evolutionary psychology and toxic masculinity

A well-known tension exists between evolutionary psychology theorists and feminist theorists. Feminists reasonably complain that evolutionary psychologists are simply reinforcing sexist paradigms—particularly the sexism that still pervades scientific inquiry—while evolutionary psychologists reasonably argue that their findings simply derive from examining our species’ mental adaptations necessary to ensure survival.

I’m not here to argue about which viewpoint is right. Truth probably lies in both modes of inquiry.

However, I’ve been thinking about “toxic masculinity”, a concept that wouldn’t exist without the feminists having identified it.

Let’s assume that “toxic masculinity” exists as the feminists define it.

Let’s also assume that toxic masculinity is a phenomenon we want to rid society of, that it is a bad thing.

Is it enough to simply think our way out of this mess? My experience suggests no. We need to examine the deep psychological pull of toxic masculinity, particularly in woman’s lives. (I’m assuming here without rigor that women are complacent in its social realization—part of the problem).

I propose that evolutionary psychology might explain some of this.

Assume that the patriarchy has dominated human relationships and individual humans’ self-realization since at least the time we settled down to start growing our food (about 10k years ago). Assume further that toxic masculinity evolved in men’s psyche as a way to maneuver within this patriarchy—that men who exhibited toxic masculinity prospered while men who didn’t exhibit it did not. Then it follows that natural selection favored the men who carried toxic behavior.

Women relied on men’s successes, and therefore it is possible that women who found toxic masculinity initially attractive (in terms of sexual/emotional arousal) would have more success finding a mate. Over millennia, natural selection might have favored this behavior.

Thus we may have a deep attraction to toxic masculinity written deep into our DNA.

Okay, so how does this help? If this hypothesis holds water, we know what we are up against and can adjust our cognitive reframing work and cultural change efforts accordingly.

“distorted and out of tune” – a troll (sort of) gets it

I received the following response from a troll regarding music [4] I released recently:

The music is “distorted” and dissonant—and would sound “out of tune” to many who lack musical sophistication. That is intentional. A compositional choice.

And the dissonance intentionally speaks to the experience of feeling “out of tune” as a transgender person. So our troll is correct in his surface interpretation of the music.

But he fails to see where the problem lies. I assume that his interpretation is that the transgender person is “sick” in some way, compared to some standard of wellness that he and most individuals presumably meet.

But the transgender person is actually fine biologically and psychologically, as I’ve demonstrated in my scientific articles [1, 2, and 3]. So the problem emits from living within an unsupportive and hostile environment. This experience causes sickness in all individuals—a feature of being human, not a trait specific to the transgender population.

I sing these songs today so that transgender folks among future generations need not feel “distorted and out of tune”.

About “Axis Evil”

I perform as “Axis Evil“, the musical arm of my outreach work. Please follow the feed on Facebook and Twitter.

Update 20 November 2017

I further discuss the dissonant and distorted features of my music as it pertains to the transgender experience in my March 2017 post “this is transgender music”, which goes into far more detail than this text does.

References

  1. the science of gender identity (part 1: genetics)
  2. the science of gender identity (part 2: brain anatomy)
  3. the science of gender identity (part 3: psychology)
  4. the music discussed above: