The Language of Apologetic Politics

Updated on February 27, 2019
Bored Student profile image

My thoughts on political terminology may be controversial. However, all politics are controversial and I have to be careful with language.

Toxic Masculinity And Microaggressions

Recently, I realize that those who are the most privileged are the beneficiaries of more political correctness than I would like to give them, which has caused me to reevaluate how I feel about sensitivity. Undoubtedly, I am a big fan of political correctness. Behaving in an offensive manner is never a good idea, so I think we should all be careful about what we say and how we act. For a while, I was a big proponent of the notion that this type of sensitivity should only be reserved for marginalized people who really need political correctness. In other words, I did not believe that I should worry about hurting the feelings of white men. However, my instinct is to phrase my political correctness preferences without mentioning white men, even if their presence is still felt in the undertones. Instead, I would say that I have no intention of being nice to people with a history of serious hate, especially if they were making no active effort to rectify that history.

Every time I mentioned things like toxic masculinity and microaggressions, I was definitively criticizing white men, but I rarely specifically called them out because I did not want to be offensive. After all, there are white men who have proven themselves to be good allies and I do not want to attack these men. Ironically, these men are almost always okay with checking their own privilege and taking the criticism targeted directly at them as an opportunity to improve. Anyone who went on the defensive when called out eventually turned out to be a substandard ally. The white men who held themselves accountable never got annoyed, insecure, defensive, or angry when someone like me called them out. They were already singling themselves out, accepting responsibility for their conscious or implicit bias, so they knew that they could learn by listening to the criticism.

Essentially, the men I was actively trying to avoid offending were not the men who ever felt offended. They did not feel as though they needed to be on the receiving end of any sort of sensitivity or politeness. Meanwhile, those that needed to be called out were the ones who insisted that they were not deserving of any sort of condemnation, touting sayings like “not all men”. It made me wonder if I should stop differentiating between masculinity and toxic masculinity.

In my experience, it is definitely possible to be masculine without being toxic. My friends and I have become fond of the phrase “wholesome masculinity”. The most wholesome men would have no problem with me generalizing masculinity, treating it like something that is inherently problematic, even though it may not be problematic if society were a little bit different. They would take no issue with me if I failed to specify when I was talking about wholesome masculinity and when I was talking about toxic masculinity. However, I wanted to be accurate. I wanted to be politically correct. I wanted to ensure that I was only targeting those that deserved targeting. Therefore, I put thought into careful phrasing and terminology in order to protect the egos of men whose masculinities ended up being undoubtedly toxic. This caution was ineffective because, in order to actually combat the patriarchy, I would need to confront certain types of men. I would need to convince them that they do not get a pass in trying to undo the years of socialization that has caused them to view women as objects. They may not have ever consciously objectified a woman, but they will always be part of the problem if they are not trying to fix it. By distinguishing between toxic masculinity and wholesome masculinity, I would give nonviolent men the notion that they were allowed to distance themselves from the problem just because they were not as bad as the violent men were.

In a similar vein, I wondered if I should stop differentiating between microaggressions and actual aggressions. Microaggressions are seen as small examples of bias that people of color face on a daily basis. Individual microaggressions may not be enough to be considered racism. However, when microaggressions occur repeatedly, it is easy to see that these small possibly racist acts are not isolated incidences. It is difficult to pinpoint which perpetrators are racists, which simply have unconscious bias, and which treat every person with complete equality. However, racism is undoubtedly at play much of time. It is just initially difficult to spot this racism, which is why I sometimes preferred not to refer to these acts as actual aggressions. Instead, most agree that they are microaggressions.

There is always the chance that these acts are not acts of hate or bias, but some of them are and they need to be called out. Unfortunately, we use language that probably fails in this task. The white people who already hold themselves accountable would not be offended if I called all white people racist. However, the white people who are somewhat racist would definitely be offended. By saying that something is just a microaggression, some white people may feel as though they are exempt from trying to correct their implicit biases. They may believe that their behaviors are the microaggressions that are just misinterpreted as hate. However, they need to recognize that people who face hate and microaggressions need white people to make an active effort to create a positive environment for people of color whenever possible.

Basically, social political rhetoric can almost be used as a test to see who among the white male community is a good ally and who is not. The allies will support political correctness, but they do not mind if they are the targets of small lapses in sensitivity because they know that they can still improve themselves. Meanwhile, everyone else is probably against political correctness, but they still insist that they be the recipients of a certain degree of sensitivity, even though they are the ones that need it least. The paradoxes posed by the terminology that I use has made me wonder if I should alter the way I speak. On the one hand, I want to reward those who have stood behind me by excluding them from my attacks against toxic masculinity and microaggressions. On the other hand, I want to ensure that nobody believes that they are excused from making an active effort at reaching a world of equality.

Fighting prejudice should not get you a reward. It is common sense and you should not need a seal of approval for it. Still, a lack of reward might alienate some people. It is a sad reality that probably stemmed from entitlement and privilege, but I cannot dismiss the fact that I could avoid making enemies by choosing to stick to innocuous language. They may be substandard allies, but I would rather have a bad ally than have a vocal enemy. Therefore, I will continue to differentiate between toxic masculinity and wholesome masculinity. I will continue to differentiate between an actual aggression and a microaggression. I may not believe that I should have to make these distinctions, but the times to do not call for broad acts of foolish idealism. Some people might think they are exempt from trying to help make the world a better place, but I do not think harsher language is going to help. It will just make these people feel ostracized.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • BruceDPrice profile image

      Bruce Deitrick Price 

      19 months ago from Virginia Beach, Va.

      I will offer this small comment. When you argue some of these matters on the obvious or superficial levels, you already lose.

      Let me put this a different way. The communists, the far-left, or whatever you want to call them, have usually been brilliant in the use of agitprop, language, sophistry, and marketing. This brilliance is now contained in the word Orwellian. Reality is constantly altered to serve the cause.

      Consider the phrase "toxic masculinity." The genius lies in putting these words adjacent to each other. Victory occurs if the listener accepts them as a proper pairing, instead of adolescent name-calling.

      Why not just say, in all sentences, "evil men"? Never simply "men." Too obvious? No, but the same as "toxic masculinity" for anyone who reflects on it.

      What about the phrase "toxic liberalism"? Is that acceptable? For me, it perfectly designates what we are experiencing when somebody says "toxic masculinity."

      By and large, and this is on a personal note, liberals tend to be more verbal, more agile with language. I.e., people like me usually become liberals. Well, one of the reasons I'm a conservative is that I love language and I love truth. I hate what I might now call toxic sophistry, which is what the New York Times does all day.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)