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"Toxic Masculinity” in the Age of #MeToo: Ritual, Morality, and Gender Archetypes Across Cultures’.



Purpose This paper aims to take the “toxic masculinity” (TM) trope as a starting point to examine recent cultural shifts in common assumptions about gender, morality and relations between the sexes. TM is a transculturally widespread archetype or moral trope about the kind of man one should not be. Design/methodology/approach The author revisits his earlier fieldwork on transnational sexualities against a broader analysis of the historical, ethnographic and evolutionary record. The author describes the broad cross-cultural recurrence of similar ideal types of men and women (good and bad) and the rituals through which they are culturally encouraged and avoided. Findings The author argues that the TM trope is normatively useful if and only if it is presented alongside a nuanced spectrum of other gender archetypes (positive and negative) and discussed in the context of human universality and evolved complementariness between the sexes. Social implications The author concludes by discussing stoic virtue models for the initiation of boys and argues that they are compatible with the normative commitments of inclusive societies that recognize gender fluidity along the biological sex spectrum. Originality/value The author makes a case for the importance of strong gender roles and the rites and rituals through which they are cultivated as an antidote to current moral panics about oppression and victimhood.
Society and Business Review
“Toxic Masculinity” in the age of #MeToo: ritual, morality and gender archetypes
across cultures
Samuel Paul Louis Veissière,
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and gender archetypes across cultures", Society and Business Review,
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Toxic Masculinityin the age of
#MeToo: ritual, morality and
gender archetypes across cultures
Samuel Paul Louis Veissière
Division of Social, Transcultural Psychiatry, Culture, Mind, and Brain Program,
McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Purpose This paper aims to take the toxic masculinity(TM) trope as a starting point to examine recent
cultural shifts in common assumptions about gender, morality and relations between the sexes. TM is a
transculturally widespread archetype or moral trope about the kind of man one should not be.
Design/methodology/approach The author revisits his earlier eldwork on transnational sexualities
against a broader analysis of the historical, ethnographic and evolutionary record. The author describes the
broad cross-cultural recurrence of similar ideal types of men and women (good and bad) and the rituals
through which they are culturally encouraged and avoided.
Findings The author argues that the TM trope is normatively useful if and only if it is presented alongside
a nuanced spectrum of other gender archetypes (positive and negative) and discussed in the context of human
universality and evolved complementariness between the sexes.
Social implications The author concludes by discussing stoic virtue models for the initiation of boys
and argues that they are compatible with the normative commitments of inclusive societies that recognize
gender uidity along the biological sex spectrum.
Originality/value The author makes a case for the importance of strong gender roles and the rites and
rituals through which they are cultivated as an antidote to current moral panics about oppression and
Keywords Morality, Masculinity, Archetypes, Ritual, Sex and gender, Virtue-signalling
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction: in and out of sex work
In the introduction to his ethnography of drug-dealing in Spanish Harlem, Bourgois (2003)
jokes that he fell into crack by accident. I used to joke that I fell into sex work by accident.
From 2006 to 2009, I conducted ethnographic eldwork in the streets of Salvador da Bahia in
Brazil. The way I tell the story now, I was studying social ontology, resilience, and emerging
modes of sociality among street kids and sex workers. I did not use that language then. I had
been trained in political anthropology and postcolonial theory, and I wanted to learn how
people facing extreme marginalization (oppressionwas the word I used them) learned to
make sense of the social, cultural, economic and political structures in which they were
embedded. The Field turned out to offer many surprises not all of which were pleasant (see
Veissière, 2009,2010). I never found the noble victims and bad perpetrators I had been
looking for. I did nd people who were almost invariably more competent than I was at
making critical sense of and moving within structures that still did not make sense to me,
despite (or because of) the esoteric social science concepts I had been equipped with. I also
found that my informants aimed at and often attained a different kind of social mobility than
what I had expected. The strange book that came out of my rst Brazil cycle[1], thus,
morality, and
Received 10 July2018
Accepted 20 July2018
Society and Business Review
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/SBR-07-2018-0070
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
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describes the lives of poor black women and their attempt to escape the lowest ranks of a
pigmentocratic, highly stratied society by marrying foreign gringotourists (Veissière,
The transactions I observed did not look like sex work in the typically patterned sense of
the term. The bar patio seduction rituals were no more explicitly performative than other
kinds of effortful social interactions anywhere (such as job interviews or meeting ones in-
laws). Seduction rituals, when well executed, must produce the impression of not being
seduction rituals. In the transnational Brazilian bar version of the ritual, gender roles are
reinforced by being underplayed. The woman saves face by never explicitly asking for
money, and the man saves face by never explicitly offering to pay. The women who were
most successful at this game were those who were most adept at picking men who could
also play the game well. The women who were best at signalling that they were not like
those other women who go after gringoswere best at nding the men who were good at
signalling that they were not like those other gringos.
The stories that I documented, my own included, did not always end well. From the
womens lives in Europe (most of my informants ended up in or had returned from Italy,
Germany, France and Spain), I collected many stories of dreary small towns, bigoted
families, horny priests and brothers-in-law, evil-eyed mothers-in-law, miscarriages,
deportations and the occasional truck-stop brothel. Save for my own, I left most of the mens
stories out of my ethnography. There were some happy ones. But the bad stories (of which
there were more) showcased recurring themes of estrangement from suspicious families and
departed children and a downward curve towards nancial, social and physical ruin.
It took some effort to disentangle myself from sex work. As the post-colonial theory
which I had laboured over in my juvenilia was morphing into mandatory anti-oppression
trainingon college campuses, I found myself weary of returning to predictably scripted
arguments about gender, victimhood and sex trafcking[2]at academic conferences
arguments which, as a white man (by, 2014 a cis white man; by, 2016, a cis-hetero white-
presenting man), I was now told lacked the experiential authorityto comment on. As I
moved on from postmodern autoethnography to third-person cognitive anthropology, I
turned to more general questions about the psychological underpinnings and embodied
effects of culture, sociality and ritual behaviour (Ramstead et al., 2016;Veissière, 2016a,
These general questions and varied approaches from the masculine stories I left out of
my rst-person ethnography to third-person generalization of evolutionary anthropology
inform about my efforts to make sense of the current crisis in gender relations. They also
assist me in examining the meta-ethical foundations of gender normativities across cultures.
