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Addressing toxic masculinity, starting with political science

From the classroom to the White House

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second gentleman

Inaugurations have been very important to the history of this nation. They symbolize transitions between parties in power, decades, and ideologies. Our recent inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris showed me that a very different America is taking shape than what we have lived with through the last four years. 

This momentous change is exemplified in Harris being elected as the vice president, making history as the first woman of color to take this position. Although Harris isn’t perfect, this is still a very big deal and makes me quite emotional. 

As Harris holds the position of vice president, her husband, Douglas Emhoff, becomes the inaugural second gentleman –– a role that, for the entire history of the United States, has been filled by a woman. 

I don’t want to downplay the role of Harris as vice president by focusing on the work of her husband, but this new shift in traditional power dynamics between men and women in politics is a change I hope helps combat toxic masculinity within politics. This new dynamic poses a new hope for what the future of politics will be, especially with more women gaining interest in entering the political science major after our last presidency.

There is a traditional viewpoint of politics as a field for cishet white men. Students who have taken political science courses even feel that these cishet white men in the major want to keep this toxic masculinity and traditionalism alive. 

“There's always those dudes that know exactly what every marginalized community is, but then, like, they don't do the other part, where you let those communities speak for themselves,” Kathryn Reyes, a junior majoring in political science, said. “Especially being in political science, I see so much of where dudes are like, ‘Yeah I'm so woke, and I am so tolerant of people,’ but then they don't do the thing where they let those people speak.”

Seeing these attitudes continuing on the UW campus is troubling, especially in a place that allegedly leans politically left. Talking over marginalized groups is nothing new and hinders the progress we have already made. These instances, as well as the inherent privilege they demonstrate, make it possible that a subset of students can perpetuate the privilege they were born into –– even if they don’t even know they are doing it. 

“I think as a woman, your point gets stolen a lot more,” Chasina Klein, a junior majoring in political science, said. “I vividly remember we were in breakout rooms and no one in my breakout room was talking, and I brought up a point ... but as soon as we got back into the main session and our group was asked to report back on what we talked about, the one guy in the group talked up and used my point, leaving me nothing to add to the discussion.”

Histories of unconscious bias have inhibited society to not view women as leaders in the same context we do with men. A lot of what we base our opinions on are learned behaviors from the environment that surrounds us as we grow up. Further, unlearning this bias and ways we act on it can be very hard. 

With these biases present in political science, from the coursework to the peers women have within the major, come the adverse effects of self-doubt and missed opportunities –– barriers that men typically would not struggle with.  

“More women are going into this major and want to go into politics, but it's hard to feel like you're doing enough,” Klein said. 

After the historic win of Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Emhoff, we are seeing a new hope in addressing the toxic masculinity of politics as an excellent woman takes up a position of political power with a man coming second to her. I envision this being a step in making women believe their potential is more than what traditional politics has told them they can be –– from our classrooms all the way to the White House.

Reach writer Liam Blakey at Twitter: @LiamBlakey2

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(3) comments

More Inclusive than Thou

Addressing toxic masculinity, starting with political science

From the classroom to the White House

Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?

Folks be honest, just to yourself, what is even being offered on the masculinity table? Just toxic. With honest, genuine, and quick word association, what is even put forth as alternative?

Gays used to be shepherede into hating themselves, and with a different backdrop to the thing, ditto for blacks.

Now in these WOKE/Progressive times, we are teaching half of the human race to hate itself.

Again honestly and genuinely folks, do you even recon any form of masculinity other than toxic?

Well I feel that I have lived well in plenty of very testosterone fueled immensely positive masculinity in a life of team contact sports and also within the ranks of the US Army. That statement in and of itself will ironically be denounced as toxic masculinity.


Well if you've experienced immensely positive masculinity, then that's not toxic masculinity is it? Just winging it, I'd say the alternative to toxic masculinity would be honesty, respect for women, courage, emotional vulnerability, risk-taking, fatherhood–and these aren't limited to just men, anybody could have these traits. I don't think any rational person would dispute these traits. If you were to ask people in real life (not just on online forums and comment sections) I think most people would agree. What this has to do with the communist party, gay people, and Black people...I have no idea. Even though you've lived well in plenty of "very testosterone-fueled immensely positive masculinity" doesn't mean everybody else has.

More Inclusive than Thou

If you respond to my post, I suggest you respond to my post. I am rather obviously comparing the WOKE outlook to any association with masculinity to the extremism of McCarthyism involving anything even somewhat to the political Left of center.

You entirely fail to address anything in your "response" that was central to my post.

What is there of masculinity being offered in our society that really is distinctly masculine and is not toxic?

What has my post to do with gays and blacks? Well not so long ago, all that was gay was also aberrant, immoral, and often literally illegal. Not so long ago, there was no good gay, just bad gay.

Not so long ago the only thing granted in any positive way towards blackness was long suffering loyalty, and a certain joy in dance and music. Not so long ago all that was black, if not outright bad, was certainly second rate at best.

As I type I consider that I may have been hasty in accusing you of intentionally dodging my point. Rather you may not even be able to see it.

Start with this: genuinely and rapidly try to think of anything our society has put forward in the last decade that is distinctly masculine and is not toxic.

I am distinctly masculine and I am not toxic. I suspect that my even stating this will have me denounced as being toxically masculine at best by you and many others. And yes my non-biologically learned correspondent, there is in fact an ancient hormone among we chordates that does in fact have a very great deal to do with the male phenotype, phenotype being the form and behaviour of an organism.

I am also also distinctly bi-pedal, and not toxically so. That I suspect you may allow me.

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