I’m a comedian – here’s how I detoxified my masculinity (and you can too)

Just because you lift weights and take care of your body doesn’t automatically make you a toxic male, writes comedian Robin Morgan. Just look at Joe Wicks and Bukayo Saka...

Friday 19 April 2024 18:08 BST
Men, like everyone, do need advice and guidance once in a while
Men, like everyone, do need advice and guidance once in a while (Robin Morgan)

The other day, I was in the gym. Am I writing this to tell you I go to the gym? Perhaps. Am I writing this to try and convince my accountant that the gym is now tax deductible? Definitely.

As I was saying, I was in the gym (which I go to), and I looked around to see such a wide range of people there – men, women, the young, the old. The weights area used to be so intimidating to me. But seeing this complete cross-section of society, in what used to be a macho space, made me realise that those ideas of traditional masculinity aren’t shared by the wider world.

I used to think of masculinity – real, macho behaviour – as a negative characteristic. As a skinny teenage kid, I defined myself by not being alpha. “No, I’m not one of the jocks – I’m a nice guy. I’m Seth Cohen from The OC, goddamn it!”

As a result, I hated the idea of lifting weights. And how wrong I was. What a dream it is! I’ve been doing strength training for over a year now, and it’s genuinely changed my life.

I’ve stopped drinking, I eat a balanced diet, I listen to podcasts about gut health for God’s sake! Am I living my high-performance lifestyle? Are you proud of me now, Jake Humphreys?!

Advice for men is all over the internet. And if you want to find it, the algorithm will help you. The algorithm knows you better than you know yourself. If you ever think: “why am I being shown this?”, you know why. You know.

And men, like everyone, do need advice and guidance once in a while. Some men don’t think they can ask for it, but if Mr Tikkies is showing them videos, why shouldn’t they have a goosy gander?

Often, with everything nowadays, the loudest voices get the most attention. Andrew “McTateFace” Tate. Russell “WitchHunt” Brand. Jordan “I Ate So Much Beef I Nearly Died” Peterson. Sorry, Doctor Jordan “I Ate So Much Beef I Nearly Died” Peterson – let’s put some respect on his name.

But why not take a look at the other side of the coin? There are plenty of voices out there promoting a different form of masculinity. Dare I say it: a detoxic masculinity. A less beefy masculinity.

Masculinity is of course a spectrum, and all of us fit on it somewhere. I like to think the spectrum ranges from David Bowie all the way over to David Bowie.

Toxic masculinity is often misused in arguments. It’s the prefix of “toxic” which is the hint, here.

Masculinity isn’t the issue. Masculinity is great! Opening a jar after someone’s asked you for help? It makes you feel so alive! Other positive masculine things include rolling up the sleeve of a shirt to expose a forearm. You can quote me on that.

But the toxic side of it? Shaming people on their body count? That doesn’t sound like being an alpha male. Sounds awful a lot like being a gossipy little p****, mate. You’re such a Samantha!

But why waste more breath and time on these voices – why not amplify the positive ones?

Let’s start with not only the GOAT, but also a man who’s stared at them: Sir David Attenborough. The benchmark of a good man.

A study in 2019 revealed that some men don’t recycle because they’re worried that people will think they’re gay. I’m sorry, but what? That is bananas. Especially when you think of the environmental movement, led by men such as our esteemed fave, Sir David Attenborough. He’s been around for years – I bet his body count is massive.

Who else? Danny Dyer of course! He’s just presented a documentary on How To Be A Man on Channel 4 (he’s also in line to the throne, but don’t hold that against him). He’s spoken beautifully about how he felt when his own Dad stopped holding his hand when he got a bit older, and how it “killed him.” He’s not passed that down to his relationship with his kids. That’s growth.

Speaking of growth, let’s chat about Joe Wicks. Sorry to give you lockdown-based-PTSD, but the Body Coach is an example of a super-fit, masculine man, who’s not using his physical power to tell young men they need to buy a Lamborghini before they’re 25. He’s instead telling you to do 25 sit ups before breakfast. I know which one of those is easier.

Lastly, Bukayo Saka. How can you not think this man is a delight? The strength of character Saka has shown over the past few years is nothing short of inspirational. There’s a lovely moment in the All Or Nothing: Arsenal documentary from 2022, where Saka is sent a letter by a young fan, who gives him his pocket money to make him feel better after the racist abuse he suffered in 2021. It’s a beautiful moment, and power to Bukayo. My son has a book about him, which he reads most nights, and it mentions the dedication to school Saka possessed, as well as the guidance from his father.

So, lads (and really anyone who fancies a bit of positive masculinity), embrace these role models, and others. Read and listen widely. And start lifting weights, too.

Robin Morgan: The Spark tours from 12 August

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