Toxic Masculinity - Suhani Srivastava

For decades, we’ve been using terms like “red-blooded”, “macho”, “boys don’t cry”, “man up” or” machismo” to describe the kind of hulking masculinity that men were and are, on some level, expected to aspire to.

Now, toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. The Good Men Project says, “It’s the cultural idea of manliness where strength is everything and emotions are a weakness, where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.”

Discussing toxic masculinity is not saying men are bad or evil, and the term itself is not an assertion that men are naturally violent. I deeply believe that men are not naturally violent but, in a culture, where physical strength equates masculinity, young boys and some men may simply believe that they are failing at “being a man”. For these men and boys suppress their emotions and create a vacuum in their lives which can be filled through violence and aggression. Norms of toxic masculinity are fed to our young boys from an early age by using phrases such as “mard ko dard nahi hota.” And even if some boys grow to be not what the society would call a “man”, they pay the price. At best, they risk invisibility and at the worst, they risk disrespect, bullying or even violence. The scramble for dominance, superiority and denial of emotion make aggression a reasonable way to solve a conflict, forbids seeking mental health care and pours fuel on the fire of drug and alcohol abuse.

The American Psychologist Association said, “Boys live under intensified pressure to display gender-appropriate behaviours according to the ideal male code and looking at the development of aggression throughout childhood, we know that not only do aggressive behaviours can emerge at an early age, they also tend to persist over time without early prevention intervention.” The very premise of hegemonic masculinity in some ways is based on the idea of isolation because it’s about being autonomous and not showing any emotion whatsoever. Creating healthy relationships and living a life this way can be hard and miserable. As the youth of today, we should educate ourselves, our peers and also our parents to create safe, healthy, nurturing environments and relationships that prevent modelling violence to children, and teach them to express and regulate their emotions and feelings. Our boys have had to “man-up” for too long now, they deserve a happy life wherein they’re taught how to deal with their emotions and struggles rather than just channel everything into violence and aggression. When we talk about toxic masculinity, we are doing so out of love and care for all men and boys in all our lives.