On Monday, Gillette — the razor and shaving-cream company — joined the chorus of cultural forces decrying so-called “toxic masculinity.” The company ran an online commercial suggesting that the history of American masculinity is rife with sexual harassment, bullying, and cruelty — and that the new masculinity must overcome all of these influences.
Now, it’s not new to see corporations pursuing accolades from various social groups — monetizing virtue signaling. It’s a profitable method, since it inoculates your corporation from the woke scolds of the Left. We’ve seen more and more corporations kowtowing to leftist social priorities, knowing that conservatives generally don’t threaten boycotts while leftist activists are happy to do so at the drop of a hat.
But there’s a broader question here: Is Gillette right?
The American Psychological Association seems to think so. Last week, it released a new set of guidelines slamming “traditional masculinity.” According to the APA, “traditional masculinity ideology” helps limit “males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental and physical health.” According to the APA, “traditionally masculine” men have built a system of masculinity around bullying rather than civilizing, around stolidity rather than emotional maturity. Thus, it is the fault of men that young boys are growing up to become toxic males.
But is that true? If we truly believe that young men are growing up inculcated into a toxic vision of masculinity, is that from too much traditional male influence or too little? Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23 percent of American children live with a single mother. That percentage has tripled since 1960. As of 2012, 55 percent of black children and 31 percent of Hispanic children lived with one parent, predominantly the mother.
How about other male influences? Teachers are predominantly female in the United States, particularly in primary education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 76 percent of public-school teachers were female. Over 80 percent of social workers are female.
In other words, more and more young boys lack male influence altogether. This isn’t to suggest that toxic male influence doesn’t exist — of course it does. But that toxic male influence has always been generated by peers rather than parents. For decades, we’ve known that the vast majority of criminals grew up without a father in the home — as of 1987, 70 percent of inmates grew up in a one-parent home. The Center for Children and Families has reported that 70 percent of “gang members, high school dropouts, teen suicides, teen pregnancies, and teen substance abusers come from single mother homes.”
If you want to raise a generation of men who will treat women well, act as protectors rather than victimizers, and become the bedrock for a stable society, you need more masculinity, not less. In fact, a recent study from Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau found that high levels of father presence in local communities may matter even more than having a father in the home directly; the study explained, “black boys who grow up in areas with high father presence are also significantly less likely to be incarcerated.”
We’ve maligned masculinity as a society because men are likely to do the greatest harm to others. The vast majority of violent criminality comes from males; the vast majority of sexual misconduct comes from males. But we’ve made a mistake in blaming the presence of males for that issue. It’s a massive mistake to blame “toxic masculinity” rather than recognizing that toxic masculinity is often the result of a dearth of genuine masculinity — the kind of masculinity that leads men to stick around and father their children in the first place. The alternative to masculine presence is no masculine presence — and lack of masculine presence leads to toxic masculinity, deprived men acting out of hurt and anger.