There is a strong belief today that "toxic masculinity" is the root of all society's ills, including sexual harassment. Abigail Shrier, a writer living in Los Angeles, praises masculinity in a must–read article in the Wall Street journal and attributes a lot of her success in life to having had an unabashedly masculine father.
The article begins with young Abigail trying to guilt trip Dad in a book store. Somebody is playing the guitar and Abigail reminds Dad that he didn't support her lackluster musical talent. Dad is not a pushover:
“That’s right,” he said, his voice gathering in a growl. “I didn’t support it! That’s why my kid’s on her way to graduate school, and that guy’s singing in a Borders!”
Shrier's father was a man who "admired "smarts less than grit" and regarded "unbridled emotion" as "vaguely pathetic."
He's probably the sort of man child-rearing experts regard with horror. Shrier has been thinking about him in light of the #MeToo movement:
His example has been on my mind these days with all this talk about “toxic masculinity” and the proper ways to raise boys so that they don’t become sexual predators. A recent New York Times article about how to raise good boys in the “#MeToo Era” cites psychologist Peter Glick, who advises parents to challenge the prevailing norms of masculinity with our sons, refraining from using terms like “man up” and—crucially—ending all teaching of chivalry: “We need to stop socializing boys to see women as needing protection.”
So many seem to believe that if we can remake boys as feminists—by which they seem to mean boys who check their male privilege, are unafraid to cry, and are politically progressive—we will have largely solved the problem of sexual harassment. A glance at the public figures felled in the #MeToo purges—not to mention Bill Clinton —should cure us of the idea that progressive politics incline men to better treatment of women.
Having a masculine Dad gave Shrier a sense of her own (to use a trendy term) agency:
And when young men didn’t like me or were poised to treat me badly, it was my father’s regard that I found myself consulting and relying upon. When a man tries to mistreat a woman—I’m not talking about violence, but the instinct to convey to her that she isn’t worth very much—he is unlikely to get very far with a woman whose father has made her feel that she’s worth a whole lot.
My father’s own unapologetic masculinity made us feel secure. It made itself known in the shuffle of his loafers against our linoleum floor, the rumble of his voice, the two-fingered whistle whose sharpness both impressed and alarmed. And yes, he has held plenty of doors. The notion that this signified anything other than courtesy could never persuade me, since its origin, for me, was with him.
There is something regrettable in the way our exclusive focus on boys and men lets young women off the hook. As if women bear no responsibility for their own behavior. As if they are too weak, too emotional, too foolish ever to take care of themselves.
And that is the greatest disappointment of the #MeToo movement, that it has so spectacularly refused to insist that a woman not allow any man to treat her badly. Failed to insist that young women have an individual responsibility to demand better. That they should all agree no job is worth more than their dignity.
Yes, there are brutes who harm women and situations in which the woman cannot protect herself.
But in many instances a little more self-respect on the part of young women might have helped them make different decisions, too.