I’m really confused. Confusion isn’t an unusual state for me. But this isn’t the run of the mill confusion. Not the mainstream stuff like why we have an acknowledged shortage of housing but still have a frustrating spider’s web of bureaucracy and cost to navigate in order to build more said houses. But this is next level confusion, like my place in the world. Since having a daughter, I have become a father as is generally the way these things work. And naturally, I have that good old biological desire for one’s DNA to carry on, but aside from that I want more than anything for her to have a wonderful life and to be surrounded by people that care for her and respect her no matter her age and I want her to also to have a healthy amount of respect for herself.
So, as well as cleaning pancake batter off the ceiling every Saturday morning, I show her the actions of a respectful person in terms of how I treat other people and the actions of someone who will do anything to provide for his family. But lately I’ve been feeling a little bit guilty as seeing myself as a provider. Am I perpetuating “toxic masculinity”? The recent Gillette advertisement, which set out a rally cry for men to behave better to women, has triggered some furious debate between the right and left. Lefties are celebrating it, while the more conservative are decrying it as an erosion of masculinity that will result in men hanging up their rugby boots in favour of a nice chit chat with the boys over a warm cup of chai latte. I’m not so worried about that. I thought the ad was a little glib and cringeworthy, but the message in itself isn’t so offensive. I certainly don’t think that men should victimize women and we need to cut that shit out.
But I can’t shake the feeling that to highlight masculinity as toxic, undermines what it is to be a man and not all masculine traits are bad. My grandfathers on either side were stoic and maybe not so good at talking about their emotions, traits that are considered part of the “toxic” mix these days but they got on with it and their actions spoke louder words than any sort of “self- exploratory emotional deep dive”. They worked hard and loved and provided for their families. And so did many of their mates. Hardworking New Zealand men that respected their wives, loved their families and worked their fingers to the bone to provide for them. We have come a long way in terms of diversity of opportunity and equal rights and there is still more to achieve, but at the same time I also hope that some things won’t be lost.