Toxic masculinity is a term that continues to be brought up alongside the #MeToo movement, discussions of consent, and just general conversations about how to be a decent, well-adjusted person. Meryl Streep recently got into such a conversation. Except Meryls take away from it all is that the term “toxic masculinity” shouldn’t exist, because women can be toxic too.
Just so we’re all on the same page (Meryl, you listening?), the concept of toxic masculinity can be broken down as a cultural idea – often narrow and regressive – of what it is to be a man. Basically, hearing stuff like “man up” and “boys will be boys” and telling guys not to cry for fear of looking “weak.” Look, technically this was all covered by Marlo Thomas in Free To Be You And Me, but some people didn’t have that record. Or watch that Gillette ad. The point here is that Meryl had some thoughts during a recent Q&A for the second season of Big Little Lies.
Yahoo! News says it began after an attendee brought up a story told by Nicole Kidman about speaking with a male fan who enjoyed the show. Meryl piped up, saying she was glad he found something about the show he liked, even though he wasn’t a woman. That’s when Meryl gave the audience a little TED talk about toxic masculinity. According to Meryl, it’s offensive to men.
“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. 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.”
I figured Meryl would be better educated on the details of toxic masculinity, considering she spent so much time writing statements about one of Hollywood’s most toxic males.
I don’t think Meryl was 100% wrong with her answer. Well, I mean – she’s wrong when it comes to the definition of the term. Meryl heard “toxic masculinity,” she zeroed in on the word “toxic,” and immediately pictured that one friend who makes things awful at every book club and wine night. Meryl is about to feel so silly when she realizes the conversation wasn’t about Janice who shows up late with nothing but backhanded compliments.