Okay, so i know the headline of this article sounds pretty harsh and or presumptuous. It feels like I’ve already assumed that masculinity is a toxic trait that somehow defines all men. Well, i assure you that’s not all we’re going to talk about here.
We all know that from the moment we’re born men and women, boys and girls are assigned a lot of gendered baggage that lets them know how to act, how to dress and even how to feel. Women are destined to become these meek, mysterious and frail creatures that are submissive to the world of men whereas men are assigned the macho, assertive and domineering role that doesn’t look too kindly on weakness of any kind.
Now, whether you identify as a feminist or not, it is still important to understand that the patriarchy, (which is a system in society where a specific kind of man holds all the cards) affects both men and women. And as an extension harms both men and women as well.
This is where you either agree with me or you don’t because either you’re a man who is complicit in his own oppression and you’re fine/unfazed by it or you understand that your emotions, your feelings and your freedoms are brushed off and are even met with punishment in the form of violence or unsaid social ostracism that bars you from being “one of the guys.”
You didn’t ask to be born into this role but now you have to live with it and accept all the things that come along with it. You’ve been taught that you are superior to women and even to other men who don’t fall into the same hetero-normative category as you. Anger and violence is the only way you’ve been allowed to express your emotions, well that and objectifying women who you think are there for your pleasure alone.
Now, you might feel like these things don’t apply to you and that’s fine too. But if you find yourself relating to any one of the things outlined above then you might be falling into the trap of toxic masculinity. Here is where we lose you. Right? Another woman going off about how fucked up men are and how they’re always the problem, right?
Well, wrong because like femininity, masculinity is a beautiful thing. It among your other traits defines who you are as a person. However both of them become toxic or problematic when others i.e. society and it’s various institutions get to decide what it means to be a man or a woman. That’s where the term toxic masculinity comes into play.
The term toxic masculinity might have become this popular buzzword for feminists who use it to only further a specific agenda, because yes it hurts women as well but you’ll be surprised to find out that this idea was actually first identified by a men’s movement in the 90’s as a response to what feminists were saying about the patriarchy and the men in it.
And to me that’s a beautiful turn of events where a whole generation of men stood up and said now, wait just a minute. You can’t box us all into one category because our masculinities are as diverse and as fluid as ourselves.
The idea of a singular “real” masculinity was since then rejected by this movement and sociologist Raewyn Connell’s work added to it and helped breakdown the idea that stereo-typically masculine traits such as being the sole bread winner, being the alpha or even psychical strength were not negative until they became benchmarks to becoming a “real” man. These unattainable standards were rarely ever talked about in the mainstream discourse and most men found little in the way of support groups the way the feminist movement provided women.
Even today, especially in our own context, men and some women feel this great aversion to the feminist movement because unfortunately, it doesn’t always come from a place of understanding, especially since many of us here haven’t actually done our homework on these complex and nuanced issues, we end up cherry picking our “feminist” battles. This will never get anyone anywhere. It will always be an Us Vs Them debate and we will never slay the dragon that keeps us all from realizing our true potential as human beings.
We need to realize that men or women aren’t our enemy. Our enemy is the corporate dragon that benefits from it’s divide and conquer strategy that keeps us all chained within our own insecurities and doubts while it profits off of our gendered feud. Men, Women are not sex objects that you get to toy with and invalidate. Women, men are more than the amount they hold in their bank accounts.
Writing all this, it is understood that toxic masculinity does indeed cause real people harm and the objective is not to state otherwise. The point of this discussion was to shed some light on how toxic masculinity harms men and this is evident today as suicide and depression are the biggest killers of men under the age of 45. This is just one of the many ways this vicious cycle of rigid gender socialization, labeling, performativity and it’s inevitable consequences come back to haunt us all.