I often blog about the virtues of masculinity but it would be disingenuous of me to avoid instances where certain positive aspects of masculinity can lead to bad outcomes. I am not speaking about the dark side of masculinity but to masculinity behavior that appears to be more normalized rather than toxic. The prompt for this blog was a newspaper headline, “Ex-NFL player among 11 deaths caused by FLA., ALA. rip currents.” Reading further I learned that in addition to the former quarterback, a firefighter and two fathers trying to save their children all drowned.
It is certainly the best of masculinity that two fathers tried to save their children. This desire to protect one’s family is worthy of praise. However, when one reads more of the article we learn that all those who drowned ignored red flag warnings at the beaches indicating unsafe swimming conditions. What is it that propels a man to defy a clear warning of danger and risk his life and the lives of his children? Boldness and independence are traits of masculinity yet they can easily lead to excessive risk taking behaviors. It is one of the essential ironies of masculine behavior that an apparent positive trait can easily prove to be so self-destructive. The men who drowned drew the conclusion that the warnings were for the timid and that as a bold and independent man they could defy the red flags and hit the surf regardless of the warnings. Boldness in the face of danger is a feature of the Warrior archetype of masculinity which can manifest itself as taking action even in the face of adversity. However, in order to avoid a tragic mistake the Warrior needs to be constrained by the King archetype which speaks to thoughtful planning and risk assessment. I hope men heed the warning that their desire for adventure and risk needs to be modulated by thoughtful planning in order to avoid unnecessary risk.