A wonderful piece by Tim, our resident guest author, looking at toxicity. This is an area I come across regularly; clients in relationships that are affected by narcissistic behaviours. Hence, why we launched NAAW (Narcissist Avoidance Action Week) in January 2018.
Oh Bob Brotchie, what are we going to do with you? You’ve found a rich vein of material on Psychology Today, and a large number of the articles you show us on your Twitter feed are off kilter like this one, New Findings on Toxic Masculinity and, as so often, I’ve left the author a comment.
Well, it annoyed me. I found it to be careless. You see, I’m a man. If I hear any bleating from the cheap seats along the lines of “Yes, but you’re a gay man, I’ve read your stuff before…” I may have to break the fourth wall and address you directly!
Oh wait. I do that anyway.
Men all over the world are trained to be whatever the words ‘be a real man’ mean. “Boys don’t cry!” is a phrase I was raised with. Well, I was a boy and I cried. I’m a man and I cry. I just watched the 2004 movie The Chorus, in French with English subtitles. I cried. In part it was the story, in part the music, and I cried.
Real men cry.
Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
In my life, I’ve met my fair share of toxicity. I will confess freely to you that I was, once, a bully. Karma stopped that, and rather directly. The person I was bullying snapped and beat the bejasus out of me. We were 14, and I was deeply unpleasant. He taught me the right lesson, but later than he or I needed. Toxic is what I had been. In my adult life, I have tried to find the man who is that boy and apologise to him. I have failed so far. He was a decent lad. Our French teacher, a nasty, toxic piece of work, gave him the wonderful name of ‘Thicky Bell’ and it led many of us to be toxic towards him.
So, that’s toxic masculinity, then?
No. It’s just toxic behaviour, mine and the teacher’s and my schoolmates’ behaviour.
This is not ‘just’ the preserve of men. Women will also show toxic behaviour. Toxicity is a choice and some women choose it. While not realising that her behaviour was toxic, my class teacher when I was seven exhibited toxic and bullying behaviour. Her brand of toxicity was to bully those of us who were not what she wanted, rather than teaching us. Unlike Michel de Montaigne whose “life [was] full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened” she visited those misfortunes upon us. I’m not about to detail what she did.
Of my many managers a large number have been women. Of those a great percentage, some 75%, have exhibited toxicity towards both the men and women they managed in equal measure. Of the men who have been my manager fewer than 50% have shown toxicity. I just use this anecdotal evidence to suggest that toxic behaviour is not related to masculinity.
The mark of a good manager is to lead, not to demean. Toxicity demeans. It also demeans the person displaying toxic behaviour.
Reaching ‘The Top’ does seem to be a matter of being the biggest and baddest, though. The USA has a toxic President at the moment. As I write this, the UK has a toxic Prime Minister. The former is a man, the latter is a woman [Sweet little Theresa May]. They have each surrounded themselves with other toxic folk, male and female.
This is the stuff wars are made of, and it sure isn’t pleasant. Take a pace back. List some world leaders. Find me some non toxic ones.
List some male and female captains of industry and commerce. Find me some non toxic ones.
On your lists make those you truly admire, those with whom a dinner together, just the two of you, would be an enjoyable occasion.
Which are the most successful? I don't mean which are the biggest bullies? I mean which are the most successful in every sense of the word? If your list is all the high toxicity ones, do you really have it right? Click To Tweet
I’ve not lost my way, you know. I’m just asking you to do some work. You do remember that I almost always only write a piece for Bob when I’m angry about something, I hope.
I’m angry that we’ve been duped into accepting and using the words ‘Toxic Masculinity’, jumping on the colloquial bandwagon. Men use them, women use them, psychologists, psychiatrists use them, people in the street use them.
And they’re 50% incorrect. It’s the second word that’s unhelpful
I’ve thought about this mindfully while writing this piece, while wandering off on mindful tangents, too.
We need to rail against toxicity, and do do so whether the person behaving in a toxic manner is man, woman or child.
To do anything else is toxic, isn’t it?