We talk a lot about toxic masculinity.

It seems like people are starting to confound the meaning of the term.

"Oh, so you're saying that masculinity is TOXIC," they say. "That's SEXIST against MEN," they say.


To them I say: Stop being willfully obtuse.

If I said, "Whoa, that's a rabid prairie dog," would you intentionally misunderstand me and yell at me for being a dingbat who thinks that ALL prairie dogs are rabid?

I didn't say that, bro.

When I refer to "toxic masculinity," I'm not labeling all masculinity as toxic. Just like when I say, "Oh shit, there's a rabid prairie dog coming at you," I'm not saying that all prairie dogs are rabid.

But I am saying that some prairie dogs are clearly foaming at the mouth, meaning that something could be spreading through the colony — and sometimes you can't tell the sick ones just by looking at them.

Same thing with men.

So listen up:

No, not all forms of masculinity are toxic. But yes, some are.

Here's what can look like:

  • Repression of feelings like sadness, fear, insecurity, and the related behaviors like crying, hiding, or talking about feelings. Example: "Boys don't cry! Be a man!"
  • Over-expression of anger through behaviors that are violent, erratic, and intended to dominate. Example: "What'd you say? You can't talk to me like that! *punches*)"
  • Need to be strong, dominant, and alpha, and fear of expressing "weakening" feelings or behaviors like affection, vulnerability, tenderness, kindness, gentleness, grief. Example: "My wife just had a baby. Whatever, let's close the deal.
  • Sexual entitlement and violence. Example: "You know you want this."
  • Transference of responsibility for feelings, actions, and consequences to women. Example: "You just made me so mad."
  • Mocking or rejecting men who do not adhere to these "dominant," "alpha male" standards of behavior. Example: "Don't be a fag, Mike. Hey, everybody, look at Mike — he's all butthurt like a little girl."
  • Extreme fragility, because a man is told his sense of self is dependent on the idea that he is dominant rather than the idea that he is inherently valuable just for being who he is.
  • Passing on these behaviors and attitudes to their kids. Devastatingly.

But again, not all masculinity is toxic. So what does this nontoxic masculinity look like?

It's harder to figure out how to be something if you don't know what that something looks like. That's why, today, I want to talk about role models for the next generation of young male feminists.

They're strong. They're brave. They're kind. They cry.  

They are …

1. Terry Crews/Terry Jeffords

He's masculine ...

[rebelmouse-image 19477040 dam="1" original_size="400x300" caption="GIF from "Friday After Next."" expand=1]GIF from "Friday After Next."

... but nontoxic!

This man is a mountain of dancing muscle. He looks like someone's "Ultimate Tough Guy" drawing come to life. His character on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Terry Jeffords, is ripped, shredded, and doesn't take shit. He's a boss.

[rebelmouse-image 19477041 dam="1" original_size="500x247" caption="GIF from "Conan."" expand=1]GIF from "Conan."

He's not violent. Terry the character is fearful of violence and isn't afraid to express it. He shows love, affection, vulnerability. He's into his family and farmers markets.

And Terry the man has trusted us with the story of his own sexual assault.

Talk about strong. Talk about brave. Talk about vulnerable. Talk about empathetic. Talk about emotional availability.

2. The "Queer Eye" crew

They're masculine ...

[rebelmouse-image 19477042 dam="1" original_size="480x270" caption="GIF from "Queer Eye."" expand=1]GIF from "Queer Eye."

... but nontoxic!

These guys are physically fit, very strong, healthy, sexually expressive, and socially confident. They travel in a bro posse and Bobby Berk rebuilds entire suburban homes in, like, 20 minutes, nbd.

[rebelmouse-image 19477043 dam="1" original_size="480x270" caption="GIF from "Queer Eye."" expand=1]GIF from "Queer Eye."

They're also empathetic, physically affectionate, emotionally available and vulnerable, supportive, verbally kind, and tender in a way that risks something.

When they express their love or support for the men they're making over, they're risking being rejected, but they do it anyway. It's incredibly beautiful to see.

3. Lin-Manuel Miranda

He's masculine ...

[rebelmouse-image 19477044 dam="1" original_size="245x155" caption="GIF from "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."" expand=1]GIF from "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

... but nontoxic!

Rich, powerful, and successful, Lin-Manuel, creator of "Hamilton: An American Musical," is a rapper from NYC, a father of two, and a certified genius.

[rebelmouse-image 19477045 dam="1" original_size="480x260" caption="GIF from "The 2016 Tony Awards."" expand=1]GIF from "The 2016 Tony Awards."

Dude, you can't find a clip or a tweet of this guy not feeling all the feelings. He cries more than I do. He's emotionally accessible, loving, inclusive, positive, gentle, creative.

He sings and dances. He tweets about his wife and kids with so much tenderness. His family is a source of joy and humor, but never his punchline.

4. Chris Evans/Captain America

He's masculine ...

[rebelmouse-image 19477046 dam="1" original_size="245x356" caption="GIF from "Avengers: Age of Ultron."" expand=1]GIF from "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

(Uhh ... no explanation necessary.)

... but nontoxic!

[rebelmouse-image 19477047 dam="1" original_size="245x200" caption="GIF from "The Hollywood Reporter."" expand=1]GIF from "The Hollywood Reporter."

Captain America is a principled, sensitive, deeply empathetic former dweeb whose years of experience on the bottom of other people's shoes has given him the ability to use respect and kindness as a means of human connection rather than social currency to purchase his own domination.

Chris Evans recently spoke to an interviewer about playing a total dick in a show on Broadway, and he did exactly what a nontoxic male ally should do: acknowledge that it's hard to learn and emphasize the importance of shutting the hell up when it's not your turn to talk.

And so many more!

Mr. Rogers. Barack Obama. The coach from "Friday Night Lights."

Guys, you don't have to look to pro athletes who beat up their wives and girlfriends, you don't have to admire homophobes, and you don't have to follow your grandpa's rules anymore.

It's 2018! Come with me into the future, where the expression "like a man" doesn't mean hard, violent, stony, carnivorous.

Join Terry, Lin-Manuel, and so many others, and be a man who is strong, brave, kind, good, sweet, gentle, sad, weepy, fearful.

Be human, is what I'm saying.

Your full humanity is available to you. Right now. Your identity as a man is inextricably linked to the full breadth of your human experience. You just have to be willing to let it out.

Your worth isn't dependent on being stronger than everyone else in the room. You're the person who decides its volume, its integrity. It's been there since you were born and it'll be there when you gather your grandson in your arms and say, "It's OK to cry. I cry, too."

Choose nontoxic masculinity.

It exists. Some pretty kickass guys are rocking it really hard — right in front of you.

This story originally appeared on The Good Men Project and is reprinted here with permission.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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