What are men?

An interview with The New York Times on toxic masculinity and political culture

Dear Inklings,

We’re almost at the weekend. Almost.

Today I want to share something I was very proud to take part in, an interview with the “In Her Words” newsletter of The New York Times, in which I talked about toxic masculinity, the male terror of weakness that so often masquerades as strength, and the way mask-wearing and other common-sense precautions in coronatime have been undermined by a widespread male feeling that to die of the virus would be less terrible than to remain alive and admit to one’s vulnerability.

The full interview is here. You can sign up for Alisha Haridasani Gupta’s and her colleagues’ other dispatches here.

An excerpt:

ALISHA: What is it in American culture, as you mentioned, that has filled so many men with this kind of anxiety you’ve described?

ANAND: What is our society teaching men? It is teaching men that the only way to have dignity is not be a woman, not be weak, not be gay, always hit first and never present yourself as vulnerable or in need.

This dominant way of teaching men leads to the epic amounts of abuse and assault that women face, and it actually doesn’t really work for most men. It traps most men in images of ourselves that have failed most of us and that don’t fit our lived inner experience…

ALISHA: We saw, this week, some men ridiculing on Twitter an image of Joe Biden hugging and kissing his son, Hunter. What do you make of that reaction?

ANAND: I was heartened to see that Joe Biden loves his son, and visibly. Given all the family he has lost, I can understand the tight grip with which he holds what he has left. What we learned this week is that a picture of a father loving his son can be terrifying to the legions of men in this country, whose narrow vision of masculinity is that it consists of being independent to the point of isolation. The whole episode is a reminder of a culture of toxic masculinity that trains so many men to turn their sense of vulnerability into a fraudulent performance of strength, and their own wounds from being unloved, or not letting themselves be loved, into a desire to hurt those who take pride in giving love.

Check out my full conversation with Alisha in the “In Her Words” newsletter.

Photo: Theresa Kroeger/Getty