A violent knife attack in Sydney’s CBD last month left one woman dead and another severely injured. But in media reports and public conversation, the devastation took a backseat to the role of two men. These men weren’t the alleged killers, far from it. They were genuine heroes of the moment, stepping in wielding café chairs and milk crates to prevent further bloodshed. If it weren’t for their swift thinking, more lives would have almost certainly been lost.
Writing in The Australian newspaper, columnist Janet Albrechtson was one of many who praised their courage. She also admired these newly crowned ‘Australian champions’ for their demonstration of masculinity. In doing so, Albrechtson asked: “Can we praise masculinity too? Or is that too controversial in an age when masculinity is raised only to condemn what is wrong with men and to preach how to change them…. Do we fear praising masculinity in case it leads to a scolding for encouraging toxic masculinity?… The conflation of masculinity with toxic masculinity, to use the phrase favoured by the roving gender police, has become routine. This common sleight of hand to use gender to confect some crudely defined phenomenon stokes pointless gender wars and risks harming both men and women.”