While it remains doubtless that a myriad of factors had an impact on the 2016 U.S. election result, toxic masculinity certainly played a larger role than others. As a man, I feel like it is my duty to point out that toxic masculinity was not some new strategy trotted out by Trump, but in fact, part of a much larger, and much older societal problem.
Many people seem perplexed by the term “toxic masculinity” and it does not mean that all masculinity is toxic. It means that some expressions of masculinity have become toxic. Toxic masculinity is when a political leader says: “grab them by the pussy,” or when that same leader is accused of sexual assault by multiple women and the media allows him to drag their names through the mud. Toxic masculinity is when that leader refuses to answer a female journalist’s question because he suspects they might be on their period and describes it as disgusting. It is when that leader questions the ability of a female candidate to do her job based on gender. It is when we define being a man by not being a woman, when we associate strength with men and weakness with women, when we associate reason with men and panic with women. Toxic masculinity is when we define a person’s potential by what’s between their legs rather than what’s between their ears or what’s in their hearts.
Most of the trusted polls failed to predict the result of the election, and toxic masculinity is not the only reason. However, if Hillary Clinton had been a man, there would not have been questions based on the way she dressed, her potential to lead a country would not have been questioned based on her past relationship problems, and she would not have been judged based on her husband’s actions. When was the last time a male candidate was constantly harangued with questions based on their wife’s actions?
Toxic masculinity is not just something that other people do. It is not just something that happens in the U.S. As men, and as Canadians, we perpetuate toxic masculinity when we say, “man up,” or, “be a man,” or, worse yet, when we say, “don’t be a pussy.” When we ask “who’s wearing the pants in that relationship?” When we make assumptions about who someone should be based on their gender, we do ourselves a disservice no matter who we are.