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.

Weekly Roundup – 18th to 25th March

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“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

– Abigail Adams

In today’s world of information overload, we might miss something worthwhile. Every week, I’ll be flagging some of the articles I have read, which I found interesting, for you. Here’s the roundup for the week:

  1. This article in Deutsche Welle, written by Ajit Niranjan, talks about gender budgeting, which aims to remove discrimination from public policy by making policies that are not “gender blind”.
  2. Starbucks has announced that they have reached 100% gender and racial pay equity in the United States, and have stated that they will work to bridge this gap in all the other countries they operate in. In order to help other companies achieve the same goal, they’ve listed pay equity principles – equal footing, transparency and accountability-  that employers can implement to help address known, systemic barriers to global pay equity.
  3. Elena Ferrante, in her weekend column at Guardian, talks about how women are still unable to be fully themselves in a world that’s governed by male needs. She says “Women live amid permanent contradictions and unsustainable labours. Everything, really everything, has been codified in terms of male needs – even our underwear, sexual practices, maternity. We have to be women according to roles and modalities that make men happy, but we also have to confront men, compete in public places, making them more and better than they are, and being careful not to offend them.”
  4. Written by Sushma U N at Quartz, this article talks about how Indian companies are actively trying to recruit more women in order to fix their gender diversity problems.
  5. As part of the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded Family Planning Outreach Programme, which provides much-needed sexual and reproductive health services to rural women, more than 16,000 survivors of gender based violence in Tanzania are receiving clinical services, as well as the referrals required for legal and social services. Intra Health International details how the team responsible for this outcome worked over the past 3 years.
  6.  Yasemin Besen Cassino talks about her new book which studies the origins of the wage gap by studying the teenage workforce. She says “Part-time teenage jobs seem trivial, but they are the first entry into the workforce for girls and boys. In these jobs, they are socialized into the workforce—and they internalize its problems. The wage gap starts with girls—and we need to include them in our movement to close it.”

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

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Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

What is Gender?

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Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex (i.e., the state of being male, female, or an intersex variation), sex-based social structures (i.e., gender roles), or gender identity.

Redoing Gender seeks to understand the meaning of gender and the social roles associated with it, it’s impact and it’s effect. We believe gender is a social construct that cannot be eradicated or undone, but can be redone in order to have equality and parity between all genders.