Aggression. Guilt. Fear. These are only a few feelings that are left as a result of the wave of toxic masculinity. The patriarchy has confined gender to only one mode of expression, which is defined by the stereotypes we hold about men and women. These feelings felt by so many women refer to the socially-constructed attitudes that define the masculine gender role in a negative light, describing it as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive and so forth. We as a society need women to have the right to feel safe. We as a society need to teach males that toxic masculinity is damaging their own well-being.
Toxic masculinity kills women. All around the world women are fighting for the right to live in a safe and welcoming world where they can walk down the street without fear of being harassed or assaulted. Women are also in fear within the confines of their own personal space, as women are more likely to die at the hand of their partner. In 2018, a United Nations global study on the topic of homicide, findings showed that intimate partner violence against woman and girls was at men’s use of violence to employ control over females, a problem derived from widely-accepted gender norms about men’s authority. Research shows that men and boys who adhere to these social ideas of gender roles and masculinity are highly prone to use violence against their partner (Mahdawi, 2019). The Australian Psychological Society, says that the ‘masculine ideology’ is socio-cultural, not medical, and is useful for examining this poisonous behavior. But how is this a socio-cultural idea? Why do men have the right to act this way? Through early childhood, aggression and violence are used in situations to express emotions and distress, over time, this aggression in males shift to asserting power over another, often when masculinity is threatened (Pellegrini & Bartini, 2001). Female empowerment and the feminist movement has threatened male’s masculinity, thus leading to controversial debates over equal rights, generally regarding the man’s position in power. Though when roles are reversed the female threatens the male’s position, the masculine ideals—such as; the restriction of emotional expression and pressure to follow the expectations of dominance and aggression, heighten the potential for men to engage in violent acts against women (Feder, Levant & Dean, 2010). This is why women do not feel safe within this social climate—in public or domestic situations—as they are often subject to bullying, assault, and/or physical and verbal abuse, at the hands of toxic masculinity. How are we supposed to feel safe in a world like that? It comes down to creating conversation within the media, and raising the issue at hand to create a change, and confronting men their corrupt behavior and their outdated idea of masculinity.
Toxic masculinity kills men. It is not only women who suffer at the hands to toxic masculinity, but it is also men are often damaged by this social ideal. The social context of the masculine ideology, begins from a young age, defining the ideal masculinity relating to; toughness, stoicism, heterosexism, self-sufficient attitudes and suppression of emotional sensitivity (Wall & Kristjanson, 2005). This is not an idea that is learned, this is an idea that is taught. Boys are taught to be men from the men in their lives, then from their own experiences navigating the social norm, and usually from what is expected from a social and cultural context. If these social ideals are not met, these young boys are questioned of their character, many go as far as to label and instinctively assume their sexuality. That, from a young age continues to place pressure to become ‘masculine.’ Harmful masculinity occurs when negative masculine ideals are projected, leading to negative effects on their personality (Levant et al., 2003). The Man Box report, launched by Promundo and Axe showed a recent survey of over 1,000 men aged 18-30 in the US, UK, and Mexico, found that young men who embraced the outdated clichés of how ‘real men’ should act, were more likely to suffer depression, engage in self-harm and partake in lethal recreational activities. So how can be let go of this social context hindering boys in their youth? The topic of toxic masculinity has only been an issue as of recently, since 2017. In light of Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein’s systematic sexual harassment of multiple women in the film industry led to great social shift and in today’s media age, and victims across the globe came forward to share stories of assault and abuse. This raised the global conversation about how toxic masculine ideals are instilled in men, but it also raised the important questions of the kind of masculinity we should celebrate, about what it means to be a good man, and how we should go about raising young boys to be good (Saunders, 2017). This led to the #MeToo movement. Nowadays a men’s behavior change program is offered to address domestic violence and allows men to express their feelings and develop into the man they want to become, unchained from the masculine ideal, helping these men understand the impact of their behavior. A study from Monash University found that most men who attended became violence-free or almost violence-free after two years (Om, 2019). With today’s growing media and the controversial social issues and global conversations—an on-going process—it is time that men let go of the masculine ideal, a solution often by seeking help.
It is important to help men realize their actions and allowing them to understand and take responsibility, showing them that it is okay to stand up to defend what is right, as an act of strength, not an expression of weakness. Women have the right to feel safe in any environment, and toxic masculinity is putting them in a position that could potentially be fatal. By speaking out about the issue and standing up for their right to feel safe, allows men to realize their behavior towards women. So rather than engaging in the outdated toxic ideals, that ultimately affect their mental well-being, creating conversation about toxic masculinity allows men to break away from the social norm and allow them to become the man they want to be without social pressures. There is no need for any more to prove their masculinity through aggression, guilt, and fear, it is time to end toxic masculinity.
- Feder, J., Levant, R.F., & Dean, J. (2010). Boys and violence: A gender-informed analysis. Psychology of Violence. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/2152-0828.1.S.3.
- Levant, R., Richmond, K., Majors, R., Inclan, J., Rossello, J., et al. (2003). A multicultural investigation of masculinity ideology and alexithymia. Psychology of Men and Masculinity. Retrieved from dx.doi.org.ezproxy.rit.edu/10.1037/1524-9188.8.131.52.
- Mahdawi, A. (2019). Seriously, Meryl Streep? ‘Toxic masculinity’ doesn’t hurt men – it kills them. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/01/seriously-meryl-streep-toxic-masculinity-doesnt-hurt-men-it-kills-them
- Om, J. (2019). Toxic masculinity: Helping men understand the impact of their behavior. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/life/toxic-masculinity-men-understanding-their-behaviour/9998310
- Saunders, D. (2017). Why good men need to reclaim masculinity from the toxic cliche of power and aggression. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-29/what-makes-a-good-man/9091960
- Wall, D., & Kristjanson. L. (2005). Men, culture, and hegemonic masculinity: understanding the experience of prostate cancer. Nursing Inquiry. Retrieved from doi-org.ezproxy.rit.edu/10.1111.j.1440-1800.2005.00258.x.