So, we all know the term ‘physics’. Yet, how many of us are adept in understanding the term ‘metaphysics’? What’s the difference? (If you haven’t read our prior post around this topic, dive in).
Bluntly put, metaphysics provide a framework for understanding how our universe works (not just the physical matter that we perceive in our ‘reality’).
Alright, so let’s get back to our topic at hand; ‘toxic masculinity’. When I say that this concept is not real, I am saying that this term is subjective.
All subjectivity is ultimately not real.
The term “toxic masculinity” does not mean the same thing to everyone. There is no shared agreement or understanding about what is toxic versus not toxic. There is also a lot of confusion about what is masculine, but we’ll get to that later.
So when you put two words together to describe behaviors for which there is no shared agreement you end up with not meaning anything at all.
If one person can label a cis-straight male asking a woman out on a date “toxic,” and another person thinks that’s completely acceptable behavior, then there’s nothing objective or real about that distinction. If two people see a man open the door for a woman, and one reports it as toxic while another reports it as him simply being a gentleman, was it toxic masculinity?
“Objective” or “real” means there’s something observable and measurable that does not change based on who’s looking. That there’s agreement based on a shared experience. You don’t have that with ‘toxic masculinity.’
You see, something that is objectively real can’t be changed by your thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.
Conversely, anything that can be changed just by thinking about it, is subjective, or not real.
I can’t think a chair into being a car. I can say it’s a car, tell others it’s a car, and convince my baby brother that if he sits on the chair we can go for a ride, but the reality is, at the end of the day, it’s still a chair. And to my little brother’s dismay, it’s not going anywhere.
This is illustrated in the evolution of how LGBT became LGBTQII2+. If these distinctions were real, then they could not change. The reality is that as long as you can keep adding distinctions to the pile of letters sexual orientation has become, then you’re clearly talking about something subjective, not objective, not real. If the distinctions were real, then they wouldn’t need to be explained, adapted, contextualized, re-defined, parsed out, distinguished in ANY way, and then added onto by successive generations. They would just be…unfettered in their objective truth.
We’re creating new levels of distinctions to try and get at more nuances of identity and expression.
But none of that’s real. It’s convenient maybe, has meaning to some, but it’s not real.
Are these distinctions useful to people? Sure. I like telling women I’m a gay man. It relieves them of the social labor of having to guard themselves against me hitting on them with a sexual motive, when I’m merely trying to have a pleasant conversation. But how many gay men have actually had sex with a woman? I personally know many gay
men who have not only children, but also grandchildren. So clearly they’ve had sex with women.
So the distinction, while convenient and maybe even meaningful, is not real.
Clearly being “gay” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.
Are you gay because you are male and have had a sexual experience with another man? Isn’t that what a bisexual male does? How many straight men have experimented sexually with other men? Does one gay experience make you gay? Or is there a minimum number, like 5 times, and then you’re officially gay.
Are you only gay if you march in parades and proudly display your homosexuality? Does eschewing that behavior mean we ‘take your Gay card away?’
As you all know, only you can define this identity for yourself. No one can tell you whether you’re gay, bi, whatever. I don’t care what you are, if it serves you, go for it. But if I and no one else can tell by looking at you or your behavior and make that distinction accurately most of the time, it isn’t a real distinction.
It’s convenient and maybe even meaningful, but it’s not real.
Here’s another example: We know that the experience of a black trans man is not the same as a white trans woman. Just because they’re both trans doesn’t mean they have the same experience.
Their race brings a very different dimension to their identity and experience in our culture. This is due to the effect of intersectionality on identity.
So when I tell you they are both trans, does that communicate anything meaningful to you about their experience? Does the term distinguish something or tell you something that helps you understand their experience holistically? It may, but also, it may not.
So the distinction, while convenient and maybe even meaningful, is not real.
Misunderstanding what’s objectively real versus what’s subjectively real, meaning what’s real for me and maybe not real for you, is the source of endless confusion in our society.
When we replace reality with subjectivity, we are damaging our own ability to understand who we really are, to find our place in the world, and most importantly: to navigate and adapt to change.
