In the past few years, this term has become quite popular and is often used to describe some of the harmful behavioral traits of men in our society. However, there are still many people who believe that it has nothing to do with how our society functions today. This is not entirely true. In order to truly understand the deep impact it has had on the collective thinking of our generation and those before us, one has to understand what it is actually about.
If you are wondering what exactly is toxic masculinity, well, let me just put it this way; it basically refers to traits or norms of masculine behavior which are not only harmful to themselves but society in general. The easiest way to explain the toxic masculinity and how has been so strongly incorporated within our culture is analyzing how most men or boys around us are brought up. Since childhood, a lot of girls may have heard their parents and elders telling young boys that they should cry and be strong. Well this ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘man up’ is actually a thought process which becomes deeply set in the minds of men from an early age and they begin to behave according to these very negative ideals that are imposed upon them.
Over the years, by the time they become adults, these traits have become a part of their personalities. The idea of toxic masculinity is that the actions of men as a result of being told and taught that they should behave like men and not show weakness, can have a negative impact on not just their own development but also on the people around them.
So, in the end, the solution comes down to how you are willing to fight as an individual and collectively as well. You may face challenges in the beginning as we are so used to toxic masculine behavior that it does take a long time to realize that what the other person is doing should not be acceptable. For women and girls, the situation becomes even more complicated. You see, they are the ones being affected by it but on the other hand, a lot of them have allowed or maybe even encouraged this kind of behavior to go on. Yes, not surprisingly, a number of times, you come across women who make statements like, ‘he is a boy, it’s what he will do’, or ‘men shouldn’t be so emotional, it makes them look weak’.
While fighting toxic masculinity is difficult, every man, woman, boy and girl can play their part in calling it out.
Here are some things that you can try.
- Do not be afraid to speak out
Being silent is almost the same as promoting or encouraging toxic masculinity. Do not let your male friends get away with it. If somebody is objectifying a woman, call them out on it and argue against what they have said. Make them realize that it’s not the way ‘men are’.
- Encourage emotional expression
This can begin from a young age. Don’t make fun of someone when they are upset and let them express what they feel. When young boys in particular get to hear things like ‘toughen up’ or ‘stop crying like a girl’, they tend to take it very negatively. Hence, it is always a good idea to let someone know that they can feel or be emotional when the situation comes.
- Pay close attention to their activities
For parents, this is incredibly important as learning starts at home and as fathers and mothers; they are the ones who can really prevent toxic masculinity from growing more powerful. Keep an eye out for what they are consuming on television or internet since the media can play a big role in encouraging this behavior. Take an interest in their activities and let them know that they do not have to do something just because boys are supposed to.
- Be Supportive
Emotional support can go a long way in curbing toxic masculinity. Whether at home or within a workplace, you can help break the gender stereotypes or beliefs which have been passed down from generations. At work, if you are a boss, you can create an environment of positivity and shut down any policies which promote ideas that men should not make excuses or worry about their mental health. In a lot of places, paternity leave is also looked down upon for male employees.
- Be open to change
You have to believe that people can change and for the better too. There is forgiveness for a mistake and those who are really open to learning and growing, will experience a change in the positive direction. Do not bring up past mistakes and let your friend, co-worker or even family member know that their efforts are appreciated.