Rebuke to toxic masculinity

Letter to editor redefines manliness as rebirth of chivalry amid time of controversy


Graphic by Madison Brown

Story by Remington Cook, guest writer

Take a moment and think of what “being a man” means to you. Is it being able to bench press 240 pounds and still add more weight? Is it how many fights you can win, and how bad you can make the other guy look? Is it how many curses you can put in a single sentence, or how fast you can drive your car? What makes a man?

“Manliness,” as the traditional male quality, is defined by bravery and strength, as seen in Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. While I love their movies, manliness lies in something deeper than raw strength, sex and violence. Manliness is something more, something more internal. I believe that the difference between a real man and a being of “toxic masculinity,” for lack of a better term, is being one who has the courage to do what he knows is morally right.

Being a man lies in something as simple as cleaning your grandma’s gutters out over the weekend instead of going to a party. Maybe playing a few rounds of Fortnite with the boys instead of downing a few rounds of shots, has some “manly merit” to it. Surely standing up for the outcast in class has signs of manly maturity in it instead of making fun of his toothpick arms, or funny voice or lack-of-confidence-induced stutter. Perhaps there is some manliness in the act of walking to the front door and knocking to pick up your date, rather than just honking in the driveway for them to come out. Don’t even get me started on how much your man-card levels up when you actually ask to speak with and ask permission from a girl’s father before you take her out for a night on the town.

A few more cliché examples of simple manliness through the ages: holding a little old lady’s hand as you cross the street or helping your mom unload and put up groceries next time she goes to the store. Manliness lies in helping your parents out with anything around the house, be that putting up dishes, folding clothes, vacuuming, etc. I feel that just the simple act of opening and closing the door of your car for your date holds so much manliness. I’ve been on multiple social get-togethers with women who have wanted to open their own doors, and while I’m not saying they can’t, I’m saying as men, it’s our job to ensure they shouldn’t have to. Sitting up straight, putting your napkin in your lap and not letting your pants sag. All of these tiny acts of chivalry have a great weight of manly dignity behind them. Alas, I fear it’s a dying art.

Somewhere along the line, we strayed from this course of morality. No longer are we knights on perilous journeys of honor to rescue fair maidens from castles in faraway lands. No longer do most men show more than an ounce of respect toward women. Rather, we speak of them in vulgar terms. Most men nowadays, rather than searching for a life of love and commitment to one woman, would rather indulge in a lifetime of promiscuous sex. They don’t even consider the prospect of raising a family to be plausible. And therein, I believe, lies the issue of “toxic masculinity.”

I will admit that it is a real thing, and that it is a real issue, however I think we’re looking at this problem from the wrong angle, and feminizing men is not the solution.”

— Remington Cook

Saying that the feminization of men is the solution simply gives validation to the statement that “being a man is being an emotionless, piece of raw strength and testosterone.” As I’ve shown, being a man is more than that. Being a man is being moral and chivalrous, willing to stand up for what is right. Rather than saying that women are perfect so let’s make men more like women, why not just try and raise men to be more respectable? This shift, however, would take time and work on both of the sexes’ parts to make a reality, and I believe it would have to start (please don’t rip this paper here) on the women’s side.

Ladies, let me explain something. Men are very simple creatures. We do stupid stuff when we’re with our friends and we tend to live by a simple mentality: I want it, so what can I do to get it?

When you’re young, and you have just learned to walk and talk, the world becomes a different place, and it falls on your parents to teach you how to live in it. And how do they do that? I don’t know how all of your parents are, but mine taught me how to act by whipping my butt when I did something stupid. My father had an especially evil instrument with which he would apply such torturous discipline: a Finding Nemo paddle-ball paddle that had lost the ball and string. He laid it upon the refrigerator and there it sat, the handle staring down over the edge and bringing fear into my young brain looking up at it. I soon learned it’s sting so well that if I were about to partake in an unintelligent activity, he would simply move his hand in the direction of the refrigerator, and I would not dare take another step. I say all that to show that men are capable of breaking bad habits if we are subjected to enough discipline.

Next time you’re on a date and your man reaches for you inappropriately or you hear him refer to you — or any woman for that matter — in a vulgar manner, rather than letting him proceed, I implore you to slap him into next week. Eventually, when his cheek is red enough, these disrespectful habits may cease. If they don’t, it’s probably time to find a new guy who doesn’t irradiate “toxic masculinity.” All of this ties to my point that “men want things, and we will do anything we can to get them.” Men want women, and will go to horrid lengths to get them. So trust me, if you start demanding more respect from men, men will be forced to change and give more respect to you, if that’s what it takes to get a woman. If he leaves you for demanding respect and goes on to an “easier girl,” don’t even bat an eye. That is what he wants you to do. Let him go, trust me, he’s not good enough for you.

Gentlemen, while the ladies have a part in bringing this change about, it falls upon us to do the actual “changing.” At the risk of sounding repetitive, Clint Eastwood, the manliest man that ever manned, in my opinion, said, “Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.” And that’s exactly what we have a responsibility to do. Men, we need to have some serious introspection. We all need to glance within ourselves and ask if the things we’ve been doing are truly manly. We need to question ourselves on what our own definition of manliness even is. Is it being the big, tough guy? Or is it being the nice, moral guy? Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, to do what’s right, you do have to have a spine and be a tough guy, but is being a man being that strong, tough guy 24/7? I’m not saying to be a real man is to be feminine, but I am saying that being a man is not being a tough jerk all of the time. There is a fine median that we have to find, perhaps by being a little bit more respectful.

Now, society is at war with all men. They tell us we are evil, that we are pigs, that we are dumb apes. They tell us it’s time to step out of the spotlight and let women take the stage. I say men are capable of being so much more than what we’ve reduced ourselves to today, and that there’s room enough for both genders on the world stage of influence. We no longer live in a suppressive society, in fact it’s just the opposite! Men and women of all ethnicities and backgrounds all have equal opportunities today in America. All they have to do is pursue them.

So men, in these times of doubt and fear of whether we could wake up tomorrow, be accused of sexual harassment and spend years behind bars, I encourage us all to change. No, not in the ways society is telling us to. I don’t yearn to see the day when a man will walk around, wearing a bra and a dress with his nails painted, makeup done and lipstick on. Rather, we must morph into something manlier than this childish, disrespectful, trash some of us have become today. We must bring about a rebirth of chivalry in this time of masculine rebuke, lest our entire sex, and it’s sacred traditions, be lost with the passing of time. I don’t want my son to think it’s alright for him to say that he’s a girl. I want him to have pride in what he is. For my son, and for all our sons to be boys one day, it is time for us to be men.