Meryl Streep slams the term ‘toxic masculinity.’ Does she have a point?

The term toxic masculinity has been around for years but has truly reached its zenith in 2019. Enter Meryl Streep.

On one hand, having a national conversation about what we're teaching our boys about manhood is far overdue. But there has been a sizable backlash to the term as well.

Some people have perceived it as an attack on all things masculine while others have pointed out the potential irony of having women explain the proper expression of masculinity during a time when overbearing men are being criticized for "mansplaining" to women.


But for those paying close attention, it's clear there's a positive path forward that has nothing to do with shaming men. In fact, it's about saving them. And saving all of us from the fallout of dangerous and unhealthy behavior.

The distinction is perhaps best illustrated in Gillette's viral video in January, addressing toxic masculinity doesn't have to be about shaming men. Instead, it's about showing men how to be their best selves while honoring what it means to be a man.

However, things got a little bit complicated when acclaimed actress Meryl Street recently weighed in on the debate, saying she doesn't think the term is helpful.

"It's toxic people," Streep said while promoting her latest film, Suffragette.

Streep said she sees two underlying problems with the term toxic masculinity. First, she's concerned that it's an unhelpful label to broadly paste onto an entire gender, saying, it's "less helpful" than constructive dialogue.

"Sometimes I think we're hurt. We hurt our boys by calling something toxic masculinity. I do, she said." "We're all on the boat together. We've got to make it work."

However, her more controversial remarks came when Streep seemingly equated the bad behavior exhibited across gender lines, when she added, "Women can be pretty fucking toxic."

Does Streep have a point? Surely it's a noble goal to address all forms of harmful or toxic behavior. But to some people, she was missing the point entirely, much like when there was a conservative backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement centered on "All Lives Matter."

Regardless of whether or not you agree with Streep's comments, she's nudging people toward a deeper understanding of what toxic masculinity really means. It's not an attack on men. If it were, I'd be pretty foolish to be writing so many articles defending the movement toward more positive and constructive definitions of masculinity.

At the same time, there is value in Streep's point of view. It's a safe bet that if someone broke down the true definition of toxic masculinity, she would agree. Those on the far right who are looking to her as a new spokesperson against evolving cultural norms are going to find themselves very disappointed when they learn what Streep truly values.

And calling out toxic masculinity doesn't negate toxic behavioral patterns from women or any other gender.

It simply means men are often victim to and far too often become the perpetrators of toxic cultural conditioning that can lead to everything from health problems to real-world violence.

No serious voices in the discussion are asking men to stop being men. And no one in their right mind wants Meryl Streep to stop being her excellent self. Let's have a discussion about toxic masculinity that isn't afraid to get uncomfortable when necessary. We'll all be better off for it.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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