Steven Universe and Masculinity

Discussion of masculinity in feminism forums online usually centres around toxic masculinity, defined as “the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.” It’s important to discuss toxic masculinity, and a lot has been said on the topic. But I’m really excited about a new web series that analyzes positive expressions of masculinity in pop culture.

If you need an introduction to toxic masculinity and its negative affects on society, check out the video below.

Everyone is society is affected by toxic masculinity, in very negative ways. Even men who exemplify toxic masculinity are hurt by it. It’s really a bad, no-good thing that we need to do away with. And now that we have identified the problem, the next step is to fix it.


There’s a show I really like to watch, called Steven Universe. It’s a cartoon but it carries a lot of deeper meaning and substance. A lot has been written about the show’s intersectional feminist influence, and I’d highly recommend the show to anyone of any age.

I was excited to hear that Jonathan McIntosh was starting his own pop culture criticism web series, starting with Steven Universe. McIntosh helped write and produce the first season of Tropes vs Women in Video Games, and you can definitely feel that influence on his new work.

The first episode deals with emotion expression on the show, including male characters. This is really important, because suppression of emotional expression is a large aspect of toxic masculinity. By providing positive masculine role models in all-ages media, Steve Universe subverts toxic masculinity and helps steer all of society in a direction that benefits everyone.

Unfortunately, McIntosh has received quite a bit of backlash for his efforts. He’s written about it, and points out that his harassers are expressing toxic masculinity by accusing him of being womanly, as if there were anything wrong with being a woman.

When we watch Steven Universe, my wife and I often pause to discuss different ways the show subverts any number of problematic aspects of society. We’ve spent a lot of time picking it apart, even the parts of it that aren’t perfect. It’s a great show, McIntosh’s analysis is fantastic, and I’m looking forward to future episodes of his work.


Posted on July 27, 2016