It physically pains me in my heart to say a cross word regarding Meryl Streep, a person I can quote from memory not just in Death Becomes Her but also in She-Devil. I hope to someday walk down the aisle to a mashup of her A Cry in the Dark performance. But I have to type the truth, and it is this: Meryl Streep has no idea what she’s fucking talking about when it comes to toxic masculinity.
Streep seems to mistakenly believe that the term “toxic masculinity” means that all masculinity is toxic and so, therefore, are all men, according to this Q&A with the cast of Big Little Lies, hosted by Radhika Jones of Vanity Fair:
“Sometimes, I think we’re hurt. We hurt our boys by calling something toxic masculinity. I do. And I don’t find [that] putting those two words together … because women can be pretty fucking toxic,” Streep said. “It’s toxic people. We have our good angles, and we have our bad ones. I think the labels are less helpful than what we’re trying to get to, which is a communication, direct, between human beings. We’re all on the boat together. We’ve got to make it work.”
Yes, there are toxic people, some of them women, many of them girls I went to church camp with in 1996, but that has nothing to do with toxic masculinity. Meryl, if you’re reading, and I like to believe you read all my work, here is a good definition:
“Toxic masculinity is what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak. (No, it doesn’t mean that all men are inherently toxic.)
It’s these cultural lessons, according to the A.P.A., that have been linked to “aggression and violence,” leaving boys and men at “disproportionate risk for school discipline, academic challenges and health disparities,” including cardiovascular problems and substance abuse.”
You see, Meryl, there are some damaging facets of culturally-imposed masculinity that are toxic to men (and the rest of us). It is not the men who are toxic simply by accident of being men. But listen, please let’s not quarrel. If you want to get coffee and put together a reading list so that in future you’ll know the meanings of all the words you’re saying, that is a service I’m happy to offer as payment for your performance in Doubt.