Toxic masculinity and the Patriarchy

In response to a post by Will on Toxic Masculinity and the Patriarchy

Completely agree with you that toxic masculinity needs to be removed where ever it can be.

And there are deep issues hiding in this idea.

It is dangerous to assume that all things are down to easily modifiable behaviour – some things are deeply buried in the biology of our neural networks and are very difficult to change.

Take the simple case of aggression.
The distributions for men and women are only slightly different. If you randomly select one woman and one man from a population, then on average 6 out of 10 times the man will be more aggressive, and 4 out of 10 the woman will. That may seem like a very small difference, and in the center of the distribution it is. The problem is that the people in prisons don’t tend to come from the center of the distribution, they tend to come from the tails of the distribution. And at the tail the small difference at the center is highly skewed, and of the 1% of most aggressive, it is 10 times more likely to be male. And worse is that the tendency to aggressive behaviour is strongly age correlated, so that it peaks at about 18-22 and declines rapidly by 30 for most individuals.

For those with a strong biochemical disposition to aggression, who have not had lifelong training to balance it, that can lead to the sorts of distributions we see.

Similar sets of distributions are seen for all the big 5 personality traits, and none of them are significantly linked to each other (so they are essentially independent).

There are certainly many aspects of our society that have significant patriarchal influence, and to the degree that we can accurately identify it, I agree that we need to counter it where-ever it actually exists.

And there are a lot of other factors at play also, and putting them all in the “Patriarchy” bucket doesn’t actually help anyone.

It is a seriously complex set of social issues – deeply involving the degrees to which any of us actually choose to take on the responsibility to modify such behaviours as we reasonably can in ourselves.

Having gone vegan as part of a suite of strategies to survive a terminal cancer diagnosis, I have some personal experience of just how difficult even a relative simple thing (like changing diet) can be. Changing much deeper and more powerful aspects of our behaviour (like aggression and compassion) are far more difficult, and require both the will to do it, and the social support to allow it to happen; and neither of those things are broadly possible in a market based social system that by definition values scarcity over abundance.

So one of the most fundamental aspects of addressing the deep issues in the distributions of “toxic masculinity” in both biological and social aspects, is changing our societal mode of value definition from market based scarcity to technological based abundance; and the devoting the vast amount of time and energy required to bring those at the extremes of the distributions who are creating significant risk to the life and reasonable liberty of others back to a distribution that does not pose such risk.

It is a seriously non-trivial set of issues.

It really doesn’t help to over simplify the nature of the problem (that just creates deep issues of injustice for those on the receiving end of those over-simplifications).

And at the higher end of social abstractions, and deep strategic frameworks; it is an extremely difficult process to gain any sort of significant confidence about exactly what it is one is dealing with, as there are thousands of reasonably possible candidate suites of strategies that all deliver similar outcomes.

A Seriously NON_TRIVIAL problem space.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
This entry was posted in Ideas and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s