Throughout the ages, humans have learned to live in increasingly complex environments. Charles Darwin, father of the theory of evolution said, “It’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, the future belongs to those who can best manage change.”
Because we have forgotten who we are, I believe we now live in a world where humans have forgotten how to be human.
The core work of being human is learning to ask the right questions. The only source of ‘capital T’ Truth is you!
Truth resonates with the wisdom of the heart. So, let your answers come from your heart. Your mind is polluted with all sorts of confusing thoughts and ideas programmed into you by society, or ingrained from prior traumas and dramas that aren’t who you truly are.
Our methods to distinguish what’s right from wrong, such as labeling behaviors as ‘toxic masculinity’ are actually creating more separation and hate, when what we really need is unity and love.
I say this, because our kids today are confused. By not pointing out which way is objectively north, they have no true orientation, no way to navigate the complexities of modern living.
For the sake of their psychological health, at least be clear that there’s a real, true difference between a man and woman. Stop pretending like there’s not.
Gender is real.
It’s embedded into reality in a way that will persist ever after we, and our opinions, die.
But “Toxic Masculinity” is not real. It’s a subjective opinion masquerading as objective reality. This is dangerous.
I’m just asking you to stop believing your subjective reality is objectively real. It’s not!
Trust me, you don’t need other people to validate your subjective reality in order to thrive. Gay men do it all the time. We learn to thrive in environments where other people disagree with our reality. Every day. 24/7. That’s life.
Many of us may be interested in the esoteric and curious to learn more. Yet, what is esoteric study anyway? What makes something esoteric? Let’s explore this together. There are some intriguing insights to unravel.
Put simply, anything that’s esoteric is oriented toward the ‘inside.’ We’re talking about going inward, turning our gaze within, and embarking on the individual journey toward inner understanding. Throughout human history, esoteric knowledge has been preserved for those that are initiated into this type of study. For, with great power (which esoteric understandings innately distribute) comes great responsibility.
So let’s talk about this for a moment—this concept of power and responsibility. These principles must reach an equilibrium, in order for a given system to be in balance. When we look at the microcosm of the personal experience, we are (through this lens) invited into awareness around our own power. When we train and orient ourselves toward expansive teachings rooted in the esoteric arts, we are bestowed the responsibility of protecting these secrets by using the ability to respond to any given moment with grace and integrity. For years, we’ve protected that which is sacred by keeping it a secret… Yet now is the time of No-More-Secrets, and we have a responsibility within this process, at this time. Chances are, if you’re intrigued by esoteric teachings, you likely have a role to play in their preservation.
Walking the Walk
It’s not only learning about esoteric principles. Bringing that which is secret out into the open through action comes with great responsibility. It’s important to apply what you’ve learned and walk with integrity. This takes a strong degree of humility; one must be honest with oneself to understand how deeply our thoughts, words and actions are aligned with the highest good. Moreover, we must be honest with ourselves about how and where we are led astray, and utilize the tools we’ve acquired through knowledge to bring ourselves back on track.
Most importantly, we remain gentle with ourselves on the path we walk, continuing to nurture our curiosity toward that which is ready to be revealed.
Apply the teachings
Course correction along our journey is where conceptual development meets embodied expression. Bringing what’s secret, under cover, or concealed into the light, so it can be shown and shared in service to the highest good of all involved.
There’s a gift in every shadow. Sometimes we have to traverse some choppy waters or rocky roads. It’s essential that we cultivate trust and different practices that help to alchemize the densities in our mindset into a lightness of being.
We’re at the end of an epoch, friends. The age of information is here AND it’s the time of No More Secrets! It’s all available for the ear to hear. The question is…will you choose to dive in? Will you get uncomfortable and flow into the deep, beneath what distractions ride on the surface?
I’m going to expound on the notion of ‘Toxic Masculinity’ in this 3-part blog series. The first is from the perspective of Culture and the second is from the perspective of Hermetics, and the last is Gender. We’ll start from the perspective of culture.
