I see in last week’s news that our Prime Minister spouted off in MarieClaire about “toxic masculinity.” Isn’t that just like a politician, to speak as an expert on something about which he knows nothing?

Kerry Knudsen

This current trend of hooking two such words as toxic and masculine together and then acting as if they mean something special is killing us. Who says there is such a thing as toxic masculinity in the first place? Lady Macbeth?

Masculinity has been held through the ages to be a virtue. I guess we can open the topic for discussion, but there are a lot of folks listening in.


The fact is, we have let a bunch of lawyers set themselves up as interpreters of language. That is a step too far. What happens is that lawyers with white wigs try to write laws and squeeze all ambiguity and synonymy out of language, which cannot be done without killing it. Once a bill is squeezed into a coma, it is then turned over to a bunch of wigged-out lawyers to discover how the words may mean something other than what they do mean. Hence, such constructs as toxic masculinity and “hate speech.”

Do you know what hate speech is? No. You don’t, although most of us would say we can tell it when we see it.

But can we? How about going right to the core of “hate speech?” That would be, of course, “the N word.”

Do you know what the N word is? Of course, you do. And so does every media whig or wag that cutely intones the phrase.

Further, if you did not know what “the N word is,” it would be incumbent upon the writer(s) to tell you. This is synonymy.

Therefore, we are being coy beyond the point of being ludicrous, and it has become dangerous, since anybody saying the actual N word instead of the code for the N word can be jailed. Which reveals a neat little secret: journalists don’t know any more about language than do lawyers. This begs the question, then, which do more damage.


Also in last week’s news, I see in California you can now go to jail for refusing to use the gender pronoun any gender bender wishes you to. We have seen an offshoot of this in Canada with Prof. Jordan Peterson.

It is simply fascinating the ascending rate at which busybody and otherwise-unemployed lawyers and writers can find new “rights” to apply and prosecute, and never find a countervailing (or dare I say counterveiling?) responsibility.

And we see in last week’s news that noted film mogul Harvey Weinstein has been discovered to be an accused sexual predator. Note the word “accused,” as society has moved from trial by jury to guilt by accusation, as Senator Mike Duffy discovered the hard way during his recent pillorying in the press. Notably in Duffy’s case, an acquittal at trial has not resulted in an acquittal in the media. He’s guilty because of envy – he was 10 times the journalist as any of his accusers.

But we were talking about Weinstein. Let’s assume Weinstein is guilty. Everybody else has. And let’s assume he is convicted of something. Rape has come up. Rape is not, by the way, toxic masculinity. It is a crime punishable in California by up to eight years and $70. For what it’s worth, rape once was a capital crime.

So, let’s say Weinstein is convicted of rape and sentenced to eight years in prison. At his intake interview – I think in prison they also call it the “casting couch,” they segregate people by sex, not gender; gender is a linguistic term that applies to pronouns – at his intake interview, Weinstein says, “I self-identify today as a woman.”

Now, what does California do?

I think Justin would agree that California either must allow Weinstein to be a woman for the purposes of placement, or California must go to jail. I think he would also be inclined to consider whether we in Canada are not far out of step with civilization by allowing our segregated penal systems to be the last social bastions of the Dark Ages. And, likely, toxic masculinity.


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  1. Carol Kleinfeldt says:

    I’m not sure why you have chosen to take this editorial position but it is offensive to me and I am sure to many of your targetted clients. Professional suicide is usually not the goal of advertising however, you seem to have chosen this path and I will oblige you by not specifying your product for any of my projects.

    • Kerry Knudsen says:

      Hi, Carol,

      Thank you for your interest and attention. I’m not sure how to respond, since the position I took is basically factual linguistics. I took historical and socio/anthro linguistics in grad school, so I’m happy to explain any shortfalls in the column.

      On another note, Coverings is not advertising. It is a reader-focused, original-content trade magazine. We do, however, deal with advertisers, all of whom respect our readers, and some of whom wish to have their products specified by architects.

      I am curious — is it common to threaten to withhold specification over matters of casual discussion? Or more importantly, is it common for architects to require compliance with their demands in order to receive the specification?

      If so, the practice so described is very little distant from the practices of other, powerful occupations, are they?

      I am assured by other architects that the practice you describe is not a standard among architects, so I am interesting in learning what I can from somebody that knows.

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