Toxic Masculinity

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Mascuinity is extreme, in reserching the topic for our latest Meet-Up it struck a chord that only the two far opposing ends of Masculinity seemed to have a voice online and the huge grey area in the middle – where probably most men exist – had no presence. ‘Right-on’ Feminst men, particularly those trying to raise conscious kids, are starting important conversations about gender stereotyping and  the need for self-care within men’s mental health. The Good Men Project for example. However so often at the other end of this sprectrum is a man asking “Why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?” (There is, it’s November 19th and BBC Radio 5 hosts Men’s Hour and the Southbank has  its annual B.A.M festival too!) and not too far under the surface is a world of vitriolic hate-filled Red Pill taking mysogyny and sadly all too often its voice is louder and its fingers quicker to fill the internet with a darker and more toxic image of what it is to be a man in our society today. It can actually be quite hard to separate the ‘toxic’ from the ‘masculinity’, another example of how far down this negative path our ideas of what manhood is have gone these days.

So what is Toxic Masculinity and how did it become so prevelant in the lives of men and boys? How did the socially constructed attitudes that describe masculine gender roles as being violent, unemotional and often sexually aggressive become the norm? Why is anger the only emotion we allow men to express? Is it surprising that men are boxed into this one-dimension of stoicism and strength when we tell them as boys to “take it like a man” and as adults to ‘have some balls”? Our everyday vernacular and actions are upholding this patriarchal viewpoint.  Men are players and ladykillers, they are providers not carers, they are strong not weak, women are conquests, hoes to be considered after your bros. Taking the assumption that all ‘real men’ are heterosexual and hypermasculine, research shows, creates a valueless view of women and girls.  Like all binary ideas of gender it starts from birth, from the moment when newborn sons are praised for being ‘sturdy’ and a young boy’s love of unicorns and glitter is met with derision. A girl can happily be considered a ‘tomboy’ but a young boy who loves to sew or dance isn’t as culturally acceptable because patriarchy still dictates that feminine is negative, weak and frivolous. Men, gay and straight also feel the increasing pressure of beauty standards  imposed on us through advertising and media.

As culture we are  only now beginning to feel the highly detremental longterm effects of a generation who have regular free access to mysogynistic, violent and degrading porn online (36% of boys under 12 have seen bondage online and 18% have viewed porn depicting rape) as well as on average playing 4 hours of video games a day, 90% of which that are aimed at under 10’s are considered violent. The one-emotion fits all mode of masculinity is what has led suicide to be the biggest killer of men under 45 in this country. Whilst women are criticised for being too emotional, having no space or allowance to feel any emotions is literally killing them.

Whilst many view Feminism, quite incorrectly, as an attack on men there is a need for men to speak up for themselves and to each other within the movement and broadly in society, to begin to break the masculinity manacles. Contemporary Intersectional Feminism is for everyone to make all lives better but it cannot only be the job of women to improve the lives of men. Whilst we as women can feel the benefits of a sisterhood and the unity Feminism can bring us, it is a real shame that men are often at a place where they can’t enjoy this solidarity and equivalent brotherhood for themsleves. But that doesn’t mean they won’t.

So how to we unpick this toxic thread weaving it’s way through the lives of modern men and boys? The same way we attempt to undo all the mysogyny and structures that oppress women and girls. We must adjust our own behaviours, acknowledge our parts in maintaining this damaging normalisation of restrictive gender performance and model as best we can a new way of thinking and feeling for our kids. We must look at the parts both shame and pride also play in our views of masculinity. Ask questions, start conversations, allow men the space to show their many facets. Whilst typically we reduce women down to two basic constructs of madonna and whore, we also diminish men to just one strong and silent type.

Within our homes gender division is often along traditional lines because of the mix of scheer practicality and patriarchy. Women tend to be primary carers not only through choice but also a lack of choice. It’s been proved that women’s career prospects are significantly reduced after having children and men are actually considered more reliable post-kids. The triple whammy of a glass ceiling, ridiculously expensive childcare and the reluctance/stigma on the part of employers attached to shared parental leave keep men at work and women in the home. Some men cite a reluctant necessity in having to mentally compartmentalise their home and work lives, a notion just as potentially damaging to men as the combined weight of a job and the second shift/mental load that women inevitably carry.

Overwhelmingly we see that men hold all the power and privilige in our society and it is wielded in almost every corner of our culture, from boardroom representation and domestic labour to gendered kids toys and mysogynistic language. The perpetrators of sexual violence (usually labelled a “women’s issue”) and mass killings in our world are predominantly male and we need to ask ourselves serious questions about how the deadly mix of toxic masculinity and overt power effects us all. Mens contradictory experiences of power and masculinity not only bring them privilige and dominence but is also paradoxically the source of much pain as well.


Equality Begins at Home 

The Untapped Benefits of Shared Parental Leave.

The Tie That Binds

The Ignored Fact That Gender Unites Purpetrators of Violence.

Model Manhood

Taking The Toxic Out of Masculinity.

Queer & Bear. 

Toxic Masculinity in LGBTQ* Communities.


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