To be clear, I’m not saying your rape didn’t happen or your sexual assault didn’t happen. This is not what I’m saying. In no way am I attempting to silence survivors of abuse, discredit them, or resist their experience in any way. I acknowledge that rape happens, sexual harassment and assault happens, and that these are simply unacceptable behaviors that need to be addressed in our communities and in our society.
I hope we’re clear on that before continuing on together.
When I say, in my opinion, that “toxic masculinity” is not real, I’m canceling an ironically toxic IDEA or TERM that is causing untold damage to our community. It is violence to use the term, and this violence is the very problem we are trying to eliminate.
The following is an excerpt from “The Classroom Origins of Toxic Masculinity”: One of the first appearances of toxic masculinity in the mainstream press was in a 1990 New Republic article by Daniel Gross.
“The Gender Rap: ‘Toxic Masculinity’ and Other Male Troubles” focused on a new-age movement that appeared to resonate with a healthy number of American men. Gross credited Shepherd Bliss—with coining toxic masculinity as a phrase “to describe that part of the male psyche that is abusive.”
Scholars also later point to psychiatrist Dr. Terry A. Kupers as the source of “toxic masculinity” as we now know it, particularly his definition in a 2005 prison study: “Toxic masculinity is the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.”
Kupers had been studying incarcerated masculinity for most of his career, but in the ‘80’s he was involved in the pro-feminist men’s movement and realized he could integrate his knowledge of gender with his knowledge of prisons. Kupers found that Connell’s hegemonic masculinity, when applied to prisons, was in fact toxic masculinity—which is to say prison is toxic masculinity in its “pure form.”
He points specifically to black men who are disproportionately incarcerated by America’s “justice” system. These are men for whom institutionalized racism has shut them off from “positive ways” of expressing masculinity, excelling at school or at work, for instance, causing them to resort to “negative ways” like crime.
In prison the lack of individual agency is complete, so the toxicity is equally complete. “I don’t think it’s a matter of them being inclined to fight with each other and gain dominance; they’re not,” Kupers says. “Rather they’ve been deprived of all the more positive avenues to get ahead so they choose to maintain their manhood in the prison yard.”
Many people now view masculinity and the gender roles it creates as a combination of behaviors shaped by several factors, including age, race, class, culture, sexuality and religion.
As such, what defines masculinity can take many different forms. What one society or even subculture views as masculine, another may reject.
Masculinity, then, becomes a shifting set of ideas rather than a hard, narrow set of rules.
Feminists have highlighted for us how the male dominated hierarchies, like the Patriarchy, have been oppressive, antagonistic, and abusive of both female bodied individuals and the feminine virtues. Some have even concluded that masculinity itself is essentially violent.
While this perspective has its uses, particularly in the liberation of the masculine and feminine energies from the constraints of patriarchal stereotypes, there are still aspects of this view that are problematic.
For example, because of this term, there’s apparently a problem with men being masculine.
Actually, like the patriarchy, ‘toxic masculinity’ is an attack on femininity as well as masculinity. Those who use shame to attack or control are caught up in structures used to dominate not only women but also men. The use of this term is based on FEAR.
“Hegemonic masculinity” from the above prison studies and patriarchy are NOT the expression of pure masculinity, or “Divine Masculinity” as we like to call it in the Mystery School. Masculinity is NOT rooted in abuse.
“Hegemonic masculinity” like “patriarchy” are immature expressions of power control issues, usually based in some sort of stunted developmental phase in a person’s life.
In using the term toxic masculinity, I do not believe we’re talking about something real, we’re talking about a term that was created to describe how men operate in a fabricated (or unreal) environment where they completely lack agency (i.e. prison culture).
The term describes a category of behaviors that we already have words for. I believe what we mean by “toxic masculinity” is already clearly (and accurately) defined by “misogynistic behaviors that lead to emotional and sexual violence”.
The problem with the term toxic masculinity is that it becomes impossible to separate “toxic” from “masculinity.” Shepherd Bliss in the citation above emphasized that the expression he invented is “not meant to condemn all males.” I propose that this term inadvertently shames all things masculine, and thus lacks the nuance necessary to have an honest discussion about what behaviors are desirable and undesirable in our culture and in our collective consciousness.
