We’ve been hearing a lot about the concept of toxic masculinity and how it has plagued the upbringing and conduct of men in our country for decades. Confronting toxic masculinity has been overdue for some time and unfortunately it took stories of the mistreatment of others (namely women) to bring it to light. As a society we knew this was always a problem, but time and again we failed to act in confronting it. But what exactly is toxic masculinity? Although it has been frequently mentioned in the news as well social media stories/posts, there still seems to be no universal definition, which provides clarity as to what the issue is being addressed. I will do my best to define it, and list some examples that hopefully make it a little clearer to understand.
After reading several online articles, blogs, news site videos, and even reflecting my own life experiences, I have come to define toxic masculinity as, “A set of harmful behaviors and practices that convey the idea that a man is superior to those around him and that he must command a degree of respect or power that he believes align within societally and or trans-generationally defined parameters.” Some classic examples of toxic masculinity may include…
- A father telling his young son not to cry after falling off of his bike because crying “is for girls.”
- A male college student assuming his female classmate whom he asked out on a date has to have sex with him, due to him volunteering to cover all of the expenses of their night out.
- A man belittling his brother who recently landed a job as a nurse at a local hospital because the brother didn’t choose a career he’d (the man) define as a “real man’s job.”
- A male supervisor not granting a management promotion to a well qualified female employee because he feels she cannot handle the stress of the position. However, his decision is really guided by his belief that women do not belong in positions of management.
- A husband who resents the fact that his wife works while making comments that her role is to maintain the home and watch their children while he acts as the sole provider for the family.
I could go on and on with dozens of other examples, but unfortunately I am not prepared to write a novel that may bore you all to death.
As mentioned, toxic masculinity is bred through trans-generational norms and ideas passed from father to son, to grandson, etc. So in the first example, chances are this father who told his son that crying “is for girls”, was probably told something similar by his father who in turn heard it from his father, and so forth. It is also reinforced by environmental factors such as relationships with friends, peers, and (not shockingly) via stereotypes perpetuated through popular media (TV, film, music, and social media).
We can continue to ignore the severity of this problem and the detriment it has caused people in our society (namely women), or we can speak up and in layman’s terms, “right our wrongs.” I truly feel that it is important for us men to spearhead the efforts to deconstruct toxic masculinity brick by brick. Why? Men often learn behavior (bad and good) from other men, so perhaps in modeling a breakaway from the norms of toxic masculinity, us guys can set a healthy precedence in the treatment of others that does could command the respect so many of us yearn for. A precedence that can be passed from one generation of men to the next.
I will do my little part via monthly blogs in sharing ideas of ways as individuals and as a society we can overcome toxic masculinity. I hope to provide inspiration to those in our online communities (especially my fellow dudes) that while there is nothing wrong with maintaining your male identity, it should consist of outdated stereotypical “guy” behaviors that when demonstrated, come at the emotional cost (and in extreme cases, the physical cost) of those around you.