Toxic Masculinity VS Heroic Masculinity
Why aspire to be a hero?
Take a quick look at your social media, sites like Buzzfeed, or even cable news. You won’t have to look for too long before you find stories of societal division. What was once a matter of disagreement has spiraled into trying to shut down the free speech of those we see as our opposition. Campuses across the US have devolved into echo chambers where difference of opinion can result in the offended party becoming violent. For the love of the Kais, a man roundhouse kicked a woman recently in response to her pro-life stance!
One idea that many vocal and opinionated men and women blame for all this division and anger is something called “toxic masculinity.” Many people have varying definitions for what toxic masculinity is. But they all seem to agree that the idea that men should remain stoically unemotional is bad. They also seem to agree that men shouldn't be assertive to the point that they steamroll over others to get what they want. I have to agree with these statements. Men should not fear their emotions, and they should not recklessly hurt others in their pursuits. Quite simply, toxic masculinity should be called out where it exists. There does, however, exist a problem where people are equating most/all masculinity with toxicity. Thankfully, few people have the stones to come out and state that all forms of manliness fall under the T.M. umbrella. Even so, there are attention-seeking bloggers and Instagrammers, as well as noisy protestors that repeatedly return to vilifying “manhood” in all forms. That can mean physical strength and power, force of will, perseverance when others think you’re wrong. Some even small boys as being infected with this dangerous, masculine disease, and they need to be cured of it.
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It’s certainly possible to argue that those vilifying all forms of manliness are merely extremists on the fringe, or just attention-seeking mommys who want more “likes.” The problem as we see it comes in the lack of condemnation of these fringe ideas. The truth is that “toxic masculinity” is just people using whatever means are at their disposal to get what they want at the expense of other people. It can come in the form of men who sexually assault those who cannot defend themselves. It can come in the form of a male employer ignoring his employees’ needs and safety for the sake of raising profits. It can come in the form of an uncle who emotionally abuses, brainwashes, and manipulates his orphaned nephew. But it can also come from a woman manipulating men with her sexual wiles to get ahead in the world. it can also come from a woman who takes her infant son and decides to raise him as a daughter to “stick it to the patriarchy.”
Stephen and I have a philosophy for training. We don’t train just so that we can be more powerful. (Though I’d be lying if I said we didn’t train to get stronger and more capable.) We also train so that we can be heroes - heroes to ourselves, to our family, to our friends, to those who need our help.
Toxic masculinity (and its female counterpart, which really both of these are just people being reckless, mean jerks) is often seen as being derived from the mere presence of power. It's that whole “power corrupts” thing. But is power really nothing more than a corrupting force? Of course not. Have you ever heard of a powerless hero? Most heroes worth mentioning have accomplished things through the force of power - physical or otherwise.
Consider former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neil. He had to undergo vigorous training, and prioritize his abilities. And as a result, he was able to take part in over four hundred missions which included rescuing people like Captain Richard Phillips and former SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Most notably, he was involved in the mission to finally end the life of terrorist/Naruto fan Osama Bin Laden. (That’s not a judgement on Naruto fans, it’s just a really weird fact.)
After fulfilling hundreds of missions and serving the US Navy for sixteen years, O'Neil decided it was time to retire. And when he did so, he said it was because it was "what was best for his family." Even in retirement, he was doing a heroic act. Putting your career aside for your family - the people who rely on you the most? - that is a heroic act in and of itself.
But all heroes aren’t imposing their will through physical strength. Others do it through the power of persuasion, charisma, and perseverance. Take cultural icon and god of the nerds: Stan Lee. The man recently passed away, so allow us to pay some tribute to him in this article, as well as correct the ignorant SJWs who call the man a racist homophobe. Guys like Bill Maher get it wrong. You see, Stan wasn’t just the creator of some well-loved children’s characters. His characters dealt with real world issues. The X-Men were created as an answer to the bigotry Stan saw in society. He was a firm believer in free speech as seen in how he went and ignored the judgement of the then-all powerful comics code. Some of us still remember “Stan’s Soapbox” in which he offered friendly preaching to the young reader, hoping to instill some sense of right and wrong. Stan the man was a hero not because of any Herculean strength, but by his sense of right, wrong, and humor.
And if you think I'm harping a bit much on the importance of strong-willed men, let me point you to Joan Lee. Joan was Stan's wife for a full seventy years before her passing. And if you ever heard Stan talk about his accomplishments, you know he never failed to credit her with not letting him give up. She reportedly told Stan multiple times to screw the editor and write the stories he wanted to tell in lieu of just quitting. We need strong men in this world, sure. But the need for strong women can't be overlooked.
Think of all our favorite fiction heroes too: Saitama, Goku, All Might - All Might! There’s a great example right there. All Might is an honest, compassionate, virtuous individual. And that’s great and all, but without his quirk, he’s virtually useless. Sure, he can still be inspirational and all. But even then, Izuku wouldn’t have listened to Toshinori in his scrawny form had it not been for the heroism he had performed as All Might.
No, it was All Might's strength and ability to do amazing deeds that inspired Endeavor to keep climbing and pushing himself to be better. It gave Bakugo an icon to work to surpass. But for Toshinori himself, being All Might was about being a symbol of peace for the world. He meant to be a symbol that could lower the crime rate just by existing. And with his ever-present smile, the weak always felt safer as they went about their days. After all, All Might was watching.
Power does not corrupt. Rather it amplifies that which was already there. Toshinori was virtuous before obtaining One For All. Similarly, Goku was a kind goofball when he started his training. The Dwarf in the Flask was motivated by greed and a lust for knowledge before he ever obtained his immortality and super alchemy. But Van Hohenheim was a humble student. And he received the exact same power as the Dwarf. Yet one of these men went off causing wars, bloodshed, and disaster in his quest for even more power, while the other worked tirelessly to save the nation of Amestris.
The truth is that the weak man will never be able to impact the lives of those around him beyond a little bit here and there. While greedy, lustful, gluttonous, and vengeful men exert their power, society acts like we should be running from masculinity. That’s not the solution! Instead, it will take virtuous, powerful men to stop evil, toxic men from carelessly ruining lives. Therefore, let us train our minds and bodies to take on the responsibility of a hero. Let us raise our sons to be strong, selfless men. Don't raise "feminist" boys. Raise boys who will value truth and justice, not political ideologies. Society needs a golden age of heroes - men AND women who value individual liberty, and promote individual responsibility.
Why aspire to be a hero? Because with great power there must also come great responsibility.
We’re serious about training up heroes. And in the coming weeks, we’ll be posting articles in this series on manliness analyzing the various kinds of heroic masculinity in anime. And if you want to see how we are training heroes over here at Real Anime Training, you can click here to get your free three-day bootcamp series to get you started on training yourself.