The phrase toxic masculinity has become fairly prevalent in the past few years, and it refers to a set of norms that are harmful to men and masculinity. These norms include rigid gender roles, abuse, harassment, objectification, violence, and other abusive or restrictive patterns of behavior that are typically reinforced by social institutions such as patriarchy.
Since it is so pervasive in our society, it is important for both men and women to understand its true nature. However, precisely because it is so widespread, many people often misconstrue its true meaning. That’s why reading this article with an open mind will help you understand what the term means and how you can apply that knowledge into your own life.
What Does it Mean to Be “Toxic”?
The term “toxic” is generally used to describe something harmful and destructive to organisms or the environment. Similarly, the word Toxic Masculinity, means to be destructive for both themselves and their environment.
To understand the word completely, one needs to grasp what masculinity is. The word masculinity refers to the traditional qualities associated with men.
This is to be strong, powerful and responsible. But this doesn’t seem negative right? It isn’t!
Well here is when it becomes negative. Thinking not talking about your problems is strong, taking all decisions is power, and believing feminine qualities to be weaker are traits of a toxic man. These toxic qualities are imbibed at a very young and impressionable age through parents and other influences like teachers, video games and television. These beliefs then solidify as we grow and more influencers like pornography, reading and peers propagate the same idea.
Effects of Toxic Masculinity
Toxic masculinity hurts both the man and the people around him. There are different types of toxic behaviour. It can manifest as hyper independence, sexual aggression, violence towards women and bullying of men of more feminine nature among other ways. A toxic man ultimately believes to be a superior human being for being or rather showing hyper masculine characteristics. But these qualities come at a personal price. The repression of feelings, ignorance of personal traumas & health issues often leads to a lonely & short life.
4 Examples of Toxic Masculinity in Action
- The Man Box: When society expects men and women to behave in specific ways. It automatically creates boundaries that are not to be crossed. Read more about the ‘Man Box’ here.
- Lack of Human Rights: Studies show that hyper masculinity can be linked to harassment, sexual assault of women & gender based violence towards women.
- Violence: Violence towards weaker or marginalized groups are a common showcase of toxic behaviour. You can find more in this newsletter by the American Psychological Association in 2018.
- Toxic relationships: Men often treat romantic or sexual relationships as a game of dominance rather than a chance to connect with another human being.
3 Ways You Can Break Free
To break free means stepping outside of your comfort zone. It also means challenging the ideas that you’ve been taught about what it means to be a man. It’s important to remember that there is no one way to be a man and that no two men will ever share the same experiences. Here are some ways one can break free from toxic masculinity:
- Educate yourself about toxic masculinity: The more aware & knowledgable you are, the easier it will be to see things from an objective point of view.
- Practice self-compassion: Men are taught that showing emotions is a sign of weakness, which is why they often push away their feelings. This builds a wall between them and the world outside. It can hence lead to major mental health issues like depression & anxiety in the long run.
- Communication for the win: Communicating openly and honestly can be the most vulnerable thing that one has to do, but also the most effective. In case, its too soon to talk to family, take the time out to talk to a mental health counsellor who has experience in men’s health
The next time you hear the term “toxic masculinity,” you’ll know exactly what it means and why it is harmful to everyone. The more you know about toxic masculinity, the easier it will be to break free of it in your own life. This can include stomaching your emotions instead of bottling them up inside or lashing out at others when you feel stressed, anxious, or angry. It can also include learning how to communicate openly and honestly with other people, especially when discussing topics that might make you uncomfortable like race, class, and gender issues.