The effort to combat toxic masculinity in the US has led men to consume more pornography and play more video games, the Missouri senator Josh Hawley claimed in a speech to a group of Republicans.
Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida, Hawley addressed the issue of “manhood”, which he said was under attack, and called for men to return to traditional masculine roles.
The Donald Trump supporter who notoriously raised a fist in support of a mob outside the US Capitol on 6 January appeared to echo talking points made by the likes of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that opposes feminism and believes men are under attack from liberal elites.
“Can we be surprised that after years of being told that they are the problem, that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are withdrawing into the enclave of idleness and pornography and video games?” Hawley said.
“While the left may celebrate this decline of men, I for one cannot join them. No one should.”
Hawley, 41, did not cite sources for his belief that men were watching pornography more frequently. Nonetheless, on Monday his speech was republished by the Federalist, a rightwing outlet. In the address, Hawley said he wanted to discuss “the left’s attempt to give us a world beyond men”.
“The left want to define traditional masculinity as toxic,” he said. “They want to define the traditional masculine virtues – things like courage, and independence, and assertiveness – as a danger to society.”
Hawley is the son of a banker who attended private school before studying at Stanford and Yale. He clerked for the supreme court’s chief justice, John Roberts, and later became a law professor.
Given his background, he has repeatedly raised eyebrows for railing against elites. Hawley’s apparent claim to speak for all men, in the name of a return to a vaguely defined masculinity of old, swiftly became a new subject of ridicule on Twitter.
If Josh Hawley is an expert on masculinity then I’d like to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on quantum physics.
— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) November 1, 2021
In the good old days, uncriticized American men fucked real top-heavy silicone queens and machine-gunned their way through actual space aliens on a daily basis. Also, don’t shake the junior Missouri senator’s hand until you see him wash it. https://t.co/VrN3irWqKy
— David Simon (@AoDespair) November 1, 2021
Josh Hawley says American men are “watching porn and playing video games because their masculinity is being criticized.” Mostly by their parents who keep asking, “Josh, when are you going to move out of our basement, stop picking your nose and get a job?” pic.twitter.com/NSY6sbo2aP
— Paul Rudnick (@PaulRudnickNY) November 1, 2021
Hawley, who was a staunch defender of Brett Kavanaugh when he was accused of sexual assault during his supreme court nomination hearings in 2018, claimed: “Boys are increasingly treated like an illness in search of a cure.”
“Hollywood delivers the toxic masculinity theme ad nauseum in television and film,” he said, going on to link traditional masculinity as “vital to self-government”.
“Observers from the ancient Romans to our forefathers identified the manly virtues as indispensable for political liberty,” Hawley said.
As well as pornography, Hawley tied the supposed decline in masculinity to issues including unemployment, people marrying at a later age and the preservation of liberty.
Hawley said: “For centuries, lovers of liberty have praised these qualities as the highest standard of manhood. That’s not to say that women don’t possess them. But it is to say that these virtues are the bright side of the aggression and competitiveness and independence that psychologists, no less than philosophers, have long observed in men.
“Assertiveness and independence are strengths when used to protect and empower others.”
Hawley offered few solutions to the problems he claimed to present. On Monday, he used Twitter to promote his new podcast, co-hosted with his wife.
“In the second episode of This is Living, Josh and Erin Hawley share the story of how they met, what drew them to each other, and how two people so different decided to get married,” a blurb for the podcast reads.
The Hawleys met while studying law at Yale. Erin Hawley also clerked for Roberts and became a law professor.