How many times throughout our life have we heard the following phrases? Big boys don’t cry. Men can’t wear pink. You shouldn’t let your son play with dolls. Man-up. Stop being a baby. These phrases have become commonplace in cultures that support toxic masculinity.
America has long supported toxic masculinity. But, over the last few decades, our countries’ beliefs and ideas have shifted. We have begun to open our minds and look at things differently. Traditional gender roles are no longer the norm and society has begun to question long-held beliefs that define our interests, careers, or whatever else based on our gender.
These ideas have slowly built awareness in regards to toxic masculinity. We are beginning to accept that toxic masculinity is a social crisis.
What Is Toxic Masculinity?
By definition, toxic masculinity is, “the constellation of socially regressive, or masculine, traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.” In modern society, we define toxic masculinity as an exaggeration of masculine traits.
This idea determines the value of men based on these masculine traits. These traits include; strength, dominance, emotionlessness, sexual ability, and self-sufficiency. Toxic masculinity supports the idea that a man can only be considered a ‘real man’ or manly if he displays these traits adequately enough.
The Effects of Toxic Masculinity for Men
There are so many problems with toxic masculinity, but the biggest and most common issue is that it creates bullies. As young boys become teenagers they are expected to display masculine traits. If they do not display these traits, they may face bullying, taunting, or social rejection. This can cause teenage boys to develop aggressive, isolating, or chauvinistic beliefs and behaviors in an attempt to prove their manliness.
These teenage boys, then carry these beliefs and traits into adulthood and teach them to their own sons. Creating a cycle of toxic masculinity. This cycle needs to end. The behaviors of toxic masculinity have real consequences. Take a look at the effects of toxic masculinity listed below.
- Social Isolation
- Sexual Aggression or Control
- Glorification of Violence
- Sexist Ideas and Behaviors
- Entitlement or Low Empathy
The Effects of Toxic Masculinity for Women
The effects of toxic masculinity on women are fairly obvious. If men must possess a high sexual drive, then women must bear the responsibility of dealing with it. If men must be dominant, then women must be submissive. If men need to be strong, then women must be weak. If men must be self-sufficient and reliable, are women dependent on them? Men must be emotionless because women are emotional. None of these statements is true for men or women. But mandating one automatically supports the other.
Though women are not directly impacted by toxic masculinity itself, they must deal with the consequences of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity may lead women to experience the following circumstances.
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Sexist Remarks and Behaviors
- Sexual Assault and Abuse
Toxic Masculinity’s Impact on Mental Health
One of the characteristics most often deemed masculine is self-sufficiency. There is a belief that men do not ask for directions. Let’s expand on that. Many men prefer not to ask for help finding something in the store. They prefer not to see their primary care provider. Toxic masculinity has trained men to believe that asking for help is weak. It has trained them that being emotional is a sign of weakness. Given those statements, do you believe that men are likely to seek a provider for their mental health?
The answer is no. Generally, men do not admit when they are feeling unhappy, anxious, or afraid. They keep these feelings bottled up and attempt to relieve them on their own. These are the effects of toxic masculinity on men’s mental health.
- Depression or Anxiety
- Social Withdrawal
- Feelings of Inadequacy
- Domestic Violence
- Increased Risk of Suicide and Self-Harm
Breaking the Cycle: Putting an End to Toxic Masculinity
Toxic masculinity is not an illness or disease. There is no medicine or healthy practice that can cure it. Society must agree that dictating masculinity is a toxic behavior. We must stop teaching our children that ‘boys will be boys’ and teach them that it is okay to feel however they may feel. They can cry, wear pink, and play with a baby doll. None of those actions mean that they are any less masculine.
To break the cycle and put an end to toxic masculinity, we must change our way of thinking and embrace each other’s differences. Admit that there is no single way to be a man or a woman. Our interests and behavior vary from person to person. But, most importantly, accept that feelings are valid and encourage everyone, male or female, to express how they feel and seek help when they need it.