Toxic masculinity. It’s a buzzword that’s gaining momentum as it’s bandied about in pop culture like a shuttlecock over a badminton net. There’s a clinical definition of the term (which, in the ivory towers of the scholarly world is, properly, “hegemonic masculinity“):
Hegemonic masculinity is defined as a practice that legitimizes men’s dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of women, and other marginalized ways of being a man. Conceptually, hegemonic masculinity proposes to explain how and why men maintain dominant social roles over women, and other gender identities, which are perceived as “feminine” in a given society.
And then there’s the sort of similar working definition of the huddled masses: Anything a man does that others, especially women, don’t like that can, by any stretch of the imagination, be blamed on the fact that he’s a man.
If a man cuts you off in traffic, it’s not that he’s a jerk or didn’t see you, it’s toxic masculinity. If a man holds a door open for a woman, it’s not that he’s polite and helpful, it’s toxic masculinity. If a man leaves his socks on the bathroom floor, it’s not that he’s sloppy and has no home training, it’s toxic masculinity. In other words, he’s not doing these things because he’s a polite or rude or aggressive or helpful human being, it’s because he’s a man who just wants to keep women down and exercise dominance over them.
Pardon my French, but what a bunch of malarkey.
Yes, I’m sure there’s a fringe element of men out there who consciously think they’re better than women, that women shouldn’t have any rights or hold any positions of responsibility, blah, blah, blah. And you know what? They’re considered fringe kooks, and rightly so. But I’m not buying this business of these elitist gnostics telling us that every little move a man makes is a subconscious act of belittling women or exercising domination over them, and neither should you. It’s like the race-baiters who say that every single white person is racist, deep down, and this latent racism manifests itself in everything we do, from the way we tie our shoes to the breakfast cereal we buy at the store. We’re just not aware of it, supposedly.
You want to know where this notion of toxic masculinity came from? It sprang from the loins of toxic feminism. Zoom out and look at the big picture. This is a manufactured concept, baptized in the (assumed) credibility of academia, designed to help women leverage power and control over men. How? By denigrating them at every turn, thereby convincing the world that men are intrinsically bad and women are good and must be elevated to prominence. Call me crazy if you want to, but it doesn’t take a prophet or the son of a prophet to look down the road and see that the feminist end game here is a matriarchal world where women rule and men drool. And there are plenty of brazen females out there who would openly and unashamedly admit this.
That, however, is not my concern. Sinners gonna sin, and God’s going to deal with them in His own way and in His own good time.
My concern is the way this attitude is fleshing (pun intended) itself out in Christian families and the visible church, and creeping into evangelical women’s (and men’s) hearts. Because, whether or not we’d like to admit it, this worldliness is advancing upon us, and we need to be aware of – and biblically approach – the facets of this issue that are already at our doorstep:
On the Top of the World Looking Down on Creation
I actually laughed out loud when reading some of the academic definitions of so-called toxic masculinity. There seemed to be an air of, “We just don’t understand it! This pattern of male dominance seems to transcend all cultures and time periods!”
Well here’s a really academic response to that: Duh.
I mean, you have to wonder if these researchers and scholars have ever said to themselves, “I wonder if there’s a reason for that. I wonder if this tendency in men that defies time and culture can be traced back to a pinpointed source.”
There is, and it can. It’s called Creation, and God is the one responsible. God created man first and then woman. God created husbands to lead and wives to be helpers. God set up the Old Testament patriarchal society that became the nation of Israel, which was led by male tribal heads and, later, male kings. God established male leadership in the temple, and subsequently, in the church. The major and minor prophets were male, Jesus was male, the apostles were male, the writers of Scripture were male. And all of this traces back to that one moment in Genesis 2 in which God decided to create man first and hard-wire him to lead, protect, and git ‘er done. Broadly¹ speaking, the reason we see a general¹ pattern of male leadership across time and culture is because God set those wheels in motion.
As Christians, we recognize that sinful men sometimes abuse the positions of leadership God has given them, but that doesn’t negate the entire pattern and call for us to turn it on its head. We study our Bibles and embrace and submit to the way God has instructed men and women to behave in the roles He has bestowed upon us.
