What is toxic masculinity?
Toxic masculinity refers to the notion that some people's idea of “manliness” perpetuates domination, homophobia, and aggression. It involves cultural and traditional pressures for men to act a certain way. Or the notion that “boys don’t cry” or that showing emotions is a play on being internally weak.
These ideals can often affect a person’s view of themselves and may lead to a projection of negative emotions. It is best described as a box. It’s narrow, rigid and men have to confront themselves to fit inside it. This way of thinking negatively impacts both men and women. When we talk about the harmful effects of toxic masculinity, we are not criticizing men, but are calling out the unfair standards imposed upon them.
Causes of toxic masculinity?
Toxic masculinity most often finds its roots at home. Boys are told from a young age that in order to be accepted they have to be dominant and aggressive, that violence is the only way to resolve their problems and that they should consider themselves superior to women. How often have you seen parents upset with a male child for playing with dolls? Or better yet, parents furious with their son because he dared to cry after experiencing something he didn’t like? This makes young boys think that they have to be “man enough” for people to accept them. These examples show how our societies have traditionally viewed men. But the more we normalize these behaviors, the more fuel we throw on the flames.
Where did the term ‘toxic masculinity’ come from?
The term toxic masculinity originated during the late 1980s as part of something called the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement. Toxic masculinity has been tied to the concept of the patriarchy (control of society by men) and often stands opposed to social justice efforts. Interest in toxic masculinity spiked in 2016 during the presidential election of Donald Trump, who was widely criticized for promoting aspects of toxic masculinity in his language and behavior.
Following Trump’s election, toxic masculinity became the focus of much public discussion—and scrutiny—as a result of the #MeToo movement in late 2017, in which scores of women came forward to reveal their sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men in their lives, such as employers, executives, colleagues, friends, and family. A majority of these women revealed that the #MeToo movement implied a challenge to structures of male dominance, recognizing the effects that the movement had on notions of gender and power. The visualization of women’s widespread experiences of sexism, harassment, and abuse was largely linked to toxic masculinity.
Effects of toxic masculinity :
Men are expected to be stoic and suppress all emotions that they experience. The set of standards that we as a society hold for men end up damaging them as well as the people around them. It negatively impacts society as a whole. These ideals of toxic masculinity lead men to miss out on aspects of life that should be available to all people, regardless of gender. Some effects are listed below :
Violence and hostility :
Masculine ideals, such as the restriction of emotional expression and the pressure to conform to expectations of dominance and aggression, may heighten the potential for boys to engage in general acts of violence including, but not limited to, bullying, assault, and/or physical and verbal aggression. Violence against girls and women is maintained by ideas about and practices of patriarchal or toxic masculinities. The amount of violence that follows from this is truly staggering. Globally, the World Health Organisation reports that 35 percent of women have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. When society puts so much pressure on men to behave in an unconnected way, sometimes men can begin to normalize power and control as perpetrators. Society puts pressure on men to “be men” in the traditional sense, rather than just being human.
Suppression of emotion :
As toxic masculinity dictates, the only emotion men should feel is anger, which doesn’t give their feelings a vent. This idea of a "tough man" who doesn't struggle with any emotions can force men to withstand untreated mental health problems. Even as children, young boys who express feelings are compared to girls in a negative context.
People respond to their emotions with phrases like “don’t cry like girls”, “man up” and “be a man” which do not help at all when a person is in distress. When feelings are dismissed and gender-defining thinking is heard repeatedly, a young person learns to avoid expressing their real feelings and begins to bottle up sadness. Over 30% of men will experience a period of depression at some point during their lifetime, and about 9% of men report having feelings of depression or anxiety every day. Over time, such behavior can lead to dysfunctional emotional expression and ultimately, depression.
Changing Our View of Men and Masculinity
Masculinity doesn’t always have to be toxic. When we teach boys to be emotionless, tough, and secure, we strip them of their innocence and we place unrealistic and unhealthy expectations on them. We need to tell children, irrespective of their gender, that expressing emotion is good and healthy. They can accept defeat, and if they need to cry, it is safe to do so. We can assure our sons that it is okay to ask for help. We need to teach them that they have to be human, not men. Boys need to be able to create their own idea of what a man is, or should be.
Toxic masculinity is a relatively new term for an issue as old as time. It has been far too long that we have lived with the traditional model of masculinity and if you ask me, NOW is a great time to change how society perceives emotional responses in men. We owe it to our boys, who become our men, who put out into the world everything the world has put into them. We owe it to our daughters, who become women, who do the same as well as receive what our men have to offer, and most of all, we owe it to ourselves, as
Written By - Reva Gupta (Interned at Just a Teen)
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