We Need to Talk About Masculinity

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We need to talk about masculinity. We need to talk about gender. We need to talk about how our norms of how men and women should act are causing big, big problems. Toxic masculinity is not something we can ignore or push to the side. We need to look it in the face and fight it. Until men are no longer taught to reject anything “feminine” within themselves, many men will continue to not value women. Until men are taught to value women, we can never have gender equality.

It is called "toxic masculinity" for a reason. It is poisoning our social world. For centuries, it has been in our water source, in our oxygen. Toxic masculinity has so thoroughly saturated our society we don’t even see it sometimes. We don’t think about telling a little boy to man up. We don’t think about fraternity brothers competing to see who can drink more. We say “oh, boys will be boys.” We are used to men committing heinous crimes that violate the most basic rights of both women and other men. Yes, women also assault. The reason we don’t hear as much about women assaulting men is that toxic norms of masculinity have taught men that they should be more powerful than women. They are taught to feel ashamed if a woman exerts power over them. This is wrong and we need to hold men up to higher expectations of humanity while simultaneously recognizing that society has trained men to act a certain way that often violates that humanity.

I recognize that not all men are aggressive and conform to gender norms; I am talking about societal expectations for men that may or may not apply to individuals. The same way expectations for women may or may not apply to every woman. Regardless of individuals who are an exception to these norms, it is important that we address them. We need to teach boys that masculinity is not about aggression or anger, that masculinity does not have to be the antithesis of femininity. More importantly, we need to acknowledge that gender is not as binary as western society has historically treated it as.

Gender norms suck for everyone, not just women. We need to acknowledge that men do not fit their stereotypes any more than women do. Men cry. Men are emotional. Men can be deeply compassionate. Men can be caretakers. Men can be teachers. Men can be fragile. Yet when we rob them of these things, what do they have left? They have aggression and violence.

Feminism is so important and it is time for women to step into the spotlight. But feminism is two-sided and until we talk about masculinity, how can we fix sexism? If we want true equality for all genders, we need to address the whole issue. We need to talk about masculinity.