(Don’t) Do the Woke-Emotion
One of the components of God’s creative work that adds inexplicable beauty to this world is the tender-heartedness, passion, and empathy He built into women in a uniquely feminine way. Emotions. Feelings. God created them, and they are good. What a dreary and heartless world this would be if women didn’t bring nurturing, caring, sympathy, and love to the table. God uses us to soften the hard edges of life and make the planet pleasantly inhabitable.
But along with that good gift comes the challenge to steward it wisely and in obedience to God so that we may use it to glorify Him rather than dishonoring Him.
I see Christian women wisely stewarding their emotions to the glory of God every day as they care for their husbands and families, friends and co-workers, and serve in their churches. It is a beautiful picture of the mature fruit of biblical womanhood.
Unfortunately, I also see the exact opposite. I see (ostensibly) Christian women who scream like banshees any time their pastor preaches on the passages of Scripture dealing with women’s roles in marriage or the church. I’ve seen women who claim to believe and follow the Bible throw an everloving fit when someone points out – from Scripture – that their favorite women’s “Bible” study author is a false teacher. I see women formulating their beliefs and practices about God, worship, the Bible, their own behavior, their families, and their churches based on their own personal opinions, experiences, and feelings rather than on rightly handled Scripture.
And, just like secular feminists demand domination over men because they feel oppressed, have experienced sexism, or resent the world’s history of male dominion, I see Christian women letting their emotions rule the day as they demand unbiblical solutions to their real or perceived personal experiences with men and male leadership.
The anger, the outrage, the hurt feelings, and being offended are nearly as evident in evangelicalism as they are in society at large.
Godly women are not ruled by their feelings. We are ruled by the Bible. We make our feelings submit to and obey God’s Word. We don’t make decisions based on what we like or don’t like, or what makes us feel good about ourselves. We base our decisions on what the Bible says. When our feathers get ruffled, we take a step back and evaluate the situation with rightly handled Scripture. Maybe we’re upset because someone actually sinned against us, but maybe we’re upset because our pride or vanity was wounded, or our unbiblical notions were biblically challenged, or because God used someone to expose an idol we’re worshiping. Maybe it’s not that the other person sinned, but that we’re in sin. Those hurt feelings could be a wake up call from God to humble ourselves and repent.
Ladies, we must learn to put our feelings aside and act on the objective truth of God’s Word instead of our fickle and deceptive emotions. If we display the same sorts of fleshly emotionalism as unsaved women, how are we being salt and light in the world, pointing the way to Christ? We’re supposed to be set apart and different from the world.
Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?
Because – speaking of salt and light – embracing and submitting to our biblical roles in the family and in the church sets us apart from the world. Now, more than ever, we have a unique opportunity to be counter-cultural – simply by obeying God’s Word.
Women being hired as pastors and teaching and exercising authority over men in the church and leading denominations and becoming popular evangelical conference speakers with co-ed audiences – that’s what the world expects because that’s the way they do things. But a Christian woman who happily puts her foot down and refuses to teach men in the church setting or joyfully insists on submitting to her husband? That’s different. It’s against the grain, not the norm.
Remember that out of the ordinary burning bush that caught Moses’ attention and he turned aside out of curiosity to investigate? And remember how, when Moses was watching it burn, wondering what in the world was going on, that God called to him out of that fiery shrub – “Follow Me.”? God can do the same thing with our obedience to Scripture.
Lost people see this anomaly of our “weird” behavior, and they want to know what in the world is going on. Why do we act differently than they do? And that’s when we get to explain it to them. We get to share the gospel. God can call to them out of our passionate burning for Christ and His Word, “Follow Me.”.
People in darkness gravitate toward light. Salt makes people thirsty. Do we care more about giving them the Light of the World and the Living Water or our own selfish and fleshly desires for power and position? Our embrace of and obedience to the biblical roles God has laid out for us as Christian women is one gateway to sharing the gospel with the lost.
Toxic femininity is worldly and fleshly. It has no place in Christian homes and churches. How do we combat it? We take up the sword. We submit to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We recognize that God is the authority in our lives, not self, and that we are to obey Him at any cost – even at the cost of our convenience and pleasure. We trade our desires for His.
¹I’m well aware that there are plenty of exceptions to this generalization. I’m referring to a broad pattern across time and culture, here. There are many biblical ways women can contribute and lead in the family, society, and the church.