In the end, what I learned from these stories also assists me in making tentative
recommendations on the kinds of gendered rituals, rites and archetypes that might work
best for the human species.
1.1 Masculinity in 2018: Whats in a camping trip?
The stories we tell ourselves are often more normative that descriptive. They usually tell of
how the world should be according to our cultural norms. They are also performative. Stories
have strange ways of bringing the world they describe into being (Hacking, 2002). When
stories change, so do our innermost assumptions and experiences.
In a recent class discussion on the experience of bliss in nature, my anthropology
students shared stories of their favourite childhood moments. A young American woman in
her early 20s smiled as she evoked memories of fatherdaughter camping trips. This yearly
event, she recounted, had been something of a family ritual deemed worthy of its own name.
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Picking up on an awkward pause in the class conversation, she commented with a hint of
irony that in todays age, the sight of a father and daughter sharing a small tent would
seem a little creepy.
That comment gave me pause to wonder. The intuitive ease with which the father and
daughter concepts could be associated with creepmark the widespread normalization of a
rapid cultural shift in common assumptions about gender, sexuality and social interactions
at large. This much, the cultural anthropologist in me could recognize. This shift is now
described by social scientists as being concurrent with a growing culture of victimhood, and
an emphasis on adverse mental health outcomesstemming from processes of oppression
along with increasingly pervasive social justiceand intersectionalmoral culture on
north American college and university campuses (Campbell and Manning, 2014;Lilienfeld,
2017;Haidt, 2017). Commenting on these shifts at the level of gender ideology, cultural critic
Laura Kipnis (2017), elicited a erce controversy by pointing out that the emphasis on
womens victimhood and mens aggression resembled the kind of patriarchal narrative that
rst- and second-wave feminists had sought to overturn. Kipnis remarked that as she was
coming of age in the 1970s, she had been culturally primed to associate female sexuality
with freedom and liberation. By her account, sex in the late 2010s is now primarily
associated with risk, passive, vulnerable women and predatory men.
As a man and father of two boys, another part of me this one, closer to the heart felt
more troubled by my studentscomments. I thought of my young boys and wondered what
it might be like to be discovering ones manhood in a culture that actively preaches against
toxic masculinity(TM); a culture, to be precise, that overwhelming associates masculinity
with risk, violence and an inner essence tainted with sexual aggression. I also knew (the
evolutionary anthropologist in me now) that these associations were not entirely unfounded.
1.2 Stereotypes and archetypes in cognition and culture
The human mind is not well-equipped to reason about to counter-intuitive facts that violate
our expectations. Counter-intuitive facts tend to produce strong responses. They will be
dismissed as nonsense when they depart too far from common stories (Boyd and Richerson,
1998), and will be highly attention-grabbing and memorable when they combine common
stories in unusual ways (Boyer, 2008). Such facts can elicit automatic responses and even
violence when they contradict the moral core of implicit social norms (Greene and Haidt,
2002;Haidt, 2012).
Our expectations are heavily modulated by cultural norms. These are norms we all know
and obey, often without knowing that we know them (Ramstead et al.,2016). In a culture
where one version of feminism has become an obligatory moral norm (Kipnis, 2017),
pointing out that men fare much worse than women in many indicators of well-being (see for
example, Bilsker and White, 2011) is likely to be interpreted as misogynist. Any talk of
mens issues is also likely to be read as a call for victimhood. In this version of the
victimhood story, some men get to claim that women are the realoppressors. It is both
interesting and alarming to note that competition for victim status is found on both sides of
gender equality debate (Campbell and Manning, 2014).
Stereotypes about genders and other categories of persons are found in all cultures.
Those stereotypes have likely been around for as long as we have been symbolic species
(Hrdy, 2011). In general, stereotypes co-evolved (in cognition and culture) for the purpose of
informational efciency. They describe, however crudely, patterns of behaviours and
statistical regularities in the world that can be gured out with no explicit instruction. To
cognize, in other words, is to categorize (Harnad, 2017). Babies recognize patterns in the
world, and they form mental templates to organize information into stereotypes.
morality, and
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A stereotypy is also the hallmark of patterned behaviour, in both animal and cultural forms
of life (Boyer and Liénard, 2006).
Stereotyped behaviour along sexed lines in the animal kingdom looks roughly like
stereotyped gendered behaviour among humans. This is why, in addition to roughly similar
gender archetypes found across cultures, we know that human behaviour and the cultural
patterning of behaviour are rooted in our evolved biology (Eagly and Wood, 1990).
Stereotypes can also be plain wrong. Because the human mind is not good at handling
complexity, it tends to simplify the world and infer patterns where there are none. This is
why we are prone to gamblers fallacy, superstition and conspiracy theories (Swami et al.,
2014). Cultural groups need to produce efcient stories to promote and enforce social norms
that are good for the survival of group. Lay people call this kind of story-telling morality.
Psychologists call this as rule-governed behaviour (Schmidt et al.,2011).
All cultures actively promote different stereotypes and ideal types. Some cultural stories
are nuanced and others less so. Some are simplied to the point of promoting conspiracy
theories. Archetypes that promote crowd madness, witch-hunts, public hangings and
genocides are like mind viruses. The human minds vulnerability to zero-in on single actors
and intentional culprits and its propensity to give in to collective pressure has been
recognized for a long time. Take, for example, an old story from the Talmud: When a man
is unanimously condemned to death, he must be released at once.
1.3 Gender archetypes as normative ethics
Gender archetypes usually describe worst-case and best-case ideal types of men and women.
The archetypes propagate and promote moral stories about the kinds of men and women we
should and should not be. Across cultures and throughout histories, these archetypes have
proven to be highly similar. For a cultural anthropological view on morality across cultures,
(see Keane, 2015); for a psychological, evolutionary view (see Tomasello, 2016); and for a
biocultural view on sexand gender roles, (see Fuentes, 2015).
