The idea of a “healthy masculinity” is oxymoronic, because what patriarchy takes from both women and men is the fullness of our humanity, which is the only valid standard against which to measure the health of a human being. I can think of no positive human capability that is best realized by being culturally assigned to one gender or another, nor can I imagine a truly healthy way of life that does not include the work of understanding and embodying what it means to live as a full human being.
To ask what constitutes a healthy masculinity affirms the patriarchal principle that gender is the indispensable core of human identity and that men and women are distinct kinds of human beings, each with their own standard of well-being. It is a separation that forms the basis for the elevation and dominance of men over women and the Earth.
Trying to identify a “healthy” masculinity is a distraction because it encourages us to focus on issues of personality rather than the patriarchal system’s destructive patterns of privilege and oppression. In this way, we are kept from the real challenge before us, which is to confront the patriarchal worldview that splits humanity into masculine and feminine and assigns the former an obsession with control that threatens both the well-being of women and men and the Earth itself.
Finding the right answers begins with asking the right questions, and what constitutes a healthy masculinity is not one of them.
Allan G. Johnson is author of several books, including The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy and the domestic violence novel The First Thing and the Last.