want ‘a challenge’ rather than some soft-pawed guy in touch with his emotions.

We’re a complex species. But one thing is for sure, toxic masculinity stinks.

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