In this short video, Matty Boy defines their terms. They start by laying out Toxic Masculinity as one that forces violence, solitude, and rigid adherence to gender roles. Then they define “Soft Masculinity,” a term with which I was thoroughly unaware. They describe it as acceptance of other types of manhood, one that can be caring or contain emotional connections or even not sticking to an exclusively meat-based diet.
But, the best part of their description is that they say Soft Masculinity is “unsubscribing” from toxic behavior. And it struck me that this was one of the best metaphors for the process of becoming The Detoxing Man.
If you are anything like me, you are in a constant battle with your email inbox. You try to keep it streamlined so that you don’t have to spend a massive amount of time reading advertisements or newsletters with only a few redeeming pieces of information. You are constantly searching for the “unsubscribe” button hidden at the bottom of these emails in the tiniest font imaginable in the hopes that this will be the last time you will receive the message that Walgreens has a sale or Classmates.com wants you to update your profile photo on a website that you have never used.
This is what Traditional Masculine Ideology is like. We are constantly getting these messages, sent directly to us, using the same communication technology that we receive other messages. We see them in social cues at the grocery store or conversations with friends. And even if we subscribed to and reinforced them at some point by maybe making a joke at someone else’s expense or being overly aggressive toward someone at a bar, we have found ourselves looking for a way to unsubscribe because these messages aren’t making us happier. In fact, they are taking time away from activities that we would rather be doing like spending time with or caring for our loved ones.
So, we look for the small unsubscribe button, the one that is hidden inside of making different choices when we are with others. The one that requires you constantly telling your friends that you don’t enjoy hearing about their sexual conquests, as if you were on the third webpage of an unsubscribe link, telling them that you are “really really sure” these messages aren’t relevant to you anymore.
If “Soft Masculinity” is unsubscribing from male violence and isolation, then we must make it a priority to find that link and click it. We must not become so overwhelmed by these messages that we leave our “inboxes of self” awash in communications that advocate for emotional suppression or performative risk-taking behaviors. We cannot simply declare gender bankruptcy the way that we throw up our hands at thousands of unread messages in our email. Every time I hit unsubscribe from toxic behavior, my day gets that much better.
Thank you to Matty Boy for their insights. Please take the time to watch this video and follow them for more.