The worst-case ideal type for men is usually too aggressive, selsh and not caring
enough. The worst-case ideal type for women is usually coddling and manipulative (Eagly
and Wood, 1999). Similarly, cultures do not differ very much in where the best-case ideal
type should t on this spectrum (Schmitt et al., 2008).
The best-case archetype for a man is usually strong, protecting and generous. The ideal
woman is usually beautiful, caring and generous. There is broader cultural difference in the
next ideal sub-type, but the general picture looks something like this: traditionally, mens
role in care-giving is to protect the family. In childrearing, men usually toughen up children
and socialize them to face the challenges of the outside world. Women typically attend to
minute needs that men are not very good at noticing. Both boys and girls are generally
recognized to need masculine types to toughen them and feminine types to make them more
delicate and attentive. Evolutionary and cross-cultural research has shown that fathers
usually favour rough-and-tumble play over ne-motor subtle play (Hrdy, 2011;Lamb, 2000;
Lamb and Goldberg, 1982). Universally, most cultures have devised some version of the
childfather camping or hunting trip ritual.
All cultures recognize the complementarities of men and women, from the anatomical
complementarity that makes coitus and reproduction possible, to the complementary ways
in which men and women use their strengths to help keep the species alive. The spectrum of
masculine and feminine ideal types is also universally recognized as porous (Fuentes, 2015).
Men can indeed, by most accounts, should embody some feminine traits, and women can
and should be masculine in some domains. All cultures, thus, have an archetype for
effeminate men and masculine women. Some cultures, like the Amerindian berdache type
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(Trexler, 1999, the Filipino bakla type (Manalansan, 2003) type, or the Brazilian travesti type
(Kulick, 1997) have fully accepted social roles that oppositescan integrate. Many cultures
identify very masculine women and very effeminate men as unbalanced, or negative types
(Trexler, 1999).
Sexual preference does not always correlate with the sex-and-gender spectrum.
Warrior cultures that promoted aggressive men types, like Ancient Greece or Japan, also
permitted and encouraged homoeroticism and man-on-man love (Trexler, 1999). Many
cultures have permitted homoeroticism and love-making among men without any
implication of homosexuality. In most of Melanesia and Polynesia, boy-on-boy love was
tolerated as a normal part of transgressive child-play (Mead, 1939). In this cultural
package, boy-on-boy love was discouraged once one became a seriousmarried person. In
some parts of Brazil, the act of activelypenetrating men can be seen as a sign of hyper-
masculinity the homosexualrole in such instances is reserved for the passiveman
who becomes feminized through penetration (Kulick, 1997;Hecht, 2006). This kind of
macho homoeroticism is also found, albeit in a more covert way, in many athletic, gang
and prison cultures that promote aggressive, hyper-masculinemale archetypes
(Lancaster, 2005).
1.4 Negative gender archetypes across cultures
The risk of over-aggression in males and over-nurturing in women is recognized in all
societies. The same is true of social cluelessness in males and social manipulation in women
(Stoller and Herdt, 1982). Robust brain and cross-cultural psychological ndings support the
view that male and female behaviour traits are normally distributed along biological lines.
Males are more aggressive and impulsive on average and not as good as females at paying
attention to other peoples needs (Soutschek et al.,2017;Rand et al., 2016;Buss, 1995;Schmitt
et al., 2008). As in all normal distribution curves, there is a considerable amount of overlap
and individual differences.
Cultural differences in masculine and feminine types often mirror the idealized
archetypes elevated as moral models in different societies. Philosopher Ian Hacking calls
this phenomenon looping effects: human biology, experience and personality traits can be
malleable and tend to t the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world (Hacking,
2007). One, however, should remain attentive to the strong limits of this malleability. One
might think of cultural malleability as a spectacular add on, rather than the founding core
of symbolically-enriched human biology. This nal point bears retelling and helps clear the
muddied conceptual waters surrounding the contemporary archetype of toxic masculinity.
I address these epistemological contradictions in the next sections.
1.4.1 Virtue or virtue-signalling? the sacred and the taboo in evolutionary perspective. In
his introduction to psychologist Jordan Petersons (2018) controversial book on 12 Rules for
Life, the Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge raised concerns about the deep, invisible
contradiction that underpins the current culture of social justice on university campuses.
On the one hand, Doidge pointed out, most young people schooled after the 1990s have
been taught that all morality is relative, and that everything from sex to power to success is
socially constructed. This leaves little room for identifying evolutionarily stable patterns of
behaviour and places the locus of or the blame for”–all problems on nebulous social
forces(e.g. colonialism) that appear to possess intentions of their own. In more extreme,
conspiracy-like versions of this story, the blame, agency and intentions are placed on
malec, usually white male single social actors.
The next set of contradictions is harder to discern. It takes a more minute conceptual look
to notice that the intersectional worldview moves from:
morality, and
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Ultra-constructivist ontological commitments (all behaviours are the result of
to a radically individualist, standpointepistemology (Harding, 2004) granted to
some, but not all social actors (reported rst-person experience is the ultimate
authority on all matters of truth and justice, but if and only if one speaks from the
position of the oppressed); and
universalist ethical commitments to the undoingof gender and most social norms,
to be led by those who hold marginalized standpoints.
In spite of its relativist claims, thus, the culture of social justice actively promotes one kind of
highly rigid normative morality about power, sex and human relations. This moral story is
then grounded in highly stereotyped models and ideal types of identity. In this model,
gender and ethnic identities are typically cast on the same plane of social construction, but
gender and not ethnicityis seen a violentpatriarchal imposition that must be undone.
Ethnicity, in turn, is described as a virtuous marker of colonial victimhood that must be
valourized and accommodated but not undone. All those who are not identied with the cis-
heteronormative white supremacist patriarchy, then, get to leverage their disempowered
identity status as a marker of virtue.
