There’s Nothing Toxic About Masculinity

Written by Ann Burns

March 15, 2022

When the Villains are Beautiful

The other day, I was cleaning out my desk when I stumbled upon a letter my husband wrote me after we lost our baby Theo. I had forgotten all about that note, and as I reread it, tears welled in my eyes.  

It’s an astoundingly gorgeous letter — the content far too intimate and sacred to share— but it’s the kind of letter that my husband’s future biographers would long to snatch up. I bring up the letter because it reminds me of what it was like to first suffer with my spouse. It reminds me of the challenging road of learning how to grieve together. Losing our little one to miscarriage unearthed dormant insecurities and created new fears. My husband suffered. It wasn’t just me. He lost his son, and in those weeks that followed, he stood by me, bearing my intense grief as well as his own. 

I saw a depth of character and goodness surge forth from him that I had never before encountered. I am so grateful he wrote me a letter during that time — knowing that poignant notes are a powerful way to reach me. His penned words immortalize that time in our lives.  

My husband became a father — a good, strong, wise father — without being able to hold our little one in his arms. He revealed his strength of character and immense love for our family. He was my anchor when I was very much lost. He carried his cross and helped me carry mine; I was fumbling, and without him, I wouldn’t have been able to make our journey down the Via Dolorosa.

He is a good man.  

He is a good father. 

Thank you, Ed, for being a good man. 

This letter reminded me of the extreme importance of women to affirm the men in our lives. Often, masculinity is ridiculed and attacked, but masculinity is a gift from God. God made men, and He made men good. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Men are very good. 

We refer to God as our Heavenly Father. Christ ordained men to the priesthood. St. Joseph had the sacred honor and duty to be the life-saver of Our Savior. It’s undeniable that men have a holy, necessary part to play in the drama of human life.  

When we treat masculinity like a fatal disease, we damage all of humanity. Demonizing masculinity denies God by teaching that there is something inherently wrong with manhood.  

St. Paul reminds husbands of their call to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. (Ephesians 5:30) Christ died on the Cross for His Church. In some way, Christ calls all men to Calvary. Men, in their priestly role of headship, are called to self-death. As Pope Paul VI wrote, “Whoever follows after Christ, the perfect man, becomes himself more of a man.” True masculinity seeks Christ— reflecting  His perfect virtue; it is supremely heroic. Masculinity is honorable. It possesses valor, fortitude. It is chivalrous. It is not tyrannical but healthy and just. 

Do not dismiss or scorn masculinity because Christ shows us what perfect masculinity looks like. Rejecting the masculine call would be to ignore and scoff at part of Christ: His manhood. 

Masculinity is necessary. 

What About Bad Men?

Sadly, there are men who fail to live up to these standards. Just as many women refuse to embrace their feminine design. 

Yet, these failings are not authentic depictions of masculinity. Instead, these failings are a perversion of masculinity. The proper terminology is effeminacy, which St. Thomas Aquinas defines as “ready to forsake the good on account of difficulties.” Effeminacy can spring from vice (masturbation, addiction, sleeping around, etc.), an over-attachment to pleasure, or lack of courage. Essentially, the effeminate man allows pleasure or fear to rule him, not virtue. There is no fortitude or temperance. In short, effeminacy enables fleshly and soon-to-be-forgotten pleasures to conquer the timeless nobility of manhood. 

Effeminacy, not masculinity, produces a toxic culture because it encourages men to forfeit their calling for the sake of vice.  Effeminacy produces bad men. 

Not All Men Are Effeminate 

Not all men are effeminate, and it would be wrong to go through life acting as if they are or that there is something fundamentally wrong with being male. 

In condemning masculinity, society challenges — and even denies— the goodness of God’s creation. 

Instead of curing any misogyny, society embraces misandry: men-hating women. Misandry is not a cure for misogyny; misandry is an ugly problem all its own. 

Pope St. John Paul challenges men and women to affirm (not deny) the dignity and importance of each other: 

“Christ assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man; at the same time, he also assigns the dignity of every man to every woman.” 

And as we grow closer to the Solemnity of St. Joseph, a virile and holy father, I want to encourage you to celebrate the good men in your life, and affirm the inherent goodness of masculinity.  

If you have been wounded by men, struggle with distrust, or misandry, turn to St. Joseph to help you heal. He will protect your heart, just as he protected our Bl. Mother and Baby Jesus. Let St. Joseph love you, as Fulton Sheen once remarked, “St. Joseph was on fire with love.”

Men are necessary. 

We need men. 

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