Is this the decade when we will eradicate toxic masculinity?

As I read the breaking news about Harvey Weinstein’s conviction, I wondered to myself: Is this the tipping point? Is this the decade where we finally eradicate toxic masculinity from our organizations?

In perhaps the single greatest moment of progress in the #MeToo movement, Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s wealthiest and most powerful men, was recently convicted of rape and sexual assault in a New York courtroom. He still faces similar charges in Los Angeles.

Debate about the importance of the verdict is still raging. Some believe this is a watershed moment for #MeToo, the global campaign to expose the powerful men who abused and harassed women with impunity. Others celebrated the fact that, finally, a jury was willing to “believe the victims” in a case that involved crimes that went back many years and which were not accompanied by many witnesses or forensic evidence.

As I reflected on these events, I did wonder whether this could be, finally, the beginning of the end of the toxic masculinity that has been practiced by so many powerful men. It’s a topic I have studied and commented on before.

I took a long look at the “frat boy” culture at Uber that played into a decision to remove founder Travis Kalanick from the helm of his company. More recently, I’ve been watching closely the allegations of “misogyny and harassment” against a senior executive at Victoria’s Secret, a global lingerie brand. More than 100 of the modelling world’s most famous women revealed these allegations in an open letter to the company that, ultimately, prompted the company to be sold and its founder, Lee Wexner, to step down.

In other words, even with the Weinstein verdict, it’s unlikely (and unfortunate) that we’ve seen the last story of this kind.

Which then brings up another question in my mind: How many leaders have taken the time to dig deeply into this problem and look for ways to eliminate the macho, abusive leadership culture that has allowed these things to happen in the first place?

I’m quite certain that there are still a lot of wealthy and powerful men who are continuing to abuse and harass women and others in their organizations, seemingly unconcerned or oblivious of what is going on around them or acting like they are above the law.

The demands for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in our organizations and society, on the whole, will never be satisfied until we tackle head-on the reality of toxic masculinity that persists today. Researchers define toxic masculinity as a set of behaviors and beliefs that include suppressing one’s emotions or masking distress, maintaining an appearance of hardness and using violence as an indicator of power.

Even when some organizations try to tackle this issue head on and place a spotlight on it, their actions receive a mixed and even divisive response.

Take for example what happened last year.  Gillette launched a commercial trying to bring attention to this critical issue.  They released a commercial that asked, “Is this the best a man can get?” as it challenged men to confront bad behavior among males like sexual harassment, bullying, fighting, and discrimination. The ad was both celebrated and criticized. The heated debate and varied perspectives made it clear to me, that we still have quite a way to go to make things better.

What’s your point of view on this critically important leadership issue?

This week’s Gut Check for Leaders Blog asks: Is this the decade when we will eradicate toxic masculinity?

© 2020 Dr. Vince Molinaro (Leadership Contract Inc.)

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