Toxic Masculinity

As a man who does not necessarily conform to the traditional male archetype – the strong, assertive jock who would much rather play basketball than write this blog post – I have always struggled under society’s expectation that I should “man up” and begin to display signs of traditional masculinity as I have gotten older. Only recently have I been able to analyze my situation and understand how the way in which society raises boys has created a very narrow definition for what a boy should think, do, and be. This toxic masculinity negatively affects all men, and leads to a perpetuation of prejudice as men attempt to conform to traditional male roles by repressing behavior deemed as girly or by discriminating against “other” people as a defense of (or perhaps an assertion of) their machismo.

The most effective way to cause emotional pain within a man is to tell him that, in fact, he is not a man at all. Societal constructs that dictate what is “masculine” and what is not are based upon centuries-old ideas about an inherent difference between the sexes – women are naturally more caring, more compassionate, and are better suited for a docile life while men are naturally more aggressive, more pragmatic, and better fit to lead and rule. In other words, this outdated thinking puts forth the notion that anything relating to women implies weakness while male-related activities imply strength. As such, men feel as if they cannot stray from activities that reinforce this manliness for fear of social ostracism and discrimination (bringing to light the close relationship between ideas about masculinity and sexuality). This is why phrases like “you throw like a girl” or “grow a pair” hold so much weight with men – the first reinforces the idea that men must be physically strong (and women weak) and the second asserts that true men (the only men who would presumably have a pair) must only conform to the traditional idea of men as strong, assertive, emotionally closed off, and unable to process emotions.

Through their upbringing and early socialization, many men never learn how to properly process their emotions, therefore leading to bouts of anger and spontaneous violence. Toxic masculinity, evident in the perception of a “competition” between males, leads boys to attempt to one-up one another through assertions of their masculinity (which perpetuates rape culture as men collectively view women as a prize that should be caught and shown off). Even in simple things that restrict men in their ability to express – such as the assertion that boys cannot like the color pink or dye their hair – serve to deprive men of their own identity and inevitably lead to inquiries from others regarding their sexuality and, in turn, their maleness as a whole.

Men must attempt to help each other overcome massive societal controls while simultaneously stuck in a culture that promotes male competition and violence. Only through the acceptance of the fact that masculinity in and of itself is restrictive because of its inherently defining nature can men collectively work to grow as they shed generations of unnecessary expectations and values.
— Stefano Pastrana, House of Sagan