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  • Writer's pictureThe Feminist Times

How Toxic Masculinity Affects Men and Other Genders

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Toxic masculinity is a term that has been gaining traction in the past few years. The term toxic masculinity stems from the mythopoetic men's movement in the 1980s. This movement, founded by men for men, aimed to provide men with an outlet for their 'manliness. The different expectations placed upon men can sometimes leave them isolated and confused as they have to perform certain gender roles in order to live up to the expectations of being strong and always emotionally strong. It is a dominant form of masculinity that uses dominance, violence and control to assert their power and superiority. Some of the traits of being a toxic male can be physical aggression, fear of emotions, discrimination against people who are not heterosexual. These men also feel pressured to embody traits of toxic masculinity which can often lead them to act violently and aggressively towards others and sometimes themselves. This kind of masculinity can be very unhealthy as the men may experience psychological problems like aggression and isolation. Masculinity is not toxic in itself and I am not saying that every man is toxic but the regressive qualities and traits that I mentioned above could lead to toxicity and it also hugely impacts people of other genders or men who do not possess those toxic qualities. Toxic masculinity refers to the notion that some people's idea of “manliness” perpetuates domination, homophobia, and aggression. Toxic Masculinity has been widely used in both academic and popular writing. In order to combat toxic masculinity, we need to combat archaic/anachronistic gender roles, these archaic gender roles makes them "macho". One of the articles I read talked about how toxic masculinity suppresses feelings and refuses to display them because it is viewed as a sign of weakness (Salam, 2019). Secondly, it requires a man to maintain the appearance of hardness and toughness at all times so that no one could doubt his manhood (Salam, 2019). Additionally, toxic masculinity views aggression and violence as a sign of power and the main grounds to decide whether someone is worthy of respect (Salam, 2019). Finally, it is also related to misogynistic views: while it praises supposedly male characteristics, such as toughness, it also despises supposedly womanly qualities, such as emotionality or concern for others (Baldoni, 2017). Put together, these qualities can harm those around a man who believes in toxic masculinity. Moreover, they can harm such a man himself because they make him more likely to get into trouble or on the receiving end of disciplinary action. My argument is that gender shouldn’t define us the way it has historically, and individuals shouldn’t feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles or behaviors l. We should not let the age old gender norms dictate gender roles in the present society.

I personally have seen these gender roles sliding into even gay relationships where perceptions of gender roles among gay men appear based on masculine and feminine stereotypes. For instance, Bergling (2001) reported on gay men who rigidly enact traditional masculine ideals and experience a “fear” of effeminate gay men. There is even 'femmephobia' in gay communities. Personally when I look at my old pictures the time when I was in my sixth grade I describe myself as 'unattractive' and even 'gross' because the pose appears to be too feminine which I have internalised over the years. These attitudes are consistent with societal messages that men should not express femininity. My aim here is to shake up these gender norms. When I meet some ex students from my school i see how they still hold misogynistic views, transphobic or whatever else isn’t regarding as meeting the standards of normative cisgendered heterosexual male identity. If one man observes another eating a salad, dressing well, not taking an interest in the right sports, being compassionate or expressing the “wrong” emotions, the potential for physical or psychological harm is high. If you don’t want to get beat up, if you want friends, if you want to stay employed at your job, you “man up” and fall into line and you hold the line. This isn’t a gendered character flaw that could be called “toxic masculinity”; it’s the internal workings of patriarchy. Our identity is solely not the domain of nature and nurture but it's the combination of both. In the end, normative male gender identity is foremost an accumulation of what it is not, rather than what it is. In short, for many, to be a man is simply to not be a woman. Expanding and integrating new concepts into an individual’s definition of masculinity may help them better understand and accept themselves and others. Within this article, I seek to understand and illuminate femmephobic attitudes. For many gay men, Facebook and Instagram and gay-specific dating apps are hotbeds of body image struggles and online gender-based discrimination. Research suggests that this phenomenon is linked to gay men’s tendency to openly discriminate against other gay men who express a gender outside of traditional masculinity. Gay men’s skinny and thin bodies are viewed with disgust by other men seeking more “masculine” presenting partners. I believe that accepting ones vulnerability is extremely helpful. Learn to be vulnerable. Vulnerability through the lens of toxic masculinity is equated with weakness. Learning to accept that you are actually vulnerable, leads to emotional awareness, resulting in being more empathic to yourself and others. These men need to be aware of their own emotions, kindness and softness.

-Aman Giri References 1)Baldoni, J. (2017). Why I’m done trying to be “man enough” [Video]. TED. 2)Salam, M. (2019). What is toxic masculinity? The New York Times.

3)Bergling T. Sissyphobia: Gay men and effeminate behavior. New York: Harrington Park Press; 2001.


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