The Hunt for the Hairy Man: is the “Toxic Masculinity” Movement Devaluing the Positive Aspects of Masculinity?

I’ll let you in on a secret. Nestled somewhere deep beneath the surface of just about every man you will ever meet lives another being — the hairy man. Though lots of men try their best to hide him and keep him locked away in a cage below their conscious exterior, there he sits waiting for an opportunity to come out.

The hairy man thrives all things manly. He gets off on gladiatorial contests, he worships anything involving speed and noise — fast cars and motorbikes are his favourites, he revels in all things with the slightest hint of danger and will almost certainly be found partaking in anything where he can climb, hunt, build and explore the outdoors.

The hairy man almost always shies away from talking about his feelings and the way he looks, which is why he really only likes coming out in locker rooms, man caves and around bar tables where he feels safe with his buddies and their hairy men.

At his best, the hairy man is a loyal being, he is strong willed, he is a protector, he has great courage, will fight for his country and his family, can push his body to its physical limits, can build cities and work the land to produce food. The hairy man can be directed toward a good and noble cause.

But at his worst the hairy man is capable of inflicting untold pain and suffering, often at the expense of those he sees as ‘weaker’ than he. It is the burden he carries, he knows how to oppress, intimidate and dominate if he is threatened or left to his own devices.

And it is because of his destructive potential, more than ever before, that the hairy man is a wanted man. He is cornered from many angles today by a culture that is outraged by what it has labelled ‘toxic’ masculinity. Our society is carefully but systematically disassembling the hairy man hair by hair.

And while there are many who claim that uprooting the hairy man and his darker inclinations sheds light on the culture of entitlement, misogyny and sexual aggressiveness of some men, in reality the suppression and labelling of his whole being as ‘toxic’ has invited a wide scale and dangerous devaluation of many of the positive aspects of masculinity.

This devaluation of has developed to such a point that overt masculinity is now increasingly seen as a problem to be questioned and interrogated rather than an entity capable of being harnessed and refined for the greater good.

This pattern of behaviour is misguided. A widespread rejection of masculine traits only leads to more obscure and juvenile standards by which our society views and values men,

The resulting outrage at the crudest forms of masculine behaviour which inevitably emerge —usually in younger men — then further fuels those who wish to see the hairy man removed whilst simultaneously creating a great deal of confusion for a generation of young people as they come to terms with what to do with their own masculinity. 

We are led to believe the hunting of the hairy man is for the good of all, that we are a safer and better society without him and his toxic traits, and though this might carry some element of truth, it doesn’t quite reveal the whole truth. Trying to eradicate the hairy man is not the answer.

There is a place and a role for the hairy man and the positive side of his masculinity in our changing society, but we need to continue to reassess and rebuild our valuation of what positive masculinity is, rather than focussing what toxic masculinity does.

The positive masculinity movement needs to be nurtured and shaped by others who have learned how to handle the hairy man themselves: fathers, brothers, mentors and good men who understand the importance of using their masculinity in a positive way.

By defining and embracing a positive, healthy and constructive view of masculinity, rather than focussing on what is wrong or toxic with men, we will undeniably see an improvement in the way men are not only valued in society but in the standards and behaviours by which they hold themselves accountable. A vision of society we really need to see.