For years, many people have believed being a man means being a leader and a breadwinner. A man must be an emotionless, unwavering pillar that relies on nobody but himself.
This belief and the traits it values have evolved into what is known today as “toxic masculinity.” A large portion of the male population severely lacks emotional and social maturity and empathy because of this concept.
Toxic masculinity is a dangerous form of self-preservation for men who fail to keep up with the changing landscape of societal gender norms. The ramifications of this ideology affect everyone, from the men who exercise it to the individuals who live in danger because of it.
Everyone, especially men, needs to actively challenge and stand up to the outdated expectations of what it means to be a man.
From birth, most boys become familiar with not expressing soft emotions because traditional masculine ideology does not approve of such behavior. When they feel sad or scared, they are told to “man up.”
With no one teaching them how to handle their emotions, the boys grow into men who cannot deal with emotional stress and rarely ask for help or support because doing so displays weakness, according to a study by Richard Eisler and Janice Blalock in 1991.
It comes as an unsurprising fact, considering their lack of emotional development or support networks, that men are over three times more likely to commit suicide than women, according to a briefing given in February 2021 by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The process of tackling toxic masculinity begins by examining the values and lessons we instill in men.
They grow up bottling their emotions because they internalize the idea that expressing themselves and their feelings is an undesirable trait. They feel they cannot have platonic intimacy or understanding with other men due to the prejudice held under the traditional masculine ideology.
The men championing toxic masculinity hurt themselves and others. The ever-present need for these men to be the “alpha” causes them to be more abrasive and confrontational around other men and more boastful and entitled around women.
Non-binary individuals, women and gay men become threats when viewed from a lens of toxic masculinity because those who follow these beliefs feel threatened by the ever-growing presence of alternatives to traditional gender roles.
Men are significantly more likely to have stronger ideals of homophobia, transphobia or sexism than women. This fact relates an adherence of strict societal heteronormative and patriarchal values, according to Arizona State University.
When discussing toxic masculinity, people should remember there are positive traits and values that have been traditionally linked to male gender roles, such as determination, courage and fairness.
In fact, people should counter toxic masculinity with a healthy, progressive idea of what it means to be masculine. Masculinity in itself is not a bad thing. But when it begins to revolve around arrogance, entitlement, misogyny or rigid gender norms, then it becomes an issue that needs to be discussed.
Since men typically instigate and perpetuate the problems, they must be the ones to end them. They must stand up and actively counter the rhetoric that reinforces outdated worldviews because sitting idly while there’s an obvious problem is the same as supporting it.
It may seem like a daunting task at first, but it doesn’t have to be a grand display against the patriarchy. It can start small, like telling a young boy that they can adore the color pink or simply telling their friends they look nice.
Sometimes, simply being kind, compassionate and warm can do a lot to make the world a better place for everybody.