“Toxic masculinity” refers to harmful forms of masculine expression, such as violence, aggression, aloofness, and the policing of other men’s masculinity.
Here, “toxic” is a restrictive adjective, which is to say that “toxic masculinity” refers to the subset of masculinity that is toxic; it does not mean that all masculinity is toxic. Nonetheless, this is a common point of confusion, perhaps because there’s little visible discussion of what might constitute non-toxic masculinity.
So I’d like to explain my ideas about what non-toxic masculinity should look like, on an abstract level. An outline:
- Toxic masculinity should be contrasted with “harmless masculinity”, not “virtuous masculinity”.
- Harmless masculinity is mostly a matter of aesthetics.
- Masculine aesthetics can also be toxic, but I argue that they are not necessarily so.