The Dangers of Toxic Masculinity
Toxic masculinity is a term that has been used for several decades and is commonly misunderstood. Oftentimes, people hear the term “toxic masculinity” and immediately assume that the message being conveyed is that “manliness” is bad. Being a man is not a bad thing. The problem is that sometimes, men may have certain attitudes or social guidelines that have harmful impacts on other men, women, and society.
Examples of toxic masculinity may include:
- Homophobia-“The term ‘gay’ being used as an insult”
- Need for control-“Men must assert their power and dominance”
- Promiscuity-“Men can have several sexual partners but its gross when women do the same”
- Refusing to help with household duties-“Men reject roles that are considered ‘women’s work’”
- Risk-taking-“The need to suppress fear and engage in behaviors that may harm self and others”
- Sexual aggression toward women-“Men are entitled to women’s bodies”
- Stoicism-“Showing emotion is weak and feminine”
- Violence-“Using aggression to assert dominance and masculinity”
Growing up in Texas, I found that I was exposed to many of the above examples at school, in society, and in the media. Men and women around me seemed to view these traits as “normal” and that behaviors outside the norm were wrong. I fell victim to engaging in some of these behaviors and did not realize how they were wrong until I exposed myself to other ways of thinking and saw the damage toxic masculinity had on myself and others.
The good news is that if you find yourself engaging in these behaviors, you have the ability to change them. The first step to change is acknowledging that you do, in fact, have some toxic masculinity traits. When I look back at my own life and see some of the examples of toxic masculinity that I engaged in, I feel remorse. Guilt is good, in that it helps us to change. However, shame gives us the idea that we are bad and cannot change (which is not true!).
Next, with our new understanding of toxic masculinity, we aim to improve our behaviors. When we make a mistake, we correct it. When we see our friends or family engage in toxic masculinity behaviors, we let them know that it is harmful and encourage them to change their behaviors in a respectful way. Sometimes our toxic masculinity traits may be deeply engrained within us. Participating in therapy can be extremely helpful in changing beliefs and behaviors that are influenced by toxic masculinity.
What about society? How can we change that? In order to change society, we work to change ourselves and be an example to others. Moving away from toxic masculinity brings us closer to improved mental health, and therefore, increased happiness. Removing toxic masculinity from society will decrease violence, increase inclusivity, and promote healthier living for everyone. I invite you to consider the way in which toxic masculinity has played a role in your life. Have you witnessed these behaviors in those whom you know? Have you witnessed these behaviors and beliefs within yourself? Have you considered the way in which these beliefs and behaviors may harm others or even yourself?
Reference material: https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/what-is-toxic-masculinity