Since gender norms were established a long time ago, people have all these ideas of what it’s like to be a man or a woman. Newborns are differentiated by wearing blue or pink, young girls are taught that they have to be cute, quiet and polite, while teaching young boys that they must be tough, dominant and never cry or show any vulnerability. Such things are examples of what toxic masculinity can look like, and despite the name may imply, it’s harmful to both men and women, here’s why:
First of all, gender is a social construct. There is no biological proof whatsoever that says that men and women act a certain way because it’s natural, however, it’s clearer every day that we live and act a certain way because of the way we’re taught to. With that said, toxic masculinity is the glorification of the “manly man”, by the traditional gender stereotypes, and it can be seen in lots of everyday actions. By teaching boys things like “real men don’t cry”, for example, they’ll grow up to believe that showing emotions makes them less of a man, since it’s associated with femininity. Consequently, not only is men’s mental health neglected, which is linked to issues like alcoholism, depression, and anxiety, but it also leads them to portray women as inferior.
There’s also the idea that men have to be dominant or aggressive in order to get what they want, and this is where all kinds of violence come in, with women as the main victims. This usually starts with the “boys will be boys” mentality and it evolves with the help of media and video games by pushing aggressiveness as natural to men. As a result, women live in constant fear, afraid of being harassed or assaulted because we know that up to today, we are blamed for every single action that we do, since it’s considered natural for men to behave like that.
So now that we know what toxic masculinity is and how it can affect men and women, whose responsibility is it to change that? The short and simple answer would be everyone, society as a whole, however, I feel that it’s most important right now that men acknowledge the issue and speak up on it. Not only that, but it’s also essential that they start holding each other accountable for unhealthy actions or behaviors.
To deconstruct such internalized issues is definitely not easy so it’s great that we’re addressing them more publicly, it’s only the first step. That’s why I’m inviting you right now to go talk about it with your family and friends, especially the men in your life, and discuss how it affects them. Finally, I believe there’s some hope for the future as younger generations seem to be more open to reviewing toxic masculinity and other gender related topics.
The article above was edited by Anna Bastos.
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