EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece is reprinted with permission from Acculturated.
Men. We are just the worst, with our toxic masculinity and patriarchal privilege. We are the source of literally all of the world’s problems, from war, income inequality, and “rape culture” to the misogynistic microaggressions of “mansplaining” and “manspreading.” If we are ever to create a nonviolent, truly gender-equal world, we must rip away the false, culturally constructed façade of masculinity. We must free ourselves from the strictures of macho posturing, embrace vulnerability, and redefine what it means to be strong.
That is the message being promoted incessantly today from celebrities like John Legend to the halls of academia to media outlets such as Slate, Salon, and HuffPost. Seemingly overnight, our culture has unquestioningly embraced the term “toxic masculinity.” Male nature itself is the problem, we are told, and the solution is the deconstruction of our understanding of what it means to be a man. But photos and news reports coming out of the devastation wreaked in Texas by Hurricane Harvey are putting the lie to this subversive idea.
In addition to the men among law enforcement and first responders, whose daily mission it is “to serve and protect” while putting their own lives on the line, thousands of volunteers among regular citizens have stepped up and made their way to the region to bring aid to those endangered by Harvey. Some examples among them, which the media singled out:
The Cajun Navy, a network of volunteers with their own boats who trace their origins back to Hurricane Katrina, battled the elements and exhaustion to help anyone they could.
Another ordinary guy who brought his personal boat to the stricken area was asked by a reporter what he intended to do with it, and the fellow replied matter-of-factly, “I’m going to try to save some lives.” There was no boasting or posturing or “mansplaining” about it; he was simply doing what good men do.
The Daily Mail published this photo of the Houston fire department’s dive team in a motorboat searching for people who needed rescuing. Bitter feminists at Salon will no doubt complain that they seem to be “manspreading” on that raft, but these men don’t have time for that nonsense, and neither do Hurricane Harvey’s victims.
Local radio station KPRC spoke with another man who was leading a volunteer rescue crew. “It’s just the way I was raised up,” he said. “Everybody else comes before me.” That simple, humble assertion is the very essence of chivalric masculinity: service before self, the defense of the defenseless.
Sometimes that service demands heroic sacrifice. Houston police Sergeant Steve Perez, 60, was caught in the floodwaters trying to get to work and lost his life. His wife had urged him to reconsider reporting for duty, but he told her, “I’ve got work to do.” The next time someone dares to use the insulting term “male privilege,” tell them about Sergeant Perez.
This photo captured Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Johnson, the father of four and a veteran of Iraq and Kuwait, going door to door in Cypress, Texas, along with his colleagues, trying to bring people to safety. In the picture, he is carrying two children to a boat as their parents gathered up important documents. “I’ve always liked helping people out,” Johnson said simply. How toxic of him.
But the image that most represents the spirit of men coming to the rescue in Texas is this one, of a Houston SWAT member carrying a young woman and her child Sunday afternoon. One woman named Renna who tweeted the photo sarcastically captioned it, “Toxic masculinity and privilege,” and many commentators chimed in, praising masculinity.
“A man, behaving as a man, a real man. Thank goodness for men like him,” tweeted one.
Another wrote, “Remember this the next time self-righteous women talk about ‘toxic masculinity.’ Thank you brave heroes of #Houston and God bless our troops.”
Yet another Twitter user juxtaposed the photo with that of the Democrat party’s “Pajama Boy,” with this caption that perfectly summed up our current cultural dissonance about manhood: “What sitcoms, media, and professors tell you she wants vs. what she actually wants.”
The man was later identified as SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck, carrying Catherine Pham and her thirteen-month-old son Aiden through knee-deep water covering Interstate 610 in southwest Houston. “If he’s still single by nightfall, I’ll be disappointed in you Texas ladies,” Renna tweeted.
Another photo making the rounds showed a handsome man in a wetsuit paddle-boarding a four-year-old through flooded streets. The post captioned it, “More toxicity. When will it end?”
Some will (and did) complain that such reports were not examples of toxic masculinity. Of course not — that is the point. These stories and photos in the news media depicted the true chivalric nature of masculinity: men acting upon their natural responsibility as protectors, stepping up, at risk to their own lives, to help those unable to help themselves. It is this aspect of manhood for which men are never given credit by those deconstructionists in the culture and in academia who view masculinity as an obstacle to their agenda. Misandrist activists and intellectuals never acknowledge that there are positive aspects to masculine strength or that women want traditionally masculine men.
The heroic efforts of the men battling Hurricane Harvey reveal the hollowness of this subversive idea. As one woman tweeted in response to the photo of Hudeck, “It’s not that women aren’t brave. They are. But this is just what men do. Great, gloriously toxic men. Love them to death.”
– Mark Tapson is the editor-in-chief of TruthRevolt and a Shillman Fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center.