The Cambridge Dictionary describes toxic masculinity as “the way that men should behave that are seen as harmful, for example the idea that men should not cry or admit weakness”.
Calling out toxic masculinity does not mean that we are calling out all men. It merely means that various behavior, which is seen as traditionally masculine, may be adversely affecting a certain number.
In layman’s terms, what exactly are we talking about? We’re talking about when males choose to hide their real feelings about something as doing so might be considered weak or feminine or gay. We’re talking about the assumption that violence amplifies someone’s manliness. We’re talking about the need some feel to dominate women.
This is a term which, if not adequately contextualized and understood, may seem bigoted. Research tells us that there is not much different between the male and female brain. The reason people of different genders tend to act differently isn’t because of biological factors but because of unyielding societal norms.
Toxic masculinity can easily take the form of bullying of boys by their peers and domestic violence directed towards boys in their home. It produces psychological trauma in growing boys/adult men through the promotion of aggression and the lack of interpersonal connections and/or intimate relationships with their friends or family.
These traits are reinforced when rude, disrespectful or violent habits in boys are pushed aside with the phrase “boys will be boys”.
The American Psychological Association says that these traditionally masculine traits, such as suppressing emotions and masking distress have been linked to less willingness in boys and men to seek help and inciting or indulging in aggression, harming themselves and with those who they interact.
This environment of aggressive masculinity affects not only women in the form of domestic violence, sexual assault, etc., but also men of all ages and from all backgrounds. Men who emotionally repress themselves are more likely to face problems including, but not limited to, depression, increased stress and substance abuse. Globally, the suicide rate for men is twice as high as for women.
Psychiatrist Frank Pittman wrote about the ways in which men are harmed by numerous traditionally masculine norms, suggesting that its impacts include shorter lifespans, greater possibility of a violent death, and ailments such as lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.
Specialists also believe that this behavior cannot be easily discouraged in men by women but can only be altered by men themselves helping each other out.
A Psychology Today blogpost talks about how usage to gender specific terms may prompt students to construct gendered stereotypes, and in turn, these stereotypes may allow unconscious biases to form and grow in the minds of the children.
To make our society a healthier one, gender disparities need to be dispelled of and men, as well as women, should be allowed to be themselves and not be discouraged by being told how something is too ‘feminine’ or too ‘manly’.