The Effects of Toxic Masculinity on Men

Gillette ran a new ad campaign titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”, which divided many people. The video depicted many toxic comments, instances of bullying and other negative actions being excused as normal. Later, people began standing up and changing the script by calling out these negative instances and changing their response. Using the term ‘boys will be boys’ to excuse such actions is problematic. This term is very charged, and I’ve personally seen it used various times, usually to my detriment as a woman. I’ve experienced it through being harassed or insulted and being told to ignore it simply because they were just being boys and this was their way of telling me that they liked me. I never really thought about the reasons that men engage in such behaviour, and that it might be to their detriment as well.

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When I watched the ad and read the comments, I noticed something interesting. Many of the comments focused on why only men were being called out. For example, one by Dennis M states, “A recent study showed that 2/3 of women feel bullied by their female coworkers, but yeah, bullying is totally a form of toxic masculinity.” or this comment by Chad Hartkopf  “they wanted to talk, then they delete comments, feminists…” While the ad made a distinction that not all men demonstrate toxic masculinity, the comments were ignoring the men that do and were only targeting women. This shouldn’t be a comparison to women, who have their own problems and complications. Most of the commenters, mainly men, didn’t get how toxic masculinity is not only harmful to females, hence what the ad was trying to display. The ad depicted two boys fighting and picking on another boy, aiming to show these negative effects and that it must be addressed.

Many people feel very threatened when you question what they hold as core beliefs, so I understand where the backlash to the ad was coming from. Many men took it as an attack of their behaviours which they find to be normal and not problematic. Even with my own beliefs, I often find things to be acceptable because I have been desensitized and just ignore it. People tend to be very abrasive when it comes to changing long held beliefs, but for everyone's benefit, the message in this ad should be taken into consideration with respect to those beliefs.

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The impact of toxic masculinity has also been verified with several research studies. A study done at the Indiana University Bloomington with nearly 20,000 participants stated that, according to the researcher Dr Joel Wong, "people who conform to masculinity have poor mental health." This stems from the common idea of what masculinity should be, which usually doesn’t allow for showing emotions and asking for help. This can lead to violent actions and isolation due to lack of support or opportunity to ask for help. We should focus on how to build up men and promote the idea that it is ok to be vulnerable and possess other qualities that are traditionally seen as not manly. This is why we must be critical of toxic masculinity as it affects everyone, from the victims to its perpetrators. Let’s promote a positive change that will benefit everybody.

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