Certainly, the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ isn’t ideal and does lend itself to confusion (especially the harmful assumption that it means ‘masculinity is bad’ or ‘being a man is bad’), although I do wonder if, had the concept been named something less seemingly combative and controversial, whether it would have had the traction and attention it has had and whether people would be popularly aware of the concept at all. The problem is that language use evolves organically — we can’t just decide to call a concept something else that might be a better, more precise term overnight, and not without a great deal of popular momentum behind that change. In fact, one of the reasons I commented in the first place was because I felt the term ‘toxic masculinity’ was being misapplied — the idea that society hurts men through a particular narrative about what it is to be a man is a valuable concept, but clearly can’t help drive social change if the term is being applied with a different and unhelpful (perhaps actively harmful and hurtful) meaning. I agree there is the exact same issue with ‘Karen’, which is why I would argue it is positive to call this out when misapplied (ie, used to vilify a woman making a justified complaint). I can’t get rid of ‘Karen’ as an expression and in fact, it may have genuine merit when used in its original context (to call out privileged, nasty behaviour). To me, the same applies to ‘toxic masculinity’ — I often say that ‘toxic femininity’ absolutely exists in line with the definition of ‘toxic masculinity’ I am putting forward, and it’s what feminists have been fighting to combat for years. We just don’t call it that because that wasn’t a phrase coined previously, and that isn’t how language works. To complicate matters, the phrase ‘toxic femininity’ usually crops up in bad faith arguments designed to diminish and derail conversations about toxic masculinity (it’s the same with the argument of ‘well if you want women and men to be equal, why do you call it feminism and not equalism — seems like you want female supremacy’, where 9 times out of 10 that isn’t a genuine question but an attempt to discredit feminism as a movement). I’m aware I am saying we should be critical of how language is used and applied, and at the same time saying we can’t fully control how language is applied or how terms evolve over time. With social change, sometimes changing our language is extremely helpful and sometimes it hinders or delays progress.

Exploring art, activism, adventure and radical compassion, while finding my way as a parent and person

Exploring art, activism, adventure and radical compassion, while finding my way as a parent and person