Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Sunday night told fellow conservatives they must stop liberals from attacking masculinity and creating a nation of “idle men” who watch pornography and play video games instead of working and raising families.
“The Left want to define traditional masculinity as toxic. They want to define the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage and independence and assertiveness — as a danger to society,” Hawley said.
America’s men are withering as a result, Hawley said. The senator cited a recent Wall Street Journal article that reported men are abandoning higher education in record numbers and lagging behind women. One expert said that if current trends continue, two women will earn a college degree for every man within the next few years.
“Can we be surprised that after years of being told they are the problem, that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are withdrawing into the enclave of idleness and pornography and video games?” the senator remarked.
Hawley called for conservatives to fight the “attack on men” and push for “a revival of strong and healthy manhood in America.”
“We need men to raise up sons and daughters after them, to pass on the great truths of our culture and history, to defend liberty, to share in the work of self-government,” he said. “We need the kind of men who make republics possible. And it is not too much to say that our ability to get that kind of men will determine the success of our long experiment in liberty.”
While Hawley claims there’s “an attack on manhood,” experts say they’re not challenging masculinity generally, but rather, some of its harmful downsides — stoicism, dominance, aggression — or what has been colloquially referred to as “toxic masculinity.” The American Psychological Association for the first time in 2018 issued guidelines about what it called “traditional masculinity.” Pressuring boys and men to conform to such a “traditional masculinity ideology” can lead to higher rates of suicide, violence and substance abuse, the association warned.
The group defines that ideology as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.”
Fredric Rabinowitz, a psychology professor who helped the APA develop the 2018 guidelines, said they were designed to help boys and men lead happier, healthier lives.
“We see that men have higher suicide rates, men have more cardiovascular disease and men are lonelier as they get older,” he told the New York Times. “We’re trying to help men by expanding their emotional repertoire, not trying to take away the strengths that men have.”
That distinction didn’t stop conservatives from claiming that the APA was pathologizing masculinity. Fox News host Laura Ingraham said “traditional masculinity seems to be, in this report at least, conflated with being a pig or a creep.”
Jared Skillings, the APA’s chief of professional practice, made the distinction in defending the guidelines: “We’re talking about negative traits such as violence or over-competitiveness or being unwilling to admit weakness,” he told USA Today. “Of course masculinity also has positive traits — courage, leadership, protectiveness — the report includes both sides.”
Hawley, a staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump, led efforts in the Senate to contest the 2020 election results. On Jan. 6, he raised his fist in support of a pro-Trump mob that was outside the Capitol. He later told The Washington Post he didn’t regret doing that, because many of the people outside the Capitol at the time were there to peacefully protest, not storm the building.
“I waved to them, gave them the thumbs-up, pumped my fist to them and thanked them for being there, and they had every right to do that,” the senator told The Post.
Hawley, who’s considered a likely 2024 presidential candidate, also said at the time that Trump is still “a very significant force” in the Republican Party and that, if the former president decides to try to reclaim the White House, Hawley wouldn’t challenge him for the GOP nomination.