There’s been an ocean of ink spilled over “toxic masculinity” but until I read Phil Christman’s “What It’s Like to Be a Man” in the Hedgehog Review, I couldn’t crisply define it.
There are two senses, both far more meaningful than the Harvey Mansfields of the world can afford to realize, in which men actually are failing to protect the people around them. One, many of us commit violence against women and each other, and the rest of us stand accused, with more or less justice depending on our individual circumstances, of letting those guys get away with it. (Feminists sometimes seem to me to exaggerate the amount of power men have over each other. If you’ve marked yourself as the sort of man who objects to casual rape or wifebeating, the men likeliest to do those things tend not to invite you over—but most of us could do more than we do.) Two, we sit around too much. Nothing has informed my understanding of my own maleness—or my fears about what it might allow me to get away with—than chancing to look through the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild’s The Second Shift when I was in my twenties, and seeing clearly laid out the total combined hours of precious life the average woman loses to home and office.