You may have heard the saying “boys will be boys” used to express the view that mischievous or childish behavior is typical of boys or young men and should not cause surprise when it occurs. This term is not a compliment to men as being responsible, respected, committed, honorable, or protective, when in fact it is just the opposite. This quote is used to indicate that it is not surprising or unusual for men to act or behave in energetic, rough, or improper ways. This term is not used typically as a compliment to men in general. Its not a surprise to see that men are not looked on unfavorably by society. Men are commonly defined as aggressive rude and crude. Men are known to be led by their hormones looking for their next conquest and will take dominance over the weaker vessel adding a notch to their belt if they were able to score as many sexual encounters as possible. Society tends to be difficult on men
Some common stereotypes about men include but not limited to thoughts that men tend to be:
- The joker: masking their masculinity stating that men use the Joker mask to suppress seriousness and emotions.
- The jock: by demonstrating his power and strength, the jock wins the approval of other men in the adoration of women.
- The strong silent type reinforces the assumption that men and boys should always be in control, and that talking about one’s feelings is a sign of weakness.
- The big shot: suggest that a real man must be economically powerful and socially successful.
- The action hero: He is strong but not silent and often angry and acts out in an aggressive and violent behavior.
The buffoon commonly appears as the idiot father figure in TV ads and sitcoms. Slightly inept and completely hopeless when it comes to parenting their children or dealing with domestic or workplace issues. (Boys to men: media messages about masculinity. 1999)
Now that stereotypes have been specifically laid out let’s move to the topic at hand, toxic masculinity and it’s definition. According to Psychology Today toxic masculinity “is the reason why women do not feel safe in the streets.” Toxic masculinity is defined as set and strict rules that describe what being a man should be. These rules include a man should suffer physical and emotional pain in silence. A man should not seek warmth, comfort, or tenderness. According to Ashley Morgan: Cardiff Metropolitan University February 7th, 2019 the phrase toxic masculinity has been used by academics to define the regular acts of aggression used by men in positions of power to dominate people around them. In the late 1980s, Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell described the ways that white middle class men used their power and positions to suppress traditionally socially marginalized groups such as women, gay men and working-class men. This idea has since been expanded to include other behaviors such as aggression, competitiveness and intolerance of others. This term has been greatly supported by celebrities and public figures fighting back against sexual abuse and behaviors of some prominent men bringing their behavior into full view (i.e Matt Lauer and many others.) It is important to add here that cancel culture began to take center stage as more and more men, movies and other public forms were exposed and shine a spotlight on this idea of toxic masculinity.
Some behavioral stereotypes perpetuate men’s toxic masculinity behaviors include the following:
- A man should only have the emotions of bravery and anger, any other emotions would be perceived as weak and unacceptable.
- A man should not depend on anyone, he should be a self-made man by avoiding appearing weak.
- A man should always want to win ,whether it is sports, work, relationships or sex.
This term, toxic masculinity, became popular during the “me too” movement. Men if you are reading this article, you might feel a bit shamed or feel barbaric. I am not sure if that was the intended purpose of the term however this stream of thought is not new. Some would say that a young man’s upbringing perpetuates this type of behavior. For example, boys should not cry. It’s taught from a young age that boys should not be sensitive, boys should defend themselves, boys shouldn’t want to play with girl’s toys, boys should be rough, boys should want to conquer the heart of girls. Personally, I do not see anything wrong with conquering the heart of the woman that is to be your life partner. The dangers of toxic masculinity could display themselves in emotionally suppressed men creating a barrier between men and women in relationships. Emotional bluntness in men or lack of empathy leads men to display one emotion and that of anger and rage which then lead to acts of violence. Some would say that we need to change societal imprints of what defines a man. Redefining the “man code “ or rules, challenging those rules every single time they are illuminated preventing further tragedies caused by men starting at “boys will be boys.” Some arguments against toxic masculinity have to start with a personal account.
