Masculinity is a set of attributes, behaviors, associated with boys and men. it is distinct from the definition of the male biological sex. Standards of masculinity vary across different cultures and historical periods.
Traditionally men are attracted to paths or endeavours that validates his masculinity and leverages on his masculine ability. Sports, Fire fighting, hunting, military. These require traditionally-masculine traits, such as pain tolerance, endurance, competitiveness, muscularity, strength, heroism, courage, independence, dominance, control ,and assertiveness.
These traits in themselves are not bad, as they are necessary for everyday living. Also, most of these traits are also expressed by ladies.
The dysfunctional expression of these traits have also become the root of toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity is a social construct where Masculinity is secured by:
1. denying expression of behaviors we deem feminine: semblance of softness, show of emotion, vulnerability, other characteristic associated with women and femininity.
2. The dysfunctional expression of certain behaviours we deem masculine.
Researchers have found that men respond to threats to their manhood by engaging in stereotypically-masculine behaviors and beliefs.
These are behaviours that have been reinforced by our response to men when they wear boys. We have unconsciously limited their emotional vocabulary and expression; but at the same time we have validated certain dysfunctional behaviours from men.
It is important to note that the expression of certain behaviours are toxic. Toxicity is not gender based. We need to address those ideologies and behaviours and not just genders. Toxicity is not gender based.
Over the years, men have grown to be adapters.
Where is it learnt?
Everyday we are preaching toxic masculinity.
We are constantly telling men what to be and who to be. Adapting to the construct of what society says it means to be a man; and when he doesn’t measure up, he sometimes feels less of a man.
We tell them from childhood: Men don’t feel pain, Men don’t show weakness, Men don’t seek help, Men always have it figured out, Men can always handle their own, Men should always be in control.
We give them an image of who a man should look like: He should be tall and handsome. He should be able to attract girls. He should dress a certain way. He should drive a certain car. He should be comfortable doing alcohol and drugs.
Through the media, we are programming and reinforcing what it means to be a man.
What are the effects?
Now, we are seeing more male suicide across the world, but men don’t ask for help.
Men are by far the major perpetrators and victims of violence, because the emotions of anger have been overly validated.
1 in 6 guys experience sexual abuse before the age of 18, but as men “they shouldn’t speak out”
There are a thousand and one issues affecting men worldwide, but men can’t even raise awarenessor come out to say these things affect them.
The Mistake We Are Making
In a bid to counter these toxic behavioural expressions, we have begun to stigmatize certain other behaviours we think are masculine (courage, strength, competitiveness, independence, heroism).
Our culture needs to respond, “not in flipping the hierarchy so that stereotypically feminine behavior is on top and masculine behavior is subsided. We simply have to stop gendering and sexualizing core human capacities and needs.
There is no good or bad behaviour, it’s a question of whether it is functional or dysfunctional.
The conversation has to be focused on disrupting stereotypes. Now our task is to create a culture that nurtures our nature rather than gets in its way.”
What should be done?
1. Men need to speak out.
2. Raise future men.
3. We need to train boys to be human; and permit them to experience both the strengths and weakness of being human.
4. Pay attention to the information guys are consuming.
5. Portray the image of the men who are doing things right.