Masculinity : Qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men. Manhood or manliness
Toxic : Poisonous, venomous
Toxic Masculinity is a term that has been popping out a lot lately. It shows up in different blogs, articles, chat rooms, but most importantly mainstream media. All this mention of it has left many of us confused as to what it really means, and what those who are constantly referring to it are trying to say.
You would think that a term such as toxic masculinity would have been invented by man-hating feminist. Was it? Is toxic masculinity a misandrist term? When people mention the accolade toxic masculinity, are they doing so out of love and concern for the boys and men in our society? Maybe they are trying to protect our young girls and women? Or both?
While trying to put some order in all this information for my personal understanding, I learned that the term was in fact coined by a men's group, between the 1980's and 90's. They believed society had lost touch with some masculine traits and this (men being less masculine) was harming them. They conducted rituals trying to connect to their spirituality and to nature. Since then the term toxic masculinity has taken some very different spins.
When you hear or read Toxic Masculinity now, know that it still refers to societal norms imposed on boys and men that can be harmful to society and men themselves. However, today we are talking about more traditionally masculine norms.
The characteristics that are being targeted are some that are typically displayed by males and are very negative in their nature. Mainly we refer to:
1. Suppressing emotions (masking distress)
2. Maintaining an appearance of hardness (stoicism)
3. Power and dominance manifested through violence and aggression
4. Showing strength is important while showings emotions reveals weakness
5. Competitiveness, dominance
Of course, one can see how these characteristics can become problematic and would need to be addressed. Especially when one does not naturally embody them and feels he must in order to be considered manly.
The American Psychological Association has released its first ever guidelines to help boys and men dealing with all the negative outcomes of such behaviors. In the last decades the many negative effects have been observed and documented.
Some of these are
1. Academic challenges
2. Health disparities (men are less likely to seek treatment, especially preventative treatment)
3. Substance abuse
4. Violent crime and at risk of being a victim of a violent crime
5. High risk of successful suicide
Thankfully the APA reacted, and it hopes to be able to help with these issues. Proper attention needs to be given to boys and men who are suffering and sometimes making others suffer along with them. The problem begins when quick and easy solutions are wanted. These problems are intricate and difficult to deal with even by very trained professionals. So, when some current activists and third wave feminists believe they have all the answers we should be concerned….
It appears they have it all figured out. Listen to them talk or read what they are advocating, and you might be concerned as well. Their solution seems quite simple - if traditional manly characteristics are harmful, let's eradicate them all together. If boys are experiencing the problem because of their 'boyhood', let's help them be more like girls and the problem will be solved. Let us feminize young men in the hopes of diminishing the unwanted effects of this toxic masculinity.
This myopic view of the world and the varied problems faced by men and boys is alarming and, in my opinion, equally if not more harmful to our society than the toxic traits themselves.
It is overly simplified and a little naive to believe that the characteristics mentioned earlier are solely a societal construct. Having observed both my son and my daughter in their very early stages on this world, I strongly believe that boys and girls are made different. They are born different and surprisingly what seemed to be an obvious statement some years ago is now controversial.
Starting with that premise, we need to teach boys how to control certain behaviors and we need to teach them how to release some frustrations but not necessarily the way girls would. Simply because they are not girls, and their needs are different.
Bad men absolutely exist, but they don't become good when they stop being men, they become good when they stop being bad.
Time has shown that characteristics such as dominance, aggression, impulsiveness and competitiveness cannot be eliminated from the male psyche, but all of these can be honed and thus used for good.
Think of a fireman, the willingness to risk everything in order to protect is only helped by all those characteristics. How else would one run into a burning building while everyone else is running out? It would not be because of his willingness to express his feelings but rather an impulsive urge to dominate and control the elements around him.
YES, our society is far from perfect. There is a lot of room for improvement. Men are not perfect. But we will be heading in a terrible direction if we think that instead of dealing with the issues and accepting that there are very many ways of being a good man, we instead have men not be men at all.