The #MasculinitySoFragile hashtag took off yesterday after a Buzzfeed article highlighted a bunch of products being marketed to men with some of the most cartoonish evocations of old-school masculinity you could possibly imagine, from grenade-shaped shower puffs for men to Man Chocolate.
The point of the hashtag was fairly obvious: to look at, and mock, the ways these ads try to capitalize on male insecurities and suggest ways men can free themselves from destructive stereotypes of masculinity.
Because, as these ads make clear, masculinity and femininity aren’t inscribed in our genes the way eye and hair color are; they are to a large extent cultural constructs, ways of seeing, ways of thinking, ways of acting that we learn from parents, peers, and, increasingly, the media — hence the insecurity many men feel about their masculinity, and the ease with which advertisers are able to play on these insecurities to make money.
Talking about these constructs as constructs can help us to free ourselves from aspects of masculinity and femininity that are toxic or unnecessarily restrictive.
The #MasculinitySoFragile hashtag, like the Buzzfeed article that got the conversation going, broaches the subject in a funny way, telling guys that, yes, it’s ok to buy yourself a pink shower puff for $3 instead of shelling out twice that much for an Axe Detailer Shower Tool that looks like it came straight out of Gears of War.
So, naturally, the hashtag was quickly flooded by antifeminists and anxious men who saw the whole thing not as a deconstruction of the sort of toxic masculinity that’s making them anxious in the first place, but as an army of evil feminazis calling them a bunch of wusses.
Not realizing that the feminists were talking about the surprising fragility of cultural definitions of masculinity, the critics of the hashtag assumed the feminists were accusing men of being fragile. I don’t know the last time I saw such a colossal outbreak of not-getting-the-point.
As one observer sympathetic to the original aim of the hashtag noted,,
If you want to lol at dudes comically misunderstanding the premise of a joke, then check out #MasculinitySoFragile
— John Dagen (@JohnDagen) September 23, 2015
How did the “critics” of the hashtag get it so wrong? Let me count the ways.
1) They declared that it wasn’t MEN who were fragile, but FEMINISTS so there.
2) They offered to fight any feminist comers, to show the world just how unfragile they are.
I challenge any female tweeting unironically with #MasculinitySoFragile to last three rounds against me in a fight. We'll see who's fragile.
— Mech of Justice (@MechofJusticeWZ) September 23, 2015
3) They accused feminists who weren’t shaming men … of shaming men.
Men made women 2nd class for centuries, to make themselves feel powerful. Today, feminists do exactly what they hate. #MasculinitySoFragile
— Rebecca K. (@Rebeksy) September 23, 2015
Tell me feminists, how does tearing men down build up women? #MasculinitySoFragile
— Caroline Craig David (@CeeJayCraig) September 23, 2015
Dear smug feminists: Maybe #MasculinitySoFragile cuz you spent the last 40 years emasculating men.
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) September 23, 2015
4) Meanwhile, others in their camp tried to shame women for being (allegedly) inferior to men at pretty much everything.
— Mr Jeffery Stone (@MrJefferyStone) September 24, 2015
— ERWIN ROMMEL (@Erwin_R0mmel) September 23, 2015
5) Sometimes they forgot to make an argument and just said “suck it.”
— Gregory Carter (@cgrgry) September 23, 2015
6) Others fell back on random insults.
— Steven Crowder (@scrowder) September 23, 2015
— AgentofGaytriarchy (@PoliticalCynic) September 23, 2015
I like how feminists lecture men about behaving like men.
Soon, the only ones listening will be your 52 cats. #MasculinitySoFragile
— I Am Leah (@Bossy_Leah) September 23, 2015
7) They cast aspersions on the motivations, and the masculinity, of feminist men participating in the hashtag.
8) Some of them decided to take the opportunity to cast aspersions on Barak Obama’s masculinity as well, because isn’t he like a feminist or something?
9) A few used the hashtag to promote white supremacy, because why not?
10) They warned feminists that if they kept talking about how men are fragile — which, again, they weren’t doing — well then, these women wouldn’t be getting any more help from men with stuck jelly jar lids, and they could forget about having doors opened for them ever, much less having dudes treat them to dinner!
#MasculinitySoFragile. Because you can't open the door for a feminist without issues. Only a real woman would thank you for the respect.
— George (@stevets) September 23, 2015
Ladies: You have lost a POWERFUL ALLY today.
Never again will you have a nice dinner. Or eat jelly.
Tauriq Moosa probably did the best job of summing up the whole parade of nonsense.
#MasculinitySoFragile Rando men think saying "femininity is fragile" is a good comeback & not demonstrating the exact point we're making.
— Tauriq Moosa (@tauriqmoosa) September 23, 2015
HELO YES I AM A TOTALLY NOT OFFENDED, BIZARRELY HYPERSENSITIVE MAN WHO STALKS HASHTAGS THAT CRITICISE MY GENDER TO YELL AT STRANGERS NO
— Tauriq Moosa (@tauriqmoosa) September 23, 2015
Yep, that pretty much covers it.