What is Toxic Masculinity?

TOXIC MASCULINITY 101

Toxic Masculinity is a term given to the phenomena where to be a ‘real man’, men are expected to be violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, etc. Its most often cited as an example to show how a patriarchal society affects men negatively too.

What’s important to recognize is that toxic masculinity doesn’t and shouldn’t be seen as the epitome of masculinity. Many people identify more as masculine than feminine, which is completely alright. Masculinity, and masculine traits help one understand themselves, and figure out what their identity comprises of. However, toxic masculinity is simply a poisonous byproduct of a society where men were/are supposed to portray themselves as invincible.

Examples of toxic masculinity can be seen everywhere you look. Here are some:

  • “Men are not interested in parenting and cannot handle a family on their own”: This builds on the patriarchal notion that women are made to be caretakers; they should not work and focus instead on family life. What is implied, or in many cases, said outright, is that men are not responsible for raising children, and are unsuited to handling a family, or being a single parent. What this notion does is discourage men from actively participating in their children’s lives, as they assume that is the job of the mother only. Further, it leads to the assumption that in the case of a divorce, the children will live with their mother, hence depriving fathers of their right to a fair custody agreement as it is outweighed by social expectations and norms. Obviously, the above examples assume that we are talking about a straight man, but even a man who is part of the lgbtq+ community suffers similar backlash, as seen where homosexual couples find it hard to adopt a child as many people argue that two men will not be able to take adequate care of a child.
  • Men are always interested in sex and cannot be a victim of abuse: People often say that men are always interested in sex, and are ready to have sex at almost any time. What this notion does is discard the idea of consent for men. By this assumption, one negates their personal right to refuse to perform a sexual act, or respond to sexual advances. It makes men, especially young men, uncomfortable and more likely to stay silent instead of telling their partner they’re not in the mood. This can be seen in situations of abuse, where a common retort men often hear when they share their experiences of abuse, is that since they are men, they cannot be abused. They are often told that they should have just been happy and enjoyed the act, which sets a harmful precedent on how society treats male victims of abuse, especially legally.
  • Emasculation: This encompasses a range of activities that a ‘Real Man’ wouldn’t do, for example taking interest in one’s looks, being emotional and crying, needing help, being sympathetic, appreciating “frivolous” things such as sugary “girly” drinks, romantic styles, cute animal videos, romcom flicks. By belittling activities such as these, which are not seen as masculine enough, and promoting traits like excessive aggression, society encourages the toxic side of masculinity only to gasp in horror when the toxicity seeps into the system.

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