Masculinity isn’t a disease, but there are ways of being a man that do a lot of harm to guys and those around them. In Antitoxic Masculinity, Michel Dorais explores the issue and offers a plan of action to men of goodwill.
The discourse about men changes and voices rise here and there to invite them to transform themselves. Journalist Mickaël Bergeron did so in January in Cocorico, a friendly essay with the subtitle “Guys, we need to talk to each other”. Now we are back with Michel Dorais, eminent sociologist of intimacy and sexuality, with a similar proposal: to invite men to look in the mirror and take note of what, in their way of being or acting, must change so they can be positive agents around them.
“We are not condemned to be toxic, specifies Michel Dorais from the outset. Behaviors are toxic, not people. It comes up a lot in the book and it’s something I really care about. »
Without being a summation of the work of the sociologist, Antitoxic Masculinity visibly benefits from his many years of social intervention and his decades spent teaching and doing research. He paints a nuanced portrait of men and their harmful behaviors, details the impacts on themselves and on the beings they love, but without ever lapsing into guilt.
He names violence, sexism, lack of introspection and more for one purpose: to inspire change. “There is a big difference between making someone feel guilty and making them responsible. If I judge that someone is guilty from the start, it will not change their behavior, ”said the essayist, who retired from teaching a little less than a year ago.
Antitoxic masculinity goes back to known elements: the difficulty men have in managing their emotions, asking for help, freeing themselves from old stereotypes associated with virility (strength, competitiveness, etc.), the social pressure which causes boys and men to encourage their fellow men to fall into the ranks of masculinity. However, Michel Dorais insists on a detail: it is not masculinity the problem, it is virility.
“There are many ways to be masculine. Young men, especially, sometimes have more eccentric ways of being masculine,” he notes, citing Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet and Hubert Lenoir, all of whom incorporate an element of femininity or androgyny.
Without defending a binary vision of things, Michel Dorais exposes the extent to which the rejection of so-called “feminine” values or behaviors because they are socially encouraged in the education of girls is lacking in men who adhere to a toxic vision of virility. He thinks of empathy, compassion, the expression of intimacy, listening and patience. “Guys eventually learn it, it’s true, he admits, but often a little late. »
This anti-toxic man is first and foremost a guy who learns to control his negative emotions (his anger, which can turn into violence), to look at himself in the mirror rather than making women responsible for his misfortune (he notably thinks to “involuntary celibates”, to the miserabilistic and revengeful discourse). And more broadly, he is a man concerned with taking active action to promote respect and equality between people and genders.
“We need kind men. We want a benevolent society, believes Michel Dorais. And men need models of benevolence. He believes that every human being can help another, but he also finds that some men tend to give credibility only to other men. “It shouldn’t, but there are guys who care about it,” he said.
Rather than judging, again, he offers antitoxic men to act as mentors, to be in solidarity with this march towards equality, which women or sexual or gender minorities do not have to carry alone. “We’ve seen what’s happened in sports recently,” he said, referring to the humiliating initiations and sexual assaults in minor hockey. We have seen that, too often, solidarity is used negatively. Solidarity is first of all preventing your friend from committing an act that could send him to prison. »