Toxic Masculinity

                                           And Why Patricide is (sometimes) our Vital Necessity!


This week has been marked for me by a distinct theme of hearing many women around me express their intense hatred for a certain type of man. Man hatred is perhaps a primarily female phenomenon, but should it be so? And is it altogether negative to express loudly one’s unadulterated hatred for a certain type of masculinity and what it represents? I found myself feeling liberated and in touch with my core through recognising such feelings as both legitimate and constructive. My only slight hesitation would be about the potential for toxicity and polarisation between the two sexes such expression of hostility may create, but if we were to harbour the appropriate expression of ‘man hatred’ as a universal phenomenon, then I would argue that it has the scope to make the world a better place. 

            Julia Kristeva has infamously said that ‘matricide is our vital necessity’, a statement I profoundly disagree with, but which over the years has resonated with many. What she meant by that needs to be put into context. Kristeva, a highly influential, philosopher, psychoanalyst and writer left her native Bulgaria and came into bloom in Paris where she became acquainted with the Parisian psychoanalytic and intellectual circles. She describes her native culture and memories of her childhood as devoid of colour and aliveness. She makes a link between the lack of an alive bond with her culture of origin and the type of mother she had, a passive, domesticated mother-victim with whom her relationship had also never felt alive. It is this type of mother, which Kristeva came to define as the ‘dead mother’, that needs to be killed off and left behind in order for a woman to feel fully alive and in touch with her creativity and in order to find her voice. But I wonder, why is Kristeva focussing on her deadened relationship with her mother rather than a centuries long system, patriarchy which deadens women’s relationships with other women and which renders the woman-carer-mother in a passive, victimised position that only serves to perpetuate this same system?

            I don’t mean to write here a feminist manifesto about how to defeat patriarchy. Ultimately, father-law, just like mother-law is vital for all of us, i.e., we all need to work within boundaries, systems, authority and a sense of social order and structure as much as we need connection, nourishment, fluidity and creativity. The two are in truth complimentary to each other and also, they don’t and shouldn’t be exclusively appropriated by either men or women. The danger with grand statements such as committing symbolic matriarchy or patriarchy is that it can contribute to black or white thinking and confuse us further.

            Going back to the repetitive pattern I observed in my practice and elsewhere this week about the necessity of holding on to a hatred of toxic masculinity or in other words committing symbolic patriarchy, I think there is significant value to it. Perhaps, one needs to begin by defining what is ‘toxic masculinity’, again an attribute that can be equally expressed and represented by men and women. There are several definitions of the above on the web as it is one of these terms that are rather popular at the moment. I decided to deliberately avoid doing any research on the history of the term, as I would like to focus on my understanding of what it stands for from everyday experience and practice. Here are some very ordinary examples that spring to mind: a friend who tells us when we are in intense suffering to pull ourselves together, to be brave, to be patient, who will only be there when we are apparently cheerful and in good shape; a parent who teaches their daughter (or son) not to develop their inclinations, but to be powerful and successful by all means or to be just like their own fantasy ideal self; the person who will always place themselves right at the centre of a difficult situation and make it be about them and their feelings on the expense of anybody else’s feelings or right to existence; those who know best, because they have access to science, knowledge, religion or whatever else system they view as superior and who therefore need to tell us/show us the right path as their truth is infinitely better than ours.

            Ultimately, if we are to look at different analyses about the history of the predominance of patriarchy and the various myths which symbolically represent the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy such as the myth of Demeter and Persephone, where Persephone’s violent abduction and rape by the God of the Underworld, Hades, also stands for the violation of earth and the toxic effects of human dominance in the natural environment, it is the disavowal of the human condition which entails vulnerability and uncertainty that toxic masculinity represents. And in a world where collective trauma pushes us to adopt positions of supposed superior knowledge and persuades some that they have the right to impose their will or views on others, it may not only be necessary, but utterly vital for our sanity to say no to any coercive systems of toxic masculinity and patriarchy!

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