Toxic masculinity is a term that seems to be cropping up more and more in academic and media discussions, as we become more aware of the harmful effects – on men, women and society in general – of men conforming to traditional masculine ideals, like dominance, self-reliance, and competition.
So we dialled up Stephen Whitehead, who is an author, researcher, consultant and lecturer on gender, sexuality and identity, and asked him where these traditional expressions of masculinity came from, what effects they are having on us, and how we can overcome them.
It’s an honest, insightful, challenging and hopeful conversation.

Interview starts at 12m 16s

Image used with permission.

BOOK

Toxic Masculinity: Curing the Virus: Making Men Smarter, Healthier, Safer – Stephen Whitehead

Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity – Jack Urwin

For the Love of Men: From Toxic to a More Mindful Masculinity – Liz Plank

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love – Bell Hooks

WEBSITE

Stephen Whitehead

QUOTES

“Do not put men’s behaviour down to hormones and genes. The world we grow up in, live in, and experience on a daily basis is much more influential.”

“Where there is a higher level of education and a greater urbanization – a greater willingness for younger men and women certainly to stand back and critique the ideologies that have been fed their ancestors (we’re seeing that now in the Black Lives Matter movement) – where there’s a greater desire to undertake that questioning, that critique, then we’re going to see toxic masculinity become more marginalized.”

“It’s impossible to be a progressive man and be fascist. It’s impossible to be a progressive man and racist. Be a feminist – be a full feminist. How few feminist men did I meet when I started doing my research? But now it’s no big deal. Nowadays, you meet so many men who are comfortable with declaring themselves as feminists, and I think that’s right and so they should. We should be allies with women in the same way we should be anti-racist; we should be anti-homophobic. I find it staggering that we can even have a problem thinking about this. Why would anyone want to be racist? Why would anyone want to hate women? Why would anyone want to be homophobic? What is going on the minds of people like this?

“The most important benefit [of a more progressive masculinity] is you won’t be fighting the 21st Century zeitgeist. You’ll be in tune with it. You won’t be fighting history, you’ll be part of history, you’ll be part of the future. And this will lead to greater calmness, contentment and improved mental health.”

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  1. I generally enjoy your podcasts. I appreciate that you challenge the status quo and provide a range of perspectives. However, I think this was a missed opportunity. Not that I disagree with most of what was said. A key point, that our view of masculinity is environmental and related to our paternal relationships makes sense but I question that you can then say it is an unquestionable truth that sexuality is inborn and in no way impacted by environment factors.
    My primary concern however was that in this podcast there was not a single mention of Christ (that i recall) or an attempt to bring this discussion back to how this may inform spiritual reconstruction. I recognize that the guest may not have shared a Christian background and appreciate that there is an intentionality not to be “religious.” However, there wasn’t even anything bringing it back in a lenthly wrap up.
    As a social worker I am very informed about feminist theory and I can find that prospective anywhere. In my personal journey i am trying to dig myself out of a fundamentalists world view, I do not want to just jump back in to another dogmatic ideology.
    When I take the time to listen to a podcast that promotes itself as a support to people walking through a restorative faith process, I hope to hear something about faith. Not that i expect you to have emphatic answers but I would expect at least some discussion tying things together.
    As much as I am re-examining some long held ideas, I still believe Jesus changes everything.
    Just some thoughts.
    Sorry this is kind of negative. I do appreciate what you guys are doing.

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