Doidge calls this model virtue-signallingand sharply contrasts it with the Aristotelian
model of virtue ethics, which emphasizes depth of moral character (MacIntyre, 2013). From
an anthropological perspective, virtue-signalling is found in all cultures as a form of
reputational management (Tomasello, 2008). In any given culture and context, one must
invariably signal how one abides by and excels at the terms of social norms that regulate
good social and moral standing (Leary and Kowalski, 1990).
Psychologists have pointed out that social norms that regulate virtue aim to promote a
symbolic ideal of purity while marking those who do not play by the rules as polluted
(Haidt, 2012). Across cultures, things, substances, persons, ideas and practices that are
deemed sacred typically signal purity, while taboos signal pollution (Douglas, 2003). The
sacred and the taboo, nally, tend to elicit the most automatic, often virulent responses. While
the sacred, by denition, cannot be questioned or desecrated, the taboo cannot be touched or
defended. When individuals or ideas are symbolically marked as taboo, they typically elicit
strong disgust responses from purity-seekers. It is pertinent to note that disgust-sensitivity
responses, which recruit subcortical brain structures like the insula and amygdala, are
evolutionarily ancient mechanisms optimized to deal with threats and poisons in the
environment. The presence of taboo among Homo sapiens, in turn, activates disgust systems
by applying a poison-detection formula to symbolic stimulus (Phillips et al.,1997;Rozin et al.,
2009;Tybur et al.,2013). While disgust-sensitivity is a normal brain function among
vertebrates (particularly mammals and humans), some individuals and cultural groups are
known to be more sensitive than others. Conservatives, for example, have often been shown
to score higher in disgust-sensitivity that liberals (Haidt, 2012) A recent study, however,
found that those who espoused authoritarian left-wing views of political correctness scored
were as high as conservatives in disgust-sensitivity (Haidt, 2012;Brophy, 2015).
This amicable cultural separation from biology, which accounts for the symbolic
activation of most deep-brain functions, has often been described favourably to account for
humanitys unique evolutionary successover other species. An important addition to this
cultural intelligence hypothesis(Henrich, 2015), however, could cast this mechanism as a
potential problem.One might term this the cultural stupidity hypothesis.
This evolutionary detour helped me re-ground my argument in a general meta-ethics of
interpersonal relations: people invariably form intuitive moral judgements and
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performatively manage theirreputations around ideas of purityand pollution consistent with
those of their time and sub-culture. How different social norms capture and enforce this
spectrum, thus, will largely determine the experience of different classes of people marked as
a clean or dirty.
If masculinity is increasingly marked as a disgust-eliciting taboo in the new moral
culture, we should now examine the TM trope in broader historical, cross-cultural and
evolutionary contexts.
1.4.2 Toxic masculinity in comparative focus. Toxic masculinityis a highly salient but
awkwardly-tting feature in the conceptual architecture of the social justicemoral culture
I discussed above. In the grander scheme of human structures of myth, TM is simply a
worst-case ideal type, i.e. a fairy tale with some basis in biology and broad cross-cultural
relevance. The TM myth serves the useful purpose of promoting socially desirable
behaviour among males: men should not be bullies, and men should not rape. What healthy
mind would disagree with that?
In the current scheme of twenty-rst century social justice mythology, the TM story is
also the master archetype in an archetype-hungry culture that pretends not to use
Invoking the Toxic Femininity(TF for shorts, a worst-case female ideal type) in a
twenty-rst century discussion is not likely to be well received. TF archetypes, however, are
also universal. When psychoanalysis still dominated the psychological science scene, a slew
of children personality traits from autism to introversion were routinely blamed on a
spectrum of feminine bad-mother types, from hysterical, castrating harpies to refrigerator
mothers(Severson et al.,2008).
In spite of the demise of TF tropes in public culture, female gender archetypes still
permeate everyday cultural assumptions on many levels. Many female professors, for
example, report that their male students are culturally ill prepared to respect female
pedagogical authority. In this argument, most men and boys are said to perceive women
leaders through a binary archetypical lens in which one can either be a sexy girlfriendor a
bitchy mother(Hay, 2015, for a discussion). It may be, then, that many boys do not know
how to interact with and perceive women outside of these cultural templates.
I suggest that current Ur-socioconstructivist gender ideology (which provides no clear
bearings on what to expect from and how to behave towards other sexes) perpetuates, rather
than addresses this problem. On an extreme end of this misgendering spectrum, confusing
expectations and an obscurantist denial of biology may also accentuate tensions
surrounding so-called rape culture. While the act of rape constitutes a universally
recognizable wrongdoing, what I call rape culture-culturepresents a contradictory and,
ultimately, unexplained story on the aetiology of male sexual aggression. As Doidge points
out, the advent of third-wave feminism which denies masculine and feminine essences
outside of socialization processes (Butler, 2011)has now sacralized the denial of nature on
the one hand and the invisible imbalance of essentialising men only for their worst-case
If we take cross-culturally recurrent tropes about good persons as a reliable indicator of
moral wealth, the TM story certainly has a place in the human record. A normative ethics of
gender relations, thus, may begin with a recognition of biology. From this lens, an analysis
of the distribution of sex-based selected traits would undeniably lead to the conclusion that
men do require strong cultural nurturing to balance their aggression, temper their
domination and cultivate protecting roles. This is an old evolutionary story. On average,
fatherchild interaction is almost entirely absent among our closest cousins the great apes
(Hrdy, 2011), but a rough outline of healthy masculinityis found in the primate record.
morality, and
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Some chimpanzee males, thus, have been observed to step up and occasionally rescue, adopt
and raise orphaned baby chimps on their own (Boesch et al.,2010).
Successfully securing paternal investment an essential predictor of quality offspring in
humans has been and remains an important biocultural challenge for human females.
There is always a strong risk that men, after impregnating women, will take off forever into
their cultural equivalent of the long hunting trip and binge-drinking session. This is also
why, on average, human females have evolved to be uniquely attractive to males and signal
their attractiveness in highly effective ritual ways. Contrary to popular belief in, 2018,
women across cultures are much more likely than men to use their attractiveness and
genetic status to gain socioeconomic mobility (Henrich et al.,2012). This is a phenomenon I
routinely observed in the context of my eldwork in Brazil (Veissière, 2011). For men of low
social status, genetic status (in the form of health and attractiveness) matter little. In highly
stratied societies, low-status males are most often excluded from reproductive rites and
rituals, as high-status males monopolize the high-quality females. This is particularly true in
polygamous, polygynous societies. Predictably, societies that produce packs of sex-starved,
mate-less, purposeless males run into a lot of trouble (Veissière, 2011). This is when the
camping-drinking sessions run out of hand. All cultures, thus, have produced stories about
the tragicomedy of this challenge. The bachelor party rite found among Anglo-Saxons is
likely an important ritual way to keep bidding farewell tothis evolutionary problem.
A common worst-case female archetype across cultures, thus, warns against the femme
fatale who secures social success through her attractiveness and sexual favours and leads
men to social, nancial and emotional ruin (Forouzan and Cooke, 2005;Hanson and ORawe,
2010). In the traditional mens huts of the Amazon and Papua New Guinea, ethnographers
report that common talk among men centres on the awe-inspiring, terrifying power of the
all-swallowing vagina. Gossip from the female hut usually centres on the gullibility of
baby like men who think with their penis (Rival, 2011). This is the cultural equivalent of
the men-in-the-sauna and women-at-the-hair-salon rituals.
Like the TM story, these TF stories serve an important social purpose. In the pragmatic,
bio-culturally-based meta-ethics of gender relation I am advocating here, both TM and TF
stories should be told.In turn, the good versions of both stories must be actively promoted.
It may be for this reason that cultures have crafted elaborate, costly and highly sought-
after rites of initiation for boys and girls (Turner et al., 1987). In addition to promoting
solidarity, meaning and an identity (Whitehouse et al., 2014), the no-nonsense pragmatic
logic behind such rituals is that girls fare better when they initiated by older women into the
arts of womanhood, while boys also benet from initiation led by older men.
Complementariness and good models of gender relations are similarly socialized through
different rituals. Across cultures, there are opportunities for boys to learn from women role
models, from their girl peers to learn to relate to and to seduce and be respectful to the other
sex. The same is true for girls. Boys and girls, nally, need rites of passages to get to know
one another and learn to consume and cultivate their need for seduction. All cultures, in
other words, need their equivalent of Bar mitzvahs, Bat mitzvahs, prom nights, marriages,
father-son, father-daughter and mixed-family camping trips with strong aunt, uncle and
grandparent role models (Hrdy, 2011). In the language of public health, having access to
varied kinds of gender-specic and mixed-genders seduction, interaction and initiation
rituals grounded in a rich cultural folklore is an immense protective factor against poor life
outcomes. In strength-based language (Smith, 2006), these gendered rituals are crucial
mediators and indicators of community well-being. Contemporary psychologists recognize
the importance of same-gender role models for women, particularly in the context of
educational and career achievement, but often argue that mens success do not require same-
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sex models (Lockwood, 2006;Young et al.,2013). I suggest that this reects a contemporary
bias against masculinity proper rather than a universalpsychological nding.
Rites of boyhood and manhood, such as the ones cultivated in fraternities and athletic
cultures are now overly associated with the toxicarchetypes. Those who promote the
importance of initiation into manhood, like the poet Bly (2001), psychologist Peterson (2018)
or motivational speaker Deida (1997), are typically dismissed as quack mystics, misogynists
or ALT-rightconservatives (see Burns, 2017, for an example of this view).
Consider this essay a rational call for the importance of such rites and for the return of
masculinity as a good ideal type.
2. Conclusion: How should we raise our boys?
I began this essay with reections on my intellectual journey as anthropologist who has
examined complex questions of gender and sex differences from ethnographic and
evolutionary perspectives. I grounded my effort to present a general meta-ethics of
gender relations on stable patterns of recognized ideal types in the cross-cultural record.
Drawing of these transculturally stable models, I proposed that toxicmale and female
archetypes were pedagogically important to provide boys and girls with clear counter
examples of the kinds of good moral persons they should become. As such, I argued that
TM and TF archetypes were most useful when presented together along with a
discussion of evolved differences and opportunities for same-gender and mixed-gender
rites and rituals of initiation.
Returning to what I understand best as a man and a father of two boys, I conclude this
essay with a tentative call for a normative, character-virtue-based ethics for the imitation of
young boys.
The following story, which is often attributed to the US military folklore and discussed in
light of its toxicity(Sparrows, 2015), presents what I take to be a fairly universal trope in
the education of boys. The story describes three ideal types: wolves, sheep and sheepdogs.
Wolves are painted as lonely, strong and mean. Wolves prey on sheep and weak wolves
alike. Sheep are described as naïve and weak. They are eaten by wolves. Sheepdogs, who
protect the sheep against the wolves, are elevated as strong and reliable. Boys in this story
(like my own boys) are then encouraged to be sheepdogs (the good ideal type) but not wolves
or sheep (the ideal types for weak and aggressive men).
This emphasis on strength, autonomy, altruism and reliability has been found in many
cultures, from Western stoicism to Vedic and Buddhist wisdom and huntergatherer
pedagogies (Haidt, 2007). On an interpersonal level, men in this story are encouraged to be
caring and protecting. On a personal level, character strength is taken to entail a sense of
ownership over ones feelings and actions. You will never be well, as the transcultural story
goes, if you expect the world to conform to your desires.
One may further extract the following set of principles from this stoic model:
You should be strong and caring and should protect the weak.
You should respect your elders and hierarchies question them when you are being
encouraged to be weak or selsh.
You should offer your services to women, children, elders and the sick.
As a rule, your needs always come last. If you do not take care of yourself well, you
will not be able to take care of others.
You should never be a victim; when bad things happen to you, the onus is on you to
create the right mindset to recover and thrive.
morality, and
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You should never blame others for your own feelings.
You should not encourage victimhood in others.
It is good to cry for the joys and pains of others. You should never cry out of pity for
You should always be rm, kind and generous and know your boundaries.
Rights and obligations are given, but privileges are earned.
You should try new things and learn new skills that will make you a good protector.
The simplest stories are often the best ones; the simplest solutions are not always
best; you should choose stairs over elevators.
Be open to changing your mind; do not change your mind too much.
Go on a walkabout at least twice in your life.
When about to give up, try just a little longer; try a little longer after that as well.
You should have women friends you will not seduce and spend time with aunties
and grandmothers.
You should observe and study the mysteries and beauties of femininity.
In this version of the stoic tenets, which I borrow from my teachings as a father, the story is
gendered rst and foremost because I am a man. I have no daughter of my own, but I teach
the same story to my sistersand friendsgirls when I take them outside for initiation into
the world. This story is similarly applicable to children who may feel a stable sexual
attraction towards their own sex.
Where the new archetype of gender uidityts in this picture is a difcult question.
This archetype is still under construction in its current form, and it is still counter-intuitive
to many people. For parents of children who cannot t into a clear side of typically gendered
stories and archetypes, it may simply be useful to teach the full story the story of
masculine and feminine types, good and bad.
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Corresponding author
Samuel Paul Louis Veissière can be contacted at:
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morality, and
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... Future research could explicate gender differences in women and men's practices of toxic leadership, exploring issues of power and privilege. Third, the MeToo movement highlighted women are more likely to suffer from sexual harassment and sexual violence (Veissière, 2018). The rampant and entrenched nature of sexual harassment not only hinders women's path to leadership positions but also shapes how they experience toxicity as the victims. ...
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The traditional conceptualization of leadership can be understood as the leader occupying centerstage whilst the audience of ‘followers’ remains largely in the dark. Furthermore, as an actor on stage would perceive a booing member of the audience as malevolent or ignorant, the extant literature mainly depicts non-followers as obstacles, inefficiencies, or irritants that should be corrected so that they can become productive members of the group (Ford & Harding, 2018). Yet, leadership does not only revolve around the leader and his/her ability to create ‘good followers’ (Collinson, 2006). It is the compilation of cooperating and clashing individual agencies of the group members that results in more than mere aggregation. Through their support, opposition, and even apathy, every group member is a participant of the leadership phenomenon and they individually and collectively influence the group goal and to what extent it is actualized. As such, this dissertation is dedicated to understanding who the constituents of leadership really are and how leadership as a multilevel social phenomenon that is co-created by all group members actually works. In this dissertation, I introduce the participatory theater framework (PTF) of leadership as a novel and holistic theoretical approach that can enable us to answer the questions above. The participatory theater framework recognizes everyone in the group, including the leader and all forms of followers and non-followers, individually and collectively, as agentic performers of leadership. Deriving its foundations from various research areas such as social and cognitive psychology, moral philosophy, and game theory, this dissertation (i) establishes the theoretical foundation of the PTF and proposes a typology of roles people adopt in leadership situations, (ii) demonstrates that even those who are most commonly thought to be passive (i.e., devoted followers of toxic leaders; frequently called ‘sheep’ ) are indeed willful co-creators of the leadership phenomenon, and (iii) presents empirical evidence for the existence of the proposed typology of roles.
... 714). Veissière (2018) added that toxic masculinity is a 'transculturally widespread archetype or moral trope about the kind of man one should not be' (p. 274). ...
Due to structural racism, young men living in urban cities—particularly Black and other youth of colour—are at risk for developing hegemonic, toxic masculine identities. However, through a positive youth development approach, sport can be used to promote healthy masculinity. This study explored the importance and meaning of masculinity, as well as influences of masculinity construction among 14 urban male youth who participated in a faith‐based sport program. Findings from semi‐structured interviews highlight the importance of a masculine identity; depict masculinity through key attributes (leadership, persistence, responsibility, confidence, strength) and underscore the intersectional influence of race, faith, athletics and adult role models.
... Los contenidos audiovisuales, entendidos como herramienta de socialización y medios de transmisión de cambios en la sociedad del momento, se han ido adaptando a las demandas de un público cada vez más diversificado y exigente. Las historias contemporáneas se centran más en aspectos normativos que descriptivos, es decir, las narraciones cuentan cómo el mundo debería ser en relación a las normas culturales, en lugar de como es en realidad (Veissière, 2018). Conocer las expectativas y preferencias de la adolescencia así como descubrir la forma en la que incorporan el consumo de ficción en su día a día, facilita el diseño de producciones audiovisuales específicas con los que entretenerse y, a su vez, les proporcionan elementos educativos o formas de actuar y relacionarse en su cotidianeidad (Fedele & García-Muñoz, 2010). ...
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En las últimas dos décadas, las nuevas vías en las cuales se proyectan las series de ficción, tales como Internet y las plataformas Video-on-demand (vod), han abierto el abanico de las representaciones de género. La inclusión de personajes lgbtq+ tanto protagónicos como secundarios en la narrativa serial parece estar superada. El presente trabajo ofrece un análisis de dos series de televisión recientes con personajes adolescentes homosexuales: A Million Little Things y Esta mierda me supera. Con la finalidad de observar el tratamiento que se da a estos personajes, se realizó un análisis de contenido narrativo desde el punto de vista de la dimensión psicológica, de acuerdo con el modelo metodológico de Carlos Grossocordón. Los resultados demuestran ciertas diferencias de género en las representaciones de adolescentes lesbianas y gays, pero, en definitiva, ofrecen nuevos y positivos retratos de la homosexualidad alejados de estereotipos, que dan más visibilidad al colectivo lgbtq+ y brindan una mayor aceptación por parte de la audiencia.
