There’s been a lot of talk about toxic masculinity lately. Even razor companies are joining in on the conversation. The problem with the conversation is how we define our terms. For many, toxic masculinity is any display of manhood that shows physical, moral, or emotional strength in a traditionally male setting. For example, a father wrestling with is boys is toxic because he is teaching them to abuse women. Those subscribing to this particular view see the only acceptable form of manhood as the kind where men fumble through life apologizing until feminists and sexual revolutionaries give them permission to do anything else.
Others see no signs of toxic masculinity. In responding to the wackiness they see from academics and media programmers, they go way too far in the other direction. It’s Andrew Dice Clay 2.0. For them, manhood is limited strictly to their trucks, their benchpress, and the women with whom they associate. In their worldview of manliness, there’s no room for emotional strength or vulnerability. It’s all about appearance. At best, their version of manliness isn’t even skin deep.
And then there’s real manhood. This is the type that pursues strength (physical, mental, and spiritual), not as an end in itself but for the purpose of leading and helping others. True manhood isn’t demonstrated so much in the weight room or in some club. You’re more likely to see it in the pick-up line at a school, at the kitchen sink, in the backyard with the kids, at a daddy-daughter dance, and at a baby changing station.
On Monday night, you could see it on a street in Palm Beach County, Florida when it came head-to-head-with full blown toxic masculinity. As is always the case in this long rivalry, real masculinity got the upper hand on toxic masculinity.
Tony Beckham noticed a man outside the window of his Florida home. Upon further investigation, Beckham, a former football player with the Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions, found the prowler peaking through his daughter’s window. The prowler’s hand was down the front of his pants.
Tony Beckham sprang into action and chased after the man. No one describes better than Beckham what happened when he caught the man.
“I caught him at the apartment over there and we just had a good conversation.”
When police arrived, Beckham and Cassidy were still having their conversation about the virtues of real manhood and the pitfalls of toxic masculinity. It was a costly conversation that left the alleged perpetrator, Geoffrey Cassidy, with several broken bones in his face.
Toxic masculinity feeds off of others, particularly women. It peers through windows, boasts of sexual conquests, is selfish, and has no room in its lexicon for words like service or sacrifice.
Watered-down masculinity, the kind many Progressives prefer, is rooted in fear, cowardice, and appeasement. It never speaks up or stands up for fear of getting on the wrong side of the mob. There is no room in the vocabulary of watered-down masculinity for words like courage, boldness, and risk.
Authentic masculinity, like the kind we saw from Tony Beckham, is more than physical strength. It is physical strength for the good of those who God has placed under our care. Sometimes that physical strength is needed to carry kids upstairs to bed. Sometimes it’s needed to work a full day after spending the night in the hospital with a very sick wife. And sometimes it’s chasing lunatics away from your daughter’s window.
Real masculinity doesn’t wait until the prowlers come before it leaps into action. It’s on site when young men come asking our daughters on dates. It’s there to offer correction and protection when our sons are watching a football game and see a commercial that borders on porn. It leads men to be emotionally available to their wives and to serve them before ever thinking about what they can do for us.
We should celebrate Tony Beckham. He gave us one small example of real manhood. But we must also remember that there are thousands of other examples around us. They may be less dramatic but they are no less important.
I see it on Sunday mornings when Hal waits for his wife Lois to come down out of the choir loft so he can hold her hand and walk her to her seat.
I see it in Jamie, a devoted husband and father who for as long as I’ve known him carries his three kids to all of their events after a long day of mentoring the young men and women he teaches at school everyday.
Most masculinity is not toxic.
And the answer to toxic masculinity is never less masculinity.
The answer to toxic masculinity is authentic masculinity–the type that faithfully serves and leads and, should the need arise, has a conversation out in the street for the good of those being led and served.