Friday, July 22, 2016

Men & Feminism

Salon recently ran an article on Sam Polk, a noted insider of Wall Street, who is decrying the greed as wealth addiction and laying a fair chunk of the cause at toxic masculinity. This intrigues me. I can completely see how toxic masculinity would express itself through extreme wealth, and especially on Wall Street. What if other highly competitive, high-powered positions? I'm thinking of attorneys in particular, who make a high-dollar sporting arena of people's legal issues. For a fine example of a woman playing this role, see Annalise Keating's (played masterfully by Viola Davis) character in How to Get Away With Murder, or Patty Hews (gloriously brought to the small screen by Glenn Close) character in Damages. Attorneys, like the  stock broker Polk paints, are high octane power dealers, making the rules conform to them, leveraging the playing field at every turn in the pursuit of more.
Does feminism have a role in looking at the types of career paths we consider as individuals and that we value as a society? I think it absolutely does. Careers are the vehicles for success in our society, and we cannot begin to change society until we recraft the ideas of success and the tools by which such success is achieved.
For the past century, we have been defined as what we do, to the point that we are seen as human doings as opposed to human beings. This in itself is toxic, and since it is part of the dominant culture, it is part of toxic masculinity. We need to look at the definitions our culture gives men and realize that these are the standards for us all, men, women, children, black, white, rich, poor, educated or drop-outs. We need to change the definition of success if we are to change the toxicity level of humanity as well as masculinity, femininity or any other overarching group identifier. Perhaps we want to change the success matrix to one of how much we gave away during our lives, or how much success and empowerment we fostered in others. This philanthropic narrative can go far in helping reprogram the narrative while still honoring our needs to feel connected, helpful, and worthwhile.