This week all the rage has been Gillette’s controversial ad. It opens with the narrator asking “Is this the best a man can get?”
The opening scenes show men and boys bullying, being obnoxious and harassing women. As men stand behind their barbecue grills and two little boys fight, the men are muttering “boys will be boys” implying that bad behavior is justified.
Interestingly the response has been mixed. First there was a backlash. Now there’s a backlash against the backlash. The YouTube video currently stands at 145,000 likes and 454,000 dislikes.
The topic of “toxic masculinity” is being discussed, debated and dissected on various news and talk shows as well as facebook. What is Gillette’s point? And purpose? Are they and others equating masculinity itself with being toxic?
About 35 seconds into the video we are told “that something finally changed.” The pictures imply it was the “Me Too” movement.” Following the revelations of sexual abusive by powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Matt Lauer, have we suddenly realized that men ought not to be sexual predators, harassing and abusing women?
Most men and certainly Christian men already knew that manhood does not give us the right to gratify our fleshly desires with unacceptable and ungodly actions toward others. The Bible offers this stern admonition
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thess. 4:3-7).
But, I personally think there is something else behind this sudden social concern about “toxic masculinity.” In the past 50 years, there has been an attempt to blur the lines of distinction between men and women. Social engineering has tried to change who God created us to be.
In the beginning “God created them male and female.” That means masculine and feminine. Both experience and observation tell us there is a difference between men and women. Just as in various personality traits it is possible to abuse, misuse, or exploit our God-given nature, so it is with our masculinity.
The Bible offers counsel on the roles and responsibilities of both men and women and how we are to act and interact. Masculinity does not mean that we run roughshod over women or our wives. Instead, husbands are admonished to treat our wives with understanding, consideration, and honor. And to nourish and cherish our wives (I Pet. 3:7; Eph. 5:29). It is that kind of man who a woman can love and respect (Eph. 5:33).
True masculinity is both tough and tender. I’m reminded of the remarkable tribute that the poet Carl Sandburg paid to Abraham Lincoln. “Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as a rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.”
Lincoln’s will of steel drove him to accomplish what he believed was a “noble cause” during the American Civil War. His many detractors would not deter him. Yet, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army, Lincoln showed a softer side, a man of velvet, when sent this message to the enemy commander. “Tell your men they may keep their horses; they’ll need them for plowing. Tell your men they may keep their rifles; they’ll need them for hunting.” It is said when Lee read those words he wept.
No doubt Sandburg’s description of Lincoln inspired the title of Aubrey Andelin’s 1970’s book, Man of Steel and Velvet. It’s subtitled: “A Guide to Masculine Development.” While the illustrations are obviously dated, Andelin’s concept is decidedly Biblical. Men can be both. Steel and velvet. Tough and tender. Strong and sensitive. Driven and gentle.
Masculinity that is toxic is not Biblical. Toxic means harmful, dangerous, or damaging. Of course, toxic femininity, which we never hear about, is also wrong. Whenever we use our position, role or relationship is a way that is demoralizing, detrimental, or debasing, it becomes toxic. And sinful.
Actually, we don’t need Gillette or the “Me Too” Movement defining and lecturing us on what it means to be a man. A return to God’s Word and a healthy respect for our divine roles and responsibilities will suffice.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman