In recent years, the term ‘toxic masculinity’ has been bandied about a lot. It refers to norms of masculinity that are seen as harmful in some way to men or women, or even society as a whole. It’s not intended to criticize men as such; instead, it’s meant to show that certain masculine traits can actually have negative effects and that these traits should be reined in. Some of the traits that are linked with ‘toxic masculinity’ include social dominance, emotional restraint, maintaining a composed front, appearing tough and more extreme ones such as homophobia and misogyny.
In short, ‘toxic masculinity’ appears to have risen from boys and men feeling they can’t express themselves emotionally and that they have to be tough and in control. Many think that showing emotions makes them weaker, and so they hide their feelings and bottle them up. There are also societal stereotypes that reinforce the idea that men have to take charge, be the leader, be the strongest in the room and be the one others look up to. People believe some men are struggling to be themselves and express themselves because they (men) feel bound to fit the archetypal image of a man that society has created.
Some of the more extreme traits associated with masculinity, such as violence and aggression, can safely be said to be ‘toxic’ – they clearly have a negative impact on others, after all. But shouls some of the less extreme traits be seen in the same way? These days, it seems that the term ‘toxic masculinity’ can refer to just about anything men do that is even the slightest but harmful to someone in some way. In other words, it’s not just extreme acts that are seen as ‘toxic’.
There’s nothing wrong with men wanting to be the top dog, to be the provider for the family, to make their presence known or to be physically active. There’s nothing wrong with a man wanting to be masculine, wanting to be a big, strong man who cares for others and wants to take charge in situations. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with men wanting to express their feelings, nor is there any real necessity for men to always have to be the dominant one. Men can be whoever they want to be. If they fit the stereotypical image of a man with masculine traits, that’s fine; likewise, if they don’t necessarily fit that stereotypical image, that’s fine too.
To conclude, the term ‘toxic masculinity’ seems to be getting used too much these days. Yes, there are some more masculine traits that can be harmful, but not every man shows these traits. The characteristics of a stereotypical man shouldn’t be criticised if they don’t harm others, yet today they seem to be getting criticised more and more often. Men shouldn’t feel pressured to conform to the stereotype, but if they happen to do so because they’re just like that, they can’t be faulted. Masculinity as a whole isn’t ‘toxic’ – sure, there are some extreme traits that can be seen as such, but on the whole masculinity is a good thing that men shouldn’t be criticised for embracing.