And ‘toxic’ anything is again, in my opinion, a violent and ultimately non-useful method for addressing the societal issue of immature humans doing violent things.
Words matter and ‘toxic masculinity’ is woefully inadequate for the task of transforming culture.
It’s Time to Reclaim the Culture of Healing
What even is a cult? The word ‘cult’ gets thrown around in our modern times with a flippant ease of judgment. Yet, what does this term really mean? Sure, there have been (and still are) many subgroups organized around religious dogma that are sustained through hierarchical dominance structures that are unhealthy to their core, including all sorts of distortion of truth and corruption of purity.
This, in many ways, needs to evolve like many other aspects of our modern day culture. But let’s acknowledge that the presence of these negative expressions of culture have tainted the word that is otherwise value free and objective in its description of what is. There is an aspect of this term that is all too quickly slapped onto any organized group with a spiritual quest. This aspect, creating an easeful ‘go-to’ grip for folks trying to deepen the separation story of the psyche, seems to exhibit a consistent misunderstanding of esoteric study.
Just because it’s occult, doesn’t make it a cult. And even if it did, is a ‘cult’ inherently nefarious? There are both benevolent and malicious politicians, aren’t there? It seems there’s an opportunity that’s presenting itself for us to heal the damage, bridge the chasm, and harmonize the trauma around spirituality through the lens of this term.
We’ve largely contained the term ‘culture’ within the psychological confines of social and political frameworks and applications. Yet, when we look at the term ‘culture’ through the lens of biology or agriculture, we find that there are many important aspects of the findings that we’d benefit from applying to the social and political realms. Growing and sustaining a healthy culture depends on a myriad of delicate variables. Domination within a culture doesn’t translate to harmony or symbiosis.
Life thrives with diversity, with strong willed and independent parts participating in a whole. We can be this way, as a species. We can contribute to the whole in beneficial ways when we deeply recognize ourselves as a part of it, not apart from it. This means we must evolve out of the archaic ‘cult’ concept (both in our assignment of this term to occult pursuits, and our application of obsolete control within those groups considered to be cult-like).
Gone are the days of worshiping external entities. We’re remembering, slowly but surely, that all that’s outside us is within us, and therefore, worshiping the body temple we’re currently incarnated in is key to our development. Alas, this means we don’t need to kneel before a dominant leader when we really recognize the omnipotent Source of Creation as that which is innately within us, as our birth right.
Transformation is Uncomfortable!
The roller coaster of healing and wholling isn’t for the faint of heart. Remembering our innate wholeness is a path that’s filled with moments of big change and recalibration. For those jostled by change, both internal and external, they’d likely prefer sitting beside the roller coaster and watching those shaking with anticipation as they ascend to new heights, and screaming as they plummet into the depths. Choosing to take the ride is only for those who can learn to manage their systems, command their ships, and embrace the discomfort of transformation.
These are the skillsets acquired through the spiritual path. No, not the path that leads you into an eddy of inertial patterns wrought with distorted traditions and outdated recitations. It’s the path of righteousness that empowers each individual with an embodiment of their free will, and an activation of this will as a conduit for benevolent creation to move through it.
More people are needed on this path; in order for our species to continue enjoying this planet we call home, we will need to wake up to the power that sits within ourselves in order to meet the pressures of change with the competent adaptability.
So where can we gather to awaken our innate abilities? Those abilities that empower us with the remembrance of the source of creation that lives within us? Within communities of practice, communities of therapy and healing, ignited from the inside out.
The etymology of the term ‘therapy’ can be tracked back through ancient Greece, expounding on the capacities to heal and cure. Yet, it seems we may have outsourced this ability to others, all too often. Ultimately, it’s the therapist’s role to simply amplify one’s awareness of the choices available to them, so they can feel empowered to make choices that resound with their own inner knowing.
So, what are therapeutic communities aiming to accomplish? An embodied, activated, and spiritually participatory populous that can meet the challenges we face as a species with empowered choice. The “fix me, doctor” culture must end. It is up to us as individuals to stop outsourcing our God-like abilities, and come back into belonging within communities that remind us of our essence. Whether or not they’re deemed ‘cults’….