In the past ten years, every news story seems to have been all about feminism; about protecting women’s rights and encouraging them to stand up against inequality. And while the feminist movement has done wonders to empower and uplift women worldwide, its rise has also shed light on an issue that’s been lurking in the shadows for quite some time. Toxic masculinity.
Let’s take a look at what it is and how we can all take measures to confront and perhaps even abolish it altogether.
What is Toxic Masculinity?
Toxic masculinity is the term given to harmful associations of stereotypical ‘maleness’ or being ‘macho’ with men. It’s when a guy tells his crying friend to ‘grow a pair’, or when a group of teenagers laugh at their friend for wearing feminine clothes.
Of course, these beliefs are misguided and don’t reflect the truth - and that’s the problem. They’re stereotypes; fragments of an ignorant and misogynistic past. They make the assumption that any behavior that flouts the typical framework of what it means to be a ‘man’ makes a male sub-par or inferior to his macho friends.
Why Toxic Masculinity is Such a Problem
On the surface, this may not seem to be an enormous issue. I mean, any stereotype is unpleasant, but one would be forgiven for thinking that this one isn’t a cause for major concern.
But one would also be severely misguided. It’s a well-known fact that male suicide rates outnumber female statistics by about 3:1 - and toxic masculinity has everything to do with those numbers. Not because men are less prone to having their ears pierced or crossing one leg over the other, but because, according to said masculine stereotype, it’s girly to talk about how you feel.
The result? Millions of men worldwide are keeping their mouths shut, going about their day-to-day feeling miserable, alone and on the verge of suicide, afraid to seek help for fear of being rejected or branded as a failure.
What Can We do About it?
Depending on the environment you’re in on a regular basis, toxic masculinity may be either rife or non-existent. Regardless, we can all play our part in stomping out this harmful scapegoat once and for all.
Education is key. In the words of Baltasar Gracian, ‘You are as much as you know, and a wise person can do anything.’
By learning about what toxic masculinity is and how our culture reinforces it, you’ll be better equipped to challenge it.
Start Being Accountable
Taking accountability is critical in any area that we wish to grow in. We are responsible for our actions, even where toxic masculinity is concerned.
We’ve all said things we didn’t necessarily mean or done things out of external pressures rather than in accordance with our own values.
Now’s the time to start becoming accountable for your actions. Notice where you’re using stereotypes or conforming to prejudiced social behaviors and adjust your actions accordingly.
It’s okay to call people out on their bad behavior. In fact, toxic masculinity may have been around for as long as it has simply because people are so averse to challenging it.
When the conversation turns to ‘the legs on that’, or ‘how to get into her underwear’, or your friend is told to ‘stop being a pussy’ - that’s not the time to look away and cringe in silence. Don’t let that toxicity spread.
Any negative behavior or belief about other people is often just a result of social conditioning. We’re not born misogynistic or homophobic - our environment has just led us to think that way. As we grow older, it is our duty to pick apart these ignorant ideas and form beliefs of our own.
Tell those macho friends of yours that they’re out of line. Educate them on why toxic masculinity is such an issue. Don’t just become another one of those guys that says nothing on the outside but wishes for change on the inside.
Stomping out toxic masculinity is in our hands. It’s our responsibility as men to band together and eradicate it once and for all - so let’s start today.