“We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong here.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
The other day I was driving in the car with my kids when my 2-year-old son, who’s favorite show these days is the British cartoon Peppa Pig, started doing a great imitation of Daddy Pig snoring.
My 6-year-old daughter laughed and then asked, “When we get a daddy will he always be falling asleep, snoring and messing up the map reading like Daddy Pig?”
Which made me want to snort with laughter like Mommy Pig does.
It seems like toxic masculinity is a term we bandy about these days. It reminds me of when I was a kid in the 70’s and Bobby Riggs and Billie-Jean King played their Battle of the Sexes and male chauvinism was such a hot topic.
But years ago I read something from University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson that made me think that this topic is deeply seeded in humans. In his book 12 Rules for Life, he talked about selection of male partners.
Woman are choosy maters (unlike female chimps, their closest animal counterparts). Most men do not meet female human standards. It is for this reason that women on dating sites rate 85 percent of men as below average in attractiveness. It is for this reason that we all have twice as many female ancestors as male (imagine that all the women who have ever lived have averaged one child. Now imagine that half the men who ever lived have fathered two children, if they had any, while the other half fathered none).
I thought that was a stunning statistic of the big picture view that only 50% of men, averaged over all time, have fathered children. But then it’s the next part of the passage that gave a hint about toxic masculinity:
It is Woman as Nature who looks at half of all men and says, “No!” For the men, that’s a direct encounter with chaos, and it occurs every time they are turned down for a date. Human female choosiness is also why we are very different from the common ancestor we shared with our chimpanzee cousins, while the latter are very much the same. Women’s proclivity to say no, more than any other force, has shaped our evolution into the creative, industrious, upright, large-brained (competitive, aggressive, domineering) creatures that we are.
I know Dr. Peterson is a controversial character. But taking this argument at face value, but it doesn’t seem like too much of a leap to believe that women have sought out men who are certain, successful, strong and seemingly invulnerable. And so perhaps women can help to change that nature too, or at least I’d like to think we can help:
By raising sons who are free to grapple with their emotions.
By being a safe place for our brothers and friends to talk about the pressures they feel.
By helping out with map reading.
By letting our daughters know that it’s great to choose men who let their non-aggressive flags fly.
By listening and supporting everyone who says this is hard.
Maybe when I have a partner in life again, he’ll fall asleep and snore. But like Daddy Pig, he’ll be able to laugh about it because he knows we don’t expect him to be perfect, just true.
What do you think? Can women help with toxic masculinity? Is it too much of a buzz word to have much meaning? Is it okay to quote someone like Dr. Peterson even if I don’t agree with how he’s been politicized?
(featured photo from Pexels)