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Masculinity is recognized as a social value that regulates how a man should or should not behave. Those who do not meet the ideal characteristics such as strong, powerful, dominant, aggressive, and others, in some circumstances, will be considered as toxic masculinity. This article aims to explore how masculinity traits and toxic masculinity are presented in a short film directed by Michael Rohrbaugh entitled American Male (2016). This film looks at the gender norms which are emerged in a society by showing a muscle-up man who portrays masculine standard traits. The main character in the film is portrayed as a man who is strong, competitive, and violent. The method used is a qualitative content analysis based on the concept of masculinity by Janet Saltzman Chafetz. The results show that American Male is a medium used to convey how masculine norms has ruined the society. As it is socially and culturally constructed, men must be engaged with it. Men must be masculine. Even more, men who do not fulfill the traits are considered either losers or gays. Toxic masculinity subsequently forces men to fulfill masculinity. The traits are socially regressive and lead to violence, patriarchy, domination, and homophobia. In conclusion, the main character becomes depressed, violent, and stereotyped as a result of toxic masculinity.Keywords: male domination, masculine traits, men suppression, toxic masculinityMaskulinitas Toksik dalam American Male Karya Michael RohrbaughAbstrakMaskulinitas diakui sebagai nilai sosial yang digunakan untuk mengatur bagaimana seorang laki-laki harus berperilaku. Bagi mereka yang tidak memenuhi ciri ideal dari seorang lelaki seperti kuat, mendominasi, agresif, dan lain sebagainya, akan dianggap sebagai laki-laki sejati yang mana standar tersebut akan dianggap menjadi maskulinitas toksik. Artikel ini membahas bagaimana karakteristik maskulinitas dan maskulinitas toksik ditampilkan dalam film pendek American Male (2016) yang disutradarai oleh Michael Rohrbaugh. Film ini mengkaji bagaimana norma gender yang muncul di masyarakat dengan memperlihatkan seorang laki-laki berotot yang mengikuti berbagai karakteristik maskulinitas. Karakter utama dalam film tersebut digambarkan sebagai pria kuat, kompetitif, dan kasar. Metode yang digunakan adalah analisis konten kualitatif dan konsep maskulinitas dari teori Janet Saltzman Chafetz. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan bahwa American Male (2016) merupakan media yang digunakan untuk menyampaikan bagaimana norma maskulin telah merusak masyarakat. Karena norma tersebut dibangun secara sosial dan budaya, laki-laki harus terlibat di dalamnya. Laki-laki harus maskulin. Lebih dari itu, laki-laki yang tidak memenuhi sifat-sifat tersebut dianggap pecundang atau homo. Maskulinitas toksik selanjutnya memaksa laki-laki untuk memenuhi maskulinitas. Ciri-ciri tersebut regresif secara sosial dan mengarah pada kekerasan, patriarki, dominasi, dan homofobia. Kesimpulannya, karakter utama menjadi tertekan, kasar, dan distereotipkan sebagai akibat dari maskulinitas toksik.Kata kunci: maskulinitas toksik, karakteristik maskulinitas, dominasi laki-laki, penindasan pria
Purpose This study aims to analyse how the collective processing of the #MeToo legacy in the form of community discourses and activism conceptualises organisational accountability for sexual misconduct at work and enhances the development of new accountability instruments. Design/methodology/approach The study draws on social movement theory and the intellectual problematics of accountability, together with the empirical insights from two research engagement projects established and facilitated by the author. Findings The study reveals multiple dimensions of how post-#MeToo community activism impacted the conceptualisation of organisational accountability for sexual misconduct at work. The movement enhanced discourses prompting a new societal sense of accountability for sexual wrongdoings. This in turn facilitated public demands for accountability that pressured organisations to respond. The accountability crisis created an opportunity for community activists to influence understanding of organisational accountability for sexual misconduct at work and to propose new accountability instruments advancing harassment reporting technology, as well as an enhancing the behavioural consciousness and self-assessment of individuals. Originality/value The study addresses a topic of social importance in analysing how community activism arising from a social movement has transformed accountability demands and thus both advanced the conceptualisation of organisational accountability for sexual misconduct at work and established socially desirable practices for it. The study contributes to theory by revealing the emancipatory potential of community activism to influence organisational accountability practices and to propose new instruments at a moment of organisational hesitation and crisis of accountability.
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Estamos viviendo, desde hace algunos años, una polarización del debate público en lo concerniente a la cuestión de la igualdad de género, siendo la violencia sexual cometida contra mujeres un punto caliente de dicha discusión. De manera paralela al avance de una “cuarta ola” feminista, se ha consolidado un movimiento antifeminista que se articula en torno a la reinvindicación de los derechos de los hombres y la negación de la existencia de una violencia con un componente específico de género, que se ha articulado principalmente en y desde Internet. El calado de estos discursos en la sociedad general, se está evidenciando en estudios que muestran la tendencia creciente entre los hombres jóvenes a afirmar que la violencia con un componente de género se trata de un “invento ideológico”. En este artículo, aportamos explicaciones sobre la emergencia, la configuración y la polinización de discursos afectivo-ideológicos antifeministas que surgen de comunidades misóginas de Internet (de la denominada manosfera española) y que son determinantes en la configuración de la percepción social de la violencia sexual cometida contra mujeres en España. Hemos obtenido los resultados mediante una investigación cualitativa multitécnica que combina la etnografía digital multiplataforma, las entrevistas cualitativas a expertas y el análisis socio-hermenéutico de memes. En nuestro estudio concluimos que en la manosfera española se está realizando un trabajo ideológico fundamental que contribuye a la banalización, la normalización y la legitimización de la violencia sexual cometida contra mujeres en sus diversas formas.