My best friend and I went out to breakfast with our 2 girls as we were left to our own devices. At breakfast I ordered a veggie omelet with feta cheese while he ordered a “manly” all meat omelet. As he proceeded to rail me up and down for ordering a “girlie” meal, subsequently taking my “man card,” I looked for any way to get that back. Later that night we invited some men over for a poker night where I saw a perfect opportunity to gather my manhood and take a taser to the leg burning flesh and all. As we laughed, I noticed that some of the men in that room were not as crazy and did not feel like they had to prove their “manliness” by getting tased. However, I wonder how toxic masculinity would view that act? That phrase toxic masculinity could be shaming two men who just want to have a little fun or “cut loose.” Should men apologize for being man? A good man is the “knight in shining armor” the one who provides, protects standing in front and up for those who cannot stand up for themselves who honors, loves, and respects others with the expectation of being respected. What is wrong with the chivalrous man who opens the door for a woman, who walks on the street side as she walks on the inside, who respects her dignity providing a safe place for her emotions not necessarily as the weaker vessel but the vessel who was created to compliment a man, just as a man was created to compliment a woman? What is wrong with the man being the provider, wanting to be the best at what he has been assigned to do? Power is strength under control and only seeks to build and not tear down others to get to the top.
Amongst conservatives this term “toxic masculinity” is an offense although many do not condone the behaviors that toxic masculinity may perpetuate. The belief that a man should not apologize for being men is a talking point. A great number of Republicans disagree with former President Donald Trump’s use of rhetoric like “grab them by the pussy” in referring to his ability to use his financial status to do whatever he pleases. His “you’re fired” bully aggression, the tough guy act of strutting in potential narcissism, “may the best man win” attitude. In fact, social conservative Donald French criticized the president by saying “that this isn’t the masculinity we should respect,” and he is right. When it comes to disrespecting women, attacking those of different religious beliefs, sexual orientations and cultural differences, that type of behavior should be condemned. However, should all men be painted under the toxic masculinity label? Conservatives view the thought of toxic masculinity as being traditionally a feminist view, changing the nature of what it means to be a man, a war on men. Being intellectually honest the word toxic masculinity is a label that draws attention to a subset love of manliness taken to it’s extremes. I attribute a lot of this confusion as unavoidable, as more and more, we find that we have single parent households and, in many cases, men are the ones who are separated from their families.
As a working-class man, myself, I find my time limited with my family which is always the tension point of, I believe, most men who really care about their families. There is such an emphasis on a man to be the provider that it leaves most men cognitively in a double bind. Wrestling between what he can or should or should not do with what his expectations of a man are. It is a wrestling match that most men tap out of if they feel they are being attacked. Just like anything else, a man needs friendships that are supportive, protective and nurturing, just like women do. Men tend to communicate side by side in action as women tend to communicate face to face and in some cases without a physical project. Men tend to communicate while working together in joint projects. Men seek out a band of brothers, ones that they can confide in as men that have each other’s back. A man is only as strong as his team. Men tend to feed off other confident men team sports for instance tends to be a bonding tool for most men. Men need an “attaboy”- a coach. This type of encouragement feeds a man’s respect tank. A man needs someone to point out his blind spots, men tend to gravitate towards sports counselors because 90% of their game is mental. Once they master the mind, the rest will follow. Men need mentors, ones that inspire them to become the best man that they can be. I cannot end this article without giving you a little bit of a snapshot into my life. I’m an adopted child, my adopted mother was the only person in my life as she never married. My father, who knows who he is. I don’t know my mother and my two brothers were also just names without faces. Time and time again I longed for a father figure in my life to teach me what it was like to be a male, I was fortunate enough to have men take the place of that missing role model in my life, however they did not stick around. I had to discover what it was like to be a man, a visually impaired man, who feels vulnerable everyday inside of his manly skin. I tended to make up for that lack through friendships that I’ve developed in my later years. Becoming a father of a little girl, has changed my life, what comes natural to me did not feel natural growing up. I am now a man protecting a family, providing for a family, supporting a wife and a daughter who needs me to be a part of the family.
I’m still having to learn that but one thing I do know is that my daughter will be able to tell a different story than I had. That story of having a father who is learning how to be a man every single day and will never stop learning. We need to be careful as a society on what we paint men out to be. Because they might be a man who did not have a male role model in their lives. Do we shame them or do we lift them up, embrace them and remind them that they are Kings, worthy of respect and worthy to give respect to everyone they come in contact with. Men that can provide for themselves and for their family. Men that are celebrated for being the stay-at-home dad or the single male raising a family. Do men need their egos stroked? I would venture to say that we all at one time or another need an encouraging word, a word of affirmation, men are no different. This gender war should be non-existent as women should not have to be afraid of men and men do not have to be afraid to engage a woman with respect, honor and dignity. Women, when a man opens a door for you, he is not trying to say you are weak- he is trying to say “you’re worthy,” End of story. I believe that the feminist movement has been a movement empowering women to not feel like they are subhuman, I can say that there have been times when those systems were needed. But putting down a man because he is a man is not solving the problem. The solution is men teaching men how to be manly men of honor.