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Masculinity Isn’t Toxic

Dec 03, 2021

By now, just about all of us are familiar with the term toxic masculinity. I’ve heard many men express frustration upon hearing it, immediately getting defensive and upset. They forget that this term isn’t meant as a blanket statement regarding masculinity itself, but rather, certain behaviors and patterns.

The Oxford dictionary defines toxic masculinity as a set of attitudes and ways of behaving stereotypically associated with or expected of men, regarded as having a negative impact on men and society.

Some have criticized the concept of toxic masculinity as an undue condemnation of traditional masculinity, or an essentialist notion that ignores the role of choice and context in causing harmful behaviors and attitudes related to masculinity.

In the social sciences, toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society. This concept does not condemn male attributes but emphasizes the detrimental effects of conformity to traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.

Let’s put these behaviors in context to help you understand that they can contribute to this toxicity even though they are not generally harmful.

  • Dominance: The need to control others and have power over them.
  • Self-Reliance: The reluctance to seek or receive help from others, even when you desperately need it.
  • Competition: The drive to be better than those around you, often at their expense and without consideration for kindness.

These traits have positive applications and can be used for healthy growth, but unfortunately, they often are misused in the ways mentioned above, resulting in general dissatisfaction for everyone involved.

Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger. It is marked by economic, political, and social expectations that men seek and achieve dominance. This creates a drive to be the “alpha male.”

That being said, masculinity itself is not toxic. In its purest, most natural form, it is sacred and valuable beyond measure.

Healthy masculinity is devoid of stereotypes and pressure. It encourages authenticity and kindness, acceptance of yourself and others around you.

Traits like strength, courage, leadership, independence, and assertiveness typically associated with masculinity are not negative; however, be sure that you embody these out of your own authentic desire and ability to be true to yourself. If you are more sensitive or prefer to follow someone else’s lead, don’t spend all your time forcing yourself to be someone you’re not. This is unproductive and wasteful in the long run.

On that same note, if you desire any of these traits and do not currently have them, it is okay to work toward gaining these if you are willing to look within yourself and healthily make these changes. Be aware of your mental and emotional states. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, and process them. Stoicism and aloof attitudes are not beneficial for anyone.

Think of the animated Disney film Mulan. Most of us are very familiar with the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” and we can sing along or make good-natured jokes.

Be a man
You must be swift as the coursing river

Be a man
With all the force of a great typhoon

Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon

If you truly pay attention to the lessons in this movie, though, we learn that these standards for manliness can be unhealthy and unrealistic and that sometimes, it comes in handy to be more in touch with our softer or more intellectual sides.

The bottom line here is, just be yourself! The world doesn’t need more stereotypical men; it needs perspective, depth, and vulnerability. This is how we learn, grow and improve together. These toxic trends of isolation need to be put behind us.

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