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Im Rahmen dieser Forschungsarbeit wird das Phänomen der Politischen Korrektheit untersucht. In polarisierenden Diskussionen über Sprachnormierungen und Minderheitenrechte wird die Rücksicht auf Politische Korrektheit oftmals mit der moralischen Haltung in Verbindung gebracht, wonach inkorrekter Sprachgebrauch als ein Mangel von Rücksicht oder gar als aktive Diskriminierung angesehen wird. In einer Studie (N = 275) wurden die Zusammenhänge zwischen den Moral Foundations (Graham et al., 2011) und der Rücksicht auf Politische Korrektheit, aufgeteilt in die zwei Faktoren Emotion & Ideologie und Aktivismus, untersucht. Das Geschlecht, die politische Einstellung sowie die subjektive Zugehörigkeit zu einer marginalisierten Gruppe wurden ebenfalls in die Untersuchung miteinbezogen. Der angenommene Zusammenhang zwischen der Rücksicht auf Politische Korrektheit und den Moral Foundations konnte nachgewiesen werden. Die Effekte wurden allerdings von der politischen Einstellung partiell bis vollständig mediiert, womit davon ausgegangen werden kann, dass die Rücksicht auf Politische Korrektheit weniger eine Frage der Moral ist, sondern eine Frage der politischen Ideologie. Anhand von Definitionen durch die Probanden, die in dieser Arbeit gesammelt wurden, sowie einer umfangreichen Literaturrecherche, wird im Rahmen dieser Arbeit folgende Definition von Politischer Korrektheit formuliert, um sie für die weitere Erforschung dieses hochaktuellen Themas heranzuziehen: Politische Korrektheit bezeichnet den Anspruch eines diskriminierungsfreien und inklusiven Sprachgebrauchs mit dem Ziel, soziale Ungerechtigkeit in der Gesellschaft zunächst sprachlich zu überwinden und schließlich auch im Denken und Handeln die Gleichberechtigung aller sozialen Gruppen zu erreichen.
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The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Vietnam is a comprehensive resource exploring social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of Vietnam, one of contemporary Asia’s most dynamic but least understood countries. Following an introduction that highlights major changes that have unfolded in Vietnam over the past three decades, the volume is organized into four thematic parts, comprising Politics and Society Economy and Society Social life and institutions Cultures in Motion Part one address key aspects of Vietnam’s politics, from the role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in shaping the country’s institutional evolution to continuity and change in patterns of socio-political organization, political expression, state repression, diplomatic relations, and human rights. Part two assesses the transformation of Vietnam’s economy, addressing patterns of economic growth, investment and trade, the role of the state in the economy, and other economic aspects of social life. Parts three and four examine developments across a variety of social and cultural fields, through chapters on themes including welfare, inequality, social policy, urbanization, the environment and society, gender, ethnicity, the family, cuisine, art, mass media, and the politics of remembrance. Featuring 38 essays by leading Vietnam scholars from around the world, this book provides a cutting-edge analysis of Vietnam’s transformation and changing engagement with the world. It is an invaluable interdisciplinary reference work that will be of interest to students and academics of Southeast Asian Studies, as well as policymakers, analysts and anyone wishing to learn more about contemporary Vietnam. Additional information can be found here: The complete table of contents can be found here: #vietnam
Evidence suggests that boys are performing significantly worse than girls at all levels of education. First, boys tend to have high rates of school dropout, detention, and exclusion in primary and secondary school. Second, males tend to perform worse than females in basic literacy tests, high-school exams, and other common measures of educational attainment. Third, young men have lower rates of enrollment in tertiary education and higher rates of postsecondary dropout. Importantly, research indicates that these educational deficits can contribute toward adverse mental health outcomes such as suicide and substance abuse. Of note, the literature indicates that low educational attainment has a more severe and intense impact on the mental health of males compared with females and may contribute to high levels of loneliness and failure to launch in young men. Importantly, some scholars have questioned whether the nature and formation of the educational system is sensitive to male students, while noting that male underperformance is rarely a policy priority at any level of education. This is concerning, as education is a distal yet modifiable risk factor for men’s mental health, meaning a clear need for renewed policies, interventions, and programs to help males in their educational journey.
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Here I summarize the main points in my 2016 book, A Natural History of Human Morality. Taking an evolutionary point of view, I characterize human morality as a special form of cooperation. In particular, human morality represents a kind of we > me orientation and valuation that emanates from the logic of social interdependence, both at the level of individual collaboration and at the level of the cultural group. Human morality emanates from psychological processes of shared intentionality evolved to enable individuals to function effectively in ever more cooperative lifeways.
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Ramstead et al’s variational neuroethology framework elegantly combines recent developments in evolutionary systems theory, machine learning, and theoretical biology to explain the tendency of living systems to resist disintegration. They expand on a formal model of neuronal self-organization based on the free-energy principle (FEP) to articulate a meta-theory of perception, action, and biobehaviour that they extend from the human brain and mind to body and society. This paper applies the Cultural Affordances model to answer a question raised by the authors on the mechanisms of free-energy minisation applied to cultural ensembles in the Homo Sapiens niche. I take up Ramstead et al’s notion of the markov blanket (the ‘veil’ of perception through which organisms process internal states and statistical priors about external states), to clarify the importance of other minds as a crucial level of species-wide information processing. I argue that for humans, the markov blanket serves as a buffer to exploit statistical regularities in human psychology at least as much, if not more than in external states of the world. I clarify that the nestedness of these inferences should be primarily conceptualized at the level of recursive mindreading – or inferences about other humans’ internal states. I conclude with comments on the relevance of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) to the author’s description of cognitive function on evolutionary, developmental, and real-time scales, and apply the authors’ free-energy model to speculate on the role of simplifications in the evolution of social complexity.
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Women are known to have stronger prosocial preferences than men, but it remains an open question as to how these behavioural differences arise from differences in brain functioning. Here, we provide a neurobiological account for the hypothesized gender difference. In a pharmacological study and an independent neuroimaging study, we tested the hypothesis that the neural reward system encodes the value of sharing money with others more strongly in women than in men. In the pharmacological study, we reduced receptor type-specific actions of dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to reward processing, which resulted in more selfish decisions in women and more prosocial decisions in men. Converging findings from an independent neuroimaging study revealed gender-related activity in neural reward circuits during prosocial decisions. Thus, the neural reward system appears to be more sensitive to prosocial rewards in women than in men, providing a neurobiological account for why women often behave more prosocially than men.
We organisms are sensorimotor systems. Things in the world come into contact with our sensory surfaces, and we interact with them based on what that sensorimotor contact “affords.” All of our categories consist of ways in which we behave differently toward different kinds of things—things we do or do not eat, mate with, or flee from; or the things that we describe, through our language, as prime numbers, affordances, absolute discriminables, or truths. Categorization—doing the right thing with the right kind of thing—is largely what cognition is about, and for.