Toxic Masculinity and Everything You Need To Know About It
No, we’re not from the feminist camp – or any other camp from that matter. We’re here to talk about a very serious issue that is often overlooked. Let us be clear – neither all masculinity is toxic nor are all the men toxic or bad.
Before we talk more about toxic masculinity, let’s trace its roots. The term was coined by Shepherd Bliss (the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement activist) who spent the 1980s exhorting men to reconnect with their “preindustrial” emotions.
After lingering in the abyss for the past three decades, the term “toxic masculinity” has taken a life of its own and is thrown around to pin people down. It has grown so much so that Google searches for the term have climbed steadily since May 2016. More than 90,000 news articles and 150,000 videos (and climbing) indexed on Google deploy the term.
If you’re wondering when masculinity becomes toxic, you’re not alone. Its when masculinity derives from a rejection of the perceived opposite (femininity) that is so pervasive as to become unhealthy for the toxic men and those around them.
The Start of Toxic Masculinity
The question everyone needs to ask is how do men fall prey to toxic masculinity? Is there a certain demographic more prone to being affected by the disease? Are there some organizations trying to push people towards it?
The answer to all these questions is a big and resounding no. While no schools are teaching the subject, most men initiate into toxic masculinity at a very young age. Most of the victims of the disease are lead to the ill mental state by their parents.
You heard it right. Well, no toxic masculinity convections are waiting for a boy when he turns a certain age but he is subtly and constantly reminded that he is different from the girls and needs to fight (internally and externally) to retain his status.
As an example, many boys from a very early age are taught to reject all things feminine, from the color pink to television shows or movies that feature girls as primary characters. Many parents also teach their toddler boys not to cry especially in public because that’s what girls do.
These little boys end up learning that they always need to behave in a certain way to be looked upon as masculine. They also start believing that most displays of emotion, other than anger aren’t fit for a man.
Let us be clear about something. You are free to like the things that men stereotypically like: sports, cars, the opposite sex – with no judgment. There is nothing wrong with any of these things and, unlike what many people believe, they have nothing to do with toxic masculinity.
While women and children (through domestic or other violence) are the most common victims of toxic masculinity, the toxic individual and anyone around him for that matter also usually ends up paying the price.
By trying to keep their distance from the stereotypical feminine characteristics, the boys do themselves more harm than good. By rejecting essential feminism, men and boys reject a part of themselves that is too valuable to lose.
These allegedly female traits (compassion, empathy, and even politeness) are often the ones that help us all get along in society. By rejecting these traits men push themselves towards the barbarian traits of anger and violence.
Do you know what’s the most common denominator in mass shootings? Is it the weapons, mental illnesses, dates or days of the months? If you guessed from any of the above options, you’d be wrong.
The fact is that most of the perpetrators of mass shootings are men. If you think gender has nothing to do with it and mental illness is the culprit here – think again. Women suffer mental illness at roughly the same rate as men, but almost none commit large-scale violence.
The Tipping Point
“The idea that manhood is something that has to be earned is fairly widespread,” says social psychologist Joseph Vandello, who, along with his colleague Jennifer Bosson at the University of South Florida, proposed an alternative to toxic masculinity in 2008: Precarious Manhood Theory.
The truth about masculinity is that men have always feared that it can be taken away. Men without thinking about it put the three Ps — providing, protecting, and procreating above everything else. Any dent to even one of the three Ps can prove to be a stain on his ego and masculinity.
According to some researchers, toxic behaviors are a reaction to perceived threats to the masculinity of a subset of men with poor self-esteem. The study throws new light on toxic masculinity.
Put a different way, what’s toxic isn’t masculinity — there’s nothing ultimately wrong with masculine behavior — but the creeping suspicion that it can be taken away and the juvenile actions that this suspicion triggers.
In their study, Bosson and Vandello concluded that many men view masculinity as a sort of currency. They believe that someone could earn or steal their share of masculinity. These men don’t view masculinity as fixed traits.
As bad as toxic masculinity might sound, there are ways of dealing with it. You don’t have to see a physiatrist or gulp down a handful of medications to do so. You can fix toxic masculinity just by changing the way you think about it.
Instead of rejecting masculinity as toxic, it’s possible to use its ambiguity to ask more of men. This could also lead to a generational change process among men who cling to and defend their manhood the most fiercely.
The idea isn’t to make masculinity irrelevant to these individuals. We need to change the values attached to masculinity. Once the definition attached to it becomes healthy so will the men plagued by it.
We need to embrace the idea that an evolved and intrinsic form of masculinity might be the solution. Manhood can become less elusive, more attainable, and healthier. We need to believe that having a strong sense of self-worth regardless of what others think could be considered manlier over time.