Urban Dictionary: Baby Man
A fully grown man that by all appearances looks normal. However, once you get to know him, you realize he’s a big baby trapped in a man’s body.
A couple of weeks ago I was flicking channels in a hotel room when I came upon Tucker Carlson from Fox News berating the idea of toxic masculinity. Bizarrely, the catalyst for his rant were the on-stage remarks of singer John Mayer, but that’s not exactly important here (and it would take too long to explain Carlson’s enormous leaps of logic that night).
Carlson, who appears to have no idea what the phrase toxic masculinity means, referred to it as a “made-up dumb feminist term” and the product of a “bunch of ludicrous low-IQ academics making it up as they go along.”
His guest that night, political commentator Anushay Hossain, did her best to explain what toxic masculinity means (“Toxic masculinity is actually about men being violent towards women”) but Carlson wasn’t having any of it. He berated and belittled Hossain, he obfuscated and talked over her. In other words, he behaved like a typical Fox News evening presenter.
For people like Tucker Carlson, any negative reference to masculinity is anathema. Furious at what he sees as anti-male feminism, Carlson raged ignorantly, “I object to the term. Is there such a thing as toxic femininity? Or toxic humanity?”
As I watched it, gape-jawed on my hotel bed, it suddenly hit me. The phrase toxic masculinity is itself toxic. It’s a trigger. It evokes such fury from certain men that I suspect it’s no longer useful in moving forward the discussion about gender and violence.
Enter Australian psychologist Steve Biddulph, a bestselling author on parenting, particularly raising boys. He also thinks the term is unhelpful:
“The term toxic masculinity is used a great deal now, but it’s actually a poor description. It describes a category of grown men, when in fact we are dealing with people who have failed to reach mature manhood. Boys in men’s bodies, a dangerous and frightening thing.”
He’s referring to baby men. Adult males who have never grown up and can’t get past their own childish need for affirmation, attention, and importance. Biddulph references Donald Trump (as does everyone who writes about baby men) and a slew of Australian politicians as examples of immature, undisciplined and juvenile behavior.
Meanwhile in Britain, writing for The Guardian, Tim Jonze cites such examples of the baby man syndrome as former pharmaceuticals boss Martin Shkreli leaking a Wu-Tang Clan album out of childish petulance, and football manager José Mourinho’s dressing-room tantrums. He follows up with the antics of Arron Banks, Justin Bieber, Piers Morgan, and, you guessed it, Donald Trump. He writes,
“It wasn’t long ago that these big bubbas were nothing more than fringe figures, mocked for their inability to disguise the fact they had failed to reach full emotional maturity… These days, though, the baby man has started to be taken seriously, his tantrums broadcast as fact. With these new manfants suddenly taking the reins of power, being a pathetic mewling mess has become socially acceptable.”
Socially acceptable? I hope not.
Even if I concede that the term toxic masculinity doesn’t serve us well anymore, I’ve got real concerns about replacing it with the phrase baby man. Sure, babies are immature, self-focused, and needy, but they’re also darn cute. And there’s nothing cute about controlling women or inflicting violence on them.
Then I came across Heather Havrilesky’s article, Don’t Call It ‘Toxic Masculinity.’ They’re Sociopathic Baby-Men.
Writing more specifically about the Harvey Weinstein case last year, Heather Havrilesky agrees we need a better term, but mere “baby man” isn’t tough enough. She declared 2017 the Year of the Sociopathic Baby-Man:
“Let’s not call that toxic masculinity. Saying ‘toxic masculinity’ implies that masculinity is the core problem here, and suggests that a tiny bit of masculinity might also be a tiny bit poisonous. Using the word masculinity suggests that all men have a toxic core. I don’t buy that. What we’re seeing in the Sociopathic Baby-Man bestrides the world of ordinary men like a colossus. It’s more important than ever to make this distinction. Equating every man with the very worst, most repugnant, infantile robot-men alive is, pragmatically speaking, a very bad idea.”
The disgusting and criminal activity of men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and others caught up in the #MeToo movement, is indeed sociopathic.
Sociopaths are psychopaths with a conscience. Both lack empathy, or the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel, but while psychopaths have no conscience, but sociopaths do. It ‘s just that it’s weak.
Donald Trump is a sociopathic baby man. He mocks Dr Christine Blasey Ford and then says it’s okay because Kavanaugh “won” his seat on the Supreme Court bench. He fat-shamed a Miss America contestant. He called Stormy Daniels “Horseface”. His disrespect for women is indefensible, and he seems to have no conscience about it.
I have friends who won’t have news television on while their children are around because they are afraid of what their kids might hear the president say.
I don’t think the term toxic masculinity suggests that all men are violent, marauding manfants. There’s such a thing as masculinity, and then there are cases of toxic masculinity. But if some men don’t like it, how about we start identifying the sociopathic baby men in our midst?
As Heather Havrilesky concludes,
“In this, the Year of the Sociopathic Baby-Man, we have no more excuses. We know this villain pretty well now. We have lots of very vivid examples of his kind. We know what he’s capable of. We all have to be brave now, and speak the truth to power. Because he might be a dinosaur, but he’s far from extinct, and he’s more than a little bit dangerous.”