Okay, I’m going to try and venture into this topic. It’s contentious. I truly believe it’s a thing, and I also believe that it’s as damaging to men as it is women.
What is toxic masculinity?
You all gave such interesting answers; answers that gave me food for thought, and also helped me understand how women connect with the concept. Some responses were (rightly) angry. They referred to the privilege that comes with being born male. They referred to the sense of entitlement that seems to be taught to boys from a young age. They referred to misogyny, chauvinism; boys will be boys, oppression of women.
All of those are right in my humble opinion.
Here’s what it means to me.
Toxic masculinity is where a boy is taught to protect and defend his ego against every dent or damage above all else. Toxic masculinity is where a boy (who later becomes a man) is taught that to display emotion is weakness, need is weakness, a desire to be loved is weakness, to be rejected is weakness, to be less than a woman in any way is weakness.
Toxic masculinity is the societal belief that men are the superior gender, and that by the power of penis they somehow deserve more, command more respect, and are entitled to more for less effort.
So what happens when toxic masculinity plays out?
Well, in extreme circumstances it facilitates psychopathy, murder and rape. How many male serial killers have you heard about exacting their revenge on one individual by murdering other similar looking individuals (usually but not always women). How many women suffer as a result of toxic masculinity due to domestic violence, emotional and financial abuse?
And how many men suffer domestic, emotional and financial abuse because they’ve been taught that to be abused means they’re weak. To be in distress is weak, to have an EMOTION is weak.
Toxic masculinity comes in phrases such as ‘man up’, ‘be a man’, ‘don’t be such a girl’, ‘boys will be boys’, ‘ ‘boys don’t cry’, and so forth. Any phrase that shuts down a man’s right and ability to connect with his emotional response can be considered such a phrase.
Toxic masculinity no doubt has a hideous manifestation for women, but something that often gets lost in conversation is the impact it has on men.
The gender construct that means to be a ‘man’ demands that men shut off all emotional responses apart from anger. You may remember the blog I did a while ago about anger, (it’s here if not!) I stated that anger is ALWAYS a mask for pain. When someone shows me anger, I know they are hurting. They will often deny that, but usually come back to me a few weeks later saying they realised that it was rejection, disappointment, fear, loss or any other number of feelings.
So men can only express anger and have that emotion accepted. Now. I have spoken before about how a healthy sense of self is developed in childhood when the parent accepts and mirrors the emotional responses in their child. That way the child knows and accepts their own emotions. So when society teaches us that boys aren’t allowed to cry, be sad, hurt, dejected or any other emotion, so they get angry. (And then get punished for that, but not typically told they aren’t ‘allowed’ to be it)
The highest suicide rate in the UK in 2017 was for men aged 45-49 (Source) men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. Three times.
So toxic masculinity incites entitlement, the absolute belief that they as male are totally within their rights to help themselves to whatever they want, be it career, women, presidencies 😉 or other, but it also oppresses men too.
I have seen many conversations on social media where a teenage boy has been raped by his female teacher, and largely men are suggesting he would have enjoyed it, that they would have loved a teacher like that har har.
So let’s flip the roles. If it was a teenage girl and her older male teacher we would be horrified. Why is it alright for a boy to be raped and not a girl? Toxic masculinity. The idea that men are only motivated by sex, that they all want to be getting it as much as they possibly can from the age of about 12 is toxic masculinity and it’s not right.
So, the big question. How do we fight it? If you are a parent of boys, teach them that all their feelings are valid. Teach them that they’re urges are natural; teach them they can be abused and that they can be sad. Teach them to be accountable, to take responsibility for their behaviour. Teach them that women are wonderful and equal to them. Teach them to judge on merit not gender. Teach them they are emotional beings who are allowed to exist outside of a social construct created to determine their gender.
Teach them they’re human.