What creates a Toxic Masculinity mindset?
From a young age many boys are taught what it means to be a man. It’s ingrained in them to stand up when they fall, not to cry, and to carry on. Some are even taught through threats from their fathers and coaches. Seemingly innocent activities like organized sports and schoolyard recess reinforce boys needing to be physically strong, suppress emotion, and dominate in everything they do. Otherwise, you risk being classified as falling short of being a “man.” Adults continue using terms like boys will be boys, toughen up, be a real man, and boys don’t cry. This sets young men up for inner conflicts as they grow into adulthood. Men who were bullied into being tough now struggle to conform to today’s standards. Some of these behaviors turn into depression, engagement in risky behaviors, failed marriages, and isolation.
How is Masculinity defined?
The definition of masculinity has changed over the years. Previous guidelines were very narrow with unclear rules that are now considered incompatible with society. It used to be socially acceptable for a man to express themselves through harsh, brutal, and blunt means with no sensitivity to the repercussions of those around them. However, after years of study this narrow-minded definition has left men with disastrous results to both their mental and physical health. The idea of masculinity has become more encompassing, specifically by accepting that men have a full range of emotions and need an outlet to express them.
What can we do to help?
Being masculine is a combination of behaviors that are impacted by age, race, class, culture, religion, and more. Men are emotional human beings and we need to encourage them that it’s okay to feel these emotions. Hiding feelings adds to one’s stress and poor self-worth. To combat the notion of toxic masculinity, let’s accept a new way to view what "masculine" means. Subtle shifts in how we interact and allow men to express themselves is a good first step. Be sensitive to the men in your life, and slowly they will not feel compelled to hide their emotions for fear that it is not masculine.