Pearcey and Sigillito are Wrong: Toxic Masculinity Does Not Exist

29 Jan


Now that the storm has passed and it is safe, Nancy Pearcey and Serena Sigillito want us to know that the widely maligned Gillette ad wasn’t so bad. It can be redeemed.

In the American Thinker, Pearcey recently pays what I think she means to be a compliment to Christian men: “men who are theologically conservative fit the progressive ideal.”

Hmmm. The progressive ideal?


I don’t take that as a compliment, but rather an indication that something disturbing is amidst.

Christian men bow to no “progressive” agenda.

In like fashion, Serena Sigillito, the editor of the insightful and very worthwhile site Public Discourse, said the following.

It’s true that some who use the term seem to imply that most men, historically speaking, have been sexist pigs enabled by patriarchal systems of oppression. The website accompanying Gillette’s new ad describes men today as being “at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity.” But, of course, there’s really more to the story, as appealing as that simple narrative of social progress and enlightenment may be… (bold mine)

In truth, Sigillito does have many excellent things to say. The problem, however, is that for many there is not “more to the story”.

For them, things like patriarchy and toxic masculinity are synonyms.

Behold your oppressor… father.


In other words, toxic masculinity simply means that one operates as if one’s sex is the head–or even just thinks that it is without even putting the idea into practice due to fear of social reprobation.

Because they submit, even if inadvertently, to the use of the phrase “toxic masculinity,” this leads both Pearcey and Sigillitio to make other offensive and condescending statements:


…But the #MeToo movement has revealed that many men are behaving worse – coarser, more sexually entitled – than in the past. Why is that?

One expects more of Pearcrey, the author of The Soul of Science. As a friend put it:

“Lies, damned lies (and statistics). Turning to #MeToo claimants to make the case that men are now behaving worse than in the past is the same as turning to car crash victims to make the case that drunk driving has become an epidemic. It’s a built-in sample bias which proves nothing more than that bad experiences with men are common in the subset of the population which claims a bad experience with men. Rigorously academic, it is not.”

“Men who are theologically conservative fit the progressive ideal.”


Let us, however, assume this is true. Surely their sexual behavior doesn’t change in a vacuum. Has anything happened to the behavior of the other sex during this time? Perhaps women’s sense of entitlement has also shifted? Are we allowed to broach those subjects?

America’s secular elites typically portray conservative churches as bastions of patriarchy – seedbeds of toxic masculinity.

Is patriarchy toxic? And would it be wrong or bad for churches to be bastions of patriarchy?

…it’s time to reassert the positive role that religion plays in overcoming toxic masculinity. It civilizes men.

I note: men, not man.

“Power (and the status that goes with it) is nothing if not the ability to secure yourself, your possessions, and your posterity. Fine by itself, but it comes with many abuses.” — Thomas Lemke, with some man-talk.



Imagining themselves to be men’s champions, [some conservatives] are actually defending behavior, like sexual harassment and bullying, that a generation or two ago conservatives were the ones condemning.

Who, specifically, is defending these behaviors? In what manner? Name names please, so we can examine what they say together.

It’s also helped along by the psychological rewards of sharing our knee-jerk emotional reactions on social media, where our public displays of “virtue” can be immediately affirmed by our friends and followers.

Understatement of the year?: “…some who use the term seem to imply that most men, historically speaking, have been sexist pigs enabled by patriarchal systems of oppression…” — Serena Sigillito


No. There is virtue signaling, and there is saying “Amen!” when it needs to be said.

Too many young men have been taught (implicitly or explicitly, by the behavior of their fathers and peers or by more insidious influences, like pornography) a twisted, harmful version of masculinity.

But so many men are raised in daycare centers run by women, schools run by women, and households where mom either chose an unreliable father or kicked a reliable father to the curb. When women wield such great social power, perhaps a corresponding responsibility should be considered as well.

In a perhaps very related point, have you ever noticed how the same people concerned about “toxic masculinity” and men being overly aggressive and bold also openly lament how men are soft, weak, unambitious, failure to launch, etc.?

Whenever I read pieces like this, I am amazed at how easy it is for our culture to see the sins of men but how hard it is to see the sins of women. We need a much more well-rounded picture of the panolpy of human sin. We need more persons to write things like Peter Scaer does here:

We have got to get over the idea that women are a minority (they’re not), or that they’re always the victims. Whatever sin we can find on the male side, we can find one with the women. Indeed, we may very well sin in our own unique ways, thus testifying to the truth of the male-female binary. So, we can look at the divorce epidemic, and see that women are leading the way, walking out on husbands in droves. For good reason? Well, there’s always another side of the story, but then that’s the point. Men have strengths, but there are too many eunuchs. Women have strengths, but so often groups like the Women’s March denigrate their greatest strength and honor, namely motherhood.

All of this is to say, whenever we pit men against women, or women against men, everyone loses. We’re all in this together. And to deny the particular strength of men will mean that that very strength will be turned to ill, as we see in disintegrating and dangerous neighborhoods. A friend recently wrote that if you get rid of the patriarchy you replace it with a bad patriarchy. But not quite. If you get rid of the patriarchy, you end up with andrarchy, or at least the rule of an elite. A stable home, which requires men and women together, is the best bulwark against totalitarianism. Apart from male headship, we are not free, but instead are at the mercy of a government that cares not at all for our well being.[i]

If Ephesians 5:21-30 is the most despised passage of the Bible, as Matthew Cochran has suggested, then passages like Titus 2:5 cannot be far behind.

After all, when Scot McKnight writes that women should work slowly and relentlessly to “inform[] the church of what the New Testament teaches and what God is raising women up to do” (Kingdom Conspiracy, 122), that is not what he has in mind!

Besides Dr. Scaer, Rebecca Curtis, co-author of the book Ladylike, is another voice who speaks the forbidden words about women’s sin (and also listen to her talk about how to respond to those who speak against large families here).

A theological tour de force by two of the LC-MS’s most astute theologians.


I am not going to say that I don’t think Pearcey and Sigillito’s articles do not have good things to say, and are not worth seriously thinking about. Again, that is not true at all, as both articles contain many valuable pieces of information one will not typically find in mainstream media or our universities.

At the same time, however, I am going to insist that we do not let the Left control and drive the core conversation. While “toxic masculinity” could be a useful term if defined rightly, the point is that it is not going to be defined rightly by those most eager to place it on all of our lips.

What is abuse? See Matthew Cochran’s incisive post here.


It’s not “the other side” in quotes, as Sigillito puts it. There really is another side. And their ideas must be defeated in intellectual battle, not compromised with. 

And by the way, that “other side” is mixed in among us, undermining us from within.

It’s quite toxic, really.

“I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God…” — the Lord’s Apostle, Paul


And let’s get real practical: if you do not want to give full-throated support to people like Elizabeth Warren and Tucker Carlson in the fight against the “two-income trap” – noting that virtually no woman wants to marry a man who makes less than she does – how are you, in any way, helping matters?




Pearcey: ; Stigillito:


[i] Scaer goes on to write:

“Now, this is all falling apart, as it must when natural law is not observed. Is being a woman just about wearing a dress and putting on lipstick? Of course not, until Bruce Jenner did it. Remember all the Vagina Monologues? Ah, feminism! But now banned, because, as we know, some women have male members. Remember those cute pussy hats? Oh, so avant garde. Well now they’re passe, even verboten, since again, not all women have them. Hail to our revolutionary leaders! No, maybe Father doesn’t always know best, but maybe we ought to start giving him his due.”


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Posted by on January 29, 2019 in Uncategorized


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