Toxic Masculinity: Common Issues and How to Fight It

Toxic Masculinity: Common Issues and How to Fight It


The term toxic masculinity is often used to describe the negative aspects related to exaggerated masculinity. It is a result of cultural pressures for men to behave in a certain way and it is likely that all boys and men are affected by this problem. The toxicity of masculinity refers to a tendency to justify aggression, dominance, and homophobia through a person's perception of "manliness." This idea that men should act tough and avoid showing their emotions can be harmful to their mental health and have serious consequences for society, which is why it is described as "toxic masculinity”. 



Toxic masculinity is something more than acting like a man. It has more to do with the intense pressure men may feel to act in a harmful way. Modern society often refers to exaggerated male characteristics as toxic masculinity, which many cultures have widely accepted and praised. As part of this harmful concept of masculinity, ‘manliness’ is defined as: strength, lack of emotion, self-sufficiency, dominance, sexual virility, power, anti-femininity, etc. A man who doesn't exhibit enough of these traits may not be a 'real man,' according to traditional toxic masculine values. 



A person who overemphasizes these traits may be challenged to live up to his or her expectations, resulting in undesirable imbalances like aggression, sexual aggression, control, showing no emotion or suppressing emotions, hyper-competitiveness, need to dominate, glorification of violence, isolation, low empathy, entitlement, chauvinism and sexism.



A typical example would be to tell someone who is expressing emotion to "man up;" in other words, to hide that emotion. It illustrates how some people view emotion or vulnerability as unmanly. Another common example is a phrase that says, "boys will be boys." This expression encourages young males to behave in a careless, aggressive, or otherwise damaging way rather than teach them how to be responsible and admit their mistakes. 



The danger of toxic masculinity is that it limits a person's growth and definition of what it means to be a man. This can lead to conflict between the individual and his surroundings. Those men who do not meet these characteristics suffer from gender role conflict.



Some boys or adult men may feel that they can only gain acceptance by living up to these exaggerated masculine traits. When left unchecked, toxic masculinity can lead to a variety of issues, including: bullying, domestic violence, sexual assault, risky behaviors, substance abuse, lack of friendships or genuine connections. 



Toxic masculinity discourages men from getting treatment for mental illness. Substance abuse problems, mental health problems, and depression are often seen as weaknesses.  Toxic masculinity might also insist that men shouldn't talk about their feelings. It may also make men less likely to reach out and get help when they are experiencing a mental health issue and can cause loneliness and isolation.




Effect on mental health:




Social pressures, family expectations, and expectations about religious identity can be burdensome for a man seeking his male identity. Although some social, political, or religious groups may provide guidelines for a healthy form of masculinity, it is better for an individual to stick with his or her own definition, provided it does not harm them or others. Men's roles might include a variety of human experiences, such as:  openly experiencing a wide range of emotions, interdependence, vulnerability, cooperation, kindness, softness. This does not mean that all traditionally masculine traits should be abandoned. Strength and adventure, which are traditionally masculine characteristics, can help some people define what they consider to be masculine.



Issues created by toxic masculinity:



When toxic masculinity is not checked, it can cause several problems such as 


  • Bullying

  • Discipline in school

  • Academic challenges

  • There may also be jail or prison time

  • Domestic violence

  • Sexual assault

  • Some kind of risky behavior or substance abuse

  • Suicidal behavior

  • Psychological abuse

  • Lack of friends or lack of connections which are genuine



A person's masculinity should not be entirely defined by these traits, but rather as just one part of their identity. The most important point is that masculinity is not a trait society can impart or take away from anyone. Individuals are responsible for defining their own identity. Toxic masculinity cannot be eliminated or changed overnight. Gender roles will continue to shift as more people define masculinity according to their own definitions and include other human experiences. Redefining what it means to be a man is the first step in moving past toxic masculinity. Individuals can educate themselves about their attitudes towards masculinity and help others change their definitions of the term. By allowing others to openly discuss their feelings about the issue, people may re-shape their own definitions of the issue. As more people learn about toxic masculinity and receive help for it, there may be a greater chance that society will reduce the pressure men feel to act in certain ways. 




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