Author’s Note: This article is by John Mainer, HHH contributing author.
I am one of those people that set some feminists off because I do pull back chairs, hold doors, and ma’am ladies that I pass. I also hold the doors for children, men, and anything except draugr, because even courtesy has limits. I was taught that a strong man showed courtesy to people as part of his basic nature.
Strong is important in the definition of manhood that I was raised with. Strong meant that you looked out for those who were less strong because a man protected those weaker then himself or he was not a man, he was a rabid dog. Those I was taught to eliminate before they troubled anyone.
Strong meant that you were self reliant, and self aware. It meant that you claimed who you were, all of it. Your abilities, your limitations, your knowledge, your areas of ignorance. You didn’t have to pretend to be an expert at something you didn’t know, you were confident in what you knew, always willing to work hard to learn more, and always willing to admit when you were wrong.
Strong meant giving credit where it was due, praise where it was earned, and thanks for what you were given. The weak fear to be lessened by another’s accomplishments, the unworthy fear to acknowledge the worth of another’s deeds, and only those who do not feel they deserve it fear to thank those who have assisted them. Never be ashamed of the work you do, the sweat of your brow, be it from work of the hands, of the mind, or both. Never be afraid to seek to learn a new skill, to attempt a new challenge, or to look at a mistake and claim it, for in doing so you have the chance to make those changes require to not make it a second time. To claim it is to gain the ability to conquer it, to deny it is to give it ownership of you.
Strong meant that you did not fear to give what was earned, you showed respect to those you admired, you showed affection for those you loved, you grieved for those whom you have loved and lost. The weak will not cry because they FEAR to be seen as weak. The strong know that tears are an offering, that those you loved in life, you offer tears to in mourning as you offer honour, for those two things are the only grave goods we can offer, and the strong do not let their fallen pass unremembered and unmourned because they fear more the scorn of the living than they feel their duty to the ones they loved.
Strong meant that you searched for a partner, one whom you could love and respect, desire and find joy with. Who that was, and how you found that joy, you didn’t really care if anyone else understood. If no one else saw what you did in your partner, that makes you wise, them stupid, and too bad for them. If no one else thought that you should love or desire that person because of their appearance, body size, social class, race, religion or gender, you are strong in your self, confident in your masculinity, owning your sexuality and your heart. Love who you love, find your joy, and the rest of the world can burn if they don’t like it. Strong meant that you loved the strength of your partner, took joy in their accomplishment, felt fulfillment in their growth, took pain from their wounds, and anger at their insult.
Toxic cannot do that, for they do not possess strength, they fake it. Their partner must in all ways be mindful of their inferiority; they must stoop, for you will not ever let them stand your equal, let alone above you at all.
It is not that toxic cannot love, it is that they cannot express the positives of love for fear of surrendering the power in the relationship that comes from caring the least. Toxic can show pride in possession, can show desire to possess, can show enjoyment in possession, but even if they feel true and honest love, they will hide it rather than expose a true feeling and vulnerability to one whom they require power over, more than love of.
Toxic was what happened when you decided not to rise to the challenge, was what happened when you decided that you would simply pretend you had put in the work, and take as your entitled due what you see others having received for their efforts.
Toxic is demanding people yield to you because you are strong, important, and you need to see them give way before you to accept for yourself that you are indeed strong. Toxic sees their own knowledge and accomplishments and understands they are not real, when others speak whose words are based on hard won knowledge you did not seek, or accomplishments they again earned through work you did not do, you must win out over them, you must silence their words and voice, or you will not feel you own your own.
Toxic is feeling you cannot be a man if a woman is also strong, or claims the same accomplishments you do. Toxic did not earn any worth, and understands that someone who did earn their worth is a very real threat to their sense of manhood simply by existing.
Toxic masculinity does not practice heterosexuality because they are drawn to women, it practices heterosexuality because they are drawn to conquer women. The idea that women may wish to be equals threatens that. The idea that women might choose to love other women threatens that. The idea that man might love other men…. and still feel themselves your equal, that is absolutely intolerable!
Any of these things threatens your heterosexuality, because it isn’t really heterosexuality at all, it is a male superiority belief, with the underlying insecurity that you might be discovered as not really entitled to that crown at all. The same toxicity expressed as homosexuality expresses oddly, in that along with the browbeating of your same sex partner, the misogyny that is reflexive of toxic heterosexuality is actually still present in toxic homosexual males. Proving I guess, that it is the male identity rather than the sexual relationship power dynamic that is threatened by a strong woman. In either case, hetero, bisexual or homosexual toxic masculinity treat neither gender well, because they are only faking their own gender role.
Although I am known for my love of the Sigfather, what is needed in our societies understanding of manhood may be less of the Allfather and even of Thor, and more of Freyr.
Men once could be strong and still speak of romance, could still openly be affectionate to their children and mourn the loss of fallen brothers. Now we are asked to be shells of those men, bitter angry and empty is permitted, loving and open are now seen as only feminine.
Frey’s ever renewing lordship is needed, his laughter, life and love. The King Stag, the lover of life, man as more than just predator.
John Mainer has been Heathen since joining the Canadian Armed Forces in 1988, married father of three daughters. Co-Author of two children’s books (Kindertales I and II) through the Heathen Freehold and of modern heathen stores (They Walk With Us) through The Troth. Long time Freyr of the Heathen Freehold and Redesman of The Troth as well as active volunteer in the Vancouver pan-pagan community.