The Pink
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The Pink

Masculinity Doesn’t Have to be Toxic, It’s Not Hazardous Waste

Toxic masculinity is a patriarchal construct that is terribly harmful to men and women.

Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

Men who are afraid to feel, keep women around them to do their feeling for them while dismissing us for the same supposedly ‘inferior’ capacity to feel deeply. But in this way also, men deny themselves their own essential humanity, becoming trapped in dependency and fear.”

-Audre Lorde

Toxic masculinity is the harmful behaviour or characteristics that society has attached to men. Simply put, it is what society thinks a man should be. Toxic masculinity is better explained by giving examples — Boys don’t cry, men aren’t allowed to show emotions. This is ingrained into boys from childhood and they grow up into men who can’t communicate or express how they feel, they end up putting the burden of determining their emotions or someone.

Another common example is that men should be the sole financial providers of the family. Society has placed the burden of financial responsibility on men as the head of the family.

When boys spend a lot of time in the bathroom or spend time on skincare routines, fashion or anything generally considered to be feminine, they are taunted with words like, “why are you behaving like a woman?”

As harmless as this may sound, it is one of the typical examples of toxic masculinity, men and boys are expected to not pay too much attention towards beautifying themselves, men are expected to be shabby looking, to be nonchalant about how they look. When men do the opposite and pay attention to their personal hygiene, their looks and their appearances, they are tagged homosexuals or emasculated, these words are used in a derogatory way to demean them. Meanwhile, as much as homosexual relationships are frowned upon by toxic men, they sexualize lesbian relationships. Toxicity enables this type of bias and double standards.

Toxic masculinity is a patriarchal construct that is terribly harmful to men and women. When boys are indoctrinated from childhood to be tough, to not cry because only girls cry, to not play with dolls or like the colour pink because it is feminine, it puts in their mind that girls are beneath them.

When boys are encouraged to resort to violence or clampdown on their feelings rather than communicate to show bravery and manliness, it is the women in their lives who will bear the weight for them. They are the ones who will be expected to know and understand their feelings when they aren’t effectively communicating, they are the ones who will be the victims of their violent outbursts, they are the ones who will be expected to clean up their messes.

When we force men into a certain predetermined lifestyle, we not only affect their mental and physical wellbeing, we put the women around them in danger too. Whatever point patriarchy is trying to score over women with this only ends up hurting a lot of men as well. It’s like intentionally setting yourself on fire to hurt other people and that doesn’t make any sense.

Before a man can hurt a woman, he must have some certain type of hate for himself, let’s take rape for example. Rape is about power dynamics — the rapist is usually in a position of power, either through physical strength or power got from a societal status, or the power to manipulate victims mentally — sometimes the rapist can have all three. The rapist feels the compulsion to exercise this power and therefore rapes.

For a person to feel to want to feel powerful or good about himself by hurting others must certainly have some sort of self-hate for himself. Toxic masculinity brings about this type of self-loathing where men only see themselves as men when they are in a position of power.

These words by Bell Hooks backs up this argument: “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence towards women. Instead, patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”

Toxic Masculinity has to go — it shouldn’t have a place in a society that wants to thrive. So, how do we tackle and bring it down?

Taking from former US President, Barak Obama’s words:

“All of us have to recognize that being a man is first and foremost being a good human. That means being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate. If you are confident about your strength, you don’t need to show me by putting somebody else down, show me by lifting somebody else up.”

To be man, woman or non-binary you have to be human first and as humans, we all have red blood running through our veins. The first step towards overcoming toxic masculinity is understanding that nothing comes first before our humanity. Harbouring evil ill towards another human based on gender, religious and racial differences is an example of questionable humanity.

The second step is honing our ability to unlearn. It’s not our fault that we were taught a lot of harmful things as children but it is our responsibility to have an open-minded approach towards life so that we can identify and unlearn those harmful things ingrained in us from childhood. To achieve an equal society, toxic masculinity absolutely needs to go.

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