Many men grow up in an environment where toxic masculinity is an everyday norm and may not even realise that they are in that situation until they grow up or move out of that toxic environment. Toxic masculinity is where men are pressured to act and be the archetypical “man”. This leads many boys and men to have many different mental health issues or even turn to violence because they cannot feel or express their emotions in a safe space.
What are the Tell-Tale Signs of Toxic Masculinity?
There are many different signs for a man that is experiencing toxic masculinity. Here are some to look out for:
Trying to be Dominant
Mainly around women, men that are toxic with their masculinity will expect or demand that women are “less than” or “submissive”, so they are seen as the stereotypical “strong” or “tough” male archetype. Dominance can also be displayed towards other men to try to “impress” other women or assert themselves as the group leader.
Toxic masculinity can lead to men being violent towards women or other men, and this is because they probably experienced violence as a discipline technique as a child. So they then use that to get what they want, or if a woman denies them what they ask for, that can lead to violent outbursts. Same with other males, too, if men with toxic masculinity feel “disrespected” or “challenged”, they may use violence to assert themselves.
Not Showing Emotion
Toxic masculinity says that men should not cry or show any weakness; they shouldn’t be seen the same or equal to women because, in their eyes, women are seen as “less than” or “weaker” than men. Men will usually be told not to show emotions and be punished if they do from a very young age to instil toxic masculinity from the start.
Don’t Believe in Feminism
It is no surprise that men with toxic masculinity don’t believe that feminism is a genuine cause or that it should be allowed. They think that men are superior, so even the notion that they should be equal to women is unfathomable.
Why is Toxic Masculinity Harmful?
Unfortunately, toxic masculinity is harmful to people around it and the men experiencing it themselves. Sadly, men are taught not to be vulnerable or process trauma; society puts a lot of pressure on men to be “manly”, which makes them feel trapped, conflicted or lonely because they have to constantly push down their feelings which can affect their mental health overall.
Mental health is vital to every person’s health overall, so when toxic masculinity stops men from expressing their true feelings, it can be very harmful. Research has shown that men are more susceptible to suicide than women, and this is due to alienation and “pushing down” trauma and valid emotions until they can’t take it anymore.
Much of it comes back to one of the toxic masculinity’s traits: not wanting to feel less than, so asking for help, being seen as weak or having any vulnerability is hard for many men to admit. This leads them to mental health issues like anger problems or depression.
Aggression and Violence
Toxic masculinity likes to look tough on the outside. Still, anything that threatens to destroy them and their theories like feminism, the LGBTQ+ community, or healthy and stable masculinity have them flaring their chests and getting all wound up because they can’t comprehend a world where they aren’t right; this can lead to violence.
Although they outwardly seem to stem from anger or dominance, aggression and violence can also come from fear and protecting vulnerability. Toxic masculinity can be surrounded by male victimisation; around 5% of boys are sexually abused via penetrative r*pe. Many of these harmful or abusive behaviours go undetected because of shame around being sexually assaulted by another male.
Much of toxic masculinity is intolerant of differences from the “traditional” white, man and woman patriarchy. Any minority groups like the LGBTQ+ community, black or Asian ethnic groups or women are targeted by this toxic behaviour. From verbal to physical abuse, some men are not just angered by these minorities but deep down threatened or intimidated them.
For example, toxic men who may have feelings towards other men will have not just outer homophobia towards other gay men because of the jealousy they feel around being able to express themselves, but they also experience inner-homophobia because of the shame and confusion they feel about their own identity and sexuality.
How to Help Toxic Masculinity?
Toxic masculinity begins when small boys cannot be themselves and are left feeling that they have to be tough and emotionless, often in an environment of abuse and instability.
We need to start by telling boys that it is okay to cry and be emotional and that every emotion is valid and accepted, whether at home or in school. Doing this will help stop men’s internal fear of getting help or therapy for their mental illnesses.
Also, having male role models fighting against this toxic behaviour, whether a family member, a friend or a famous person on TV. Terry Crews, Jaden Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch are all great examples of men fighting against toxic masculinity and showing men and boys that there is a difference between being masculine and toxic masculinity.
Teach men that instead of being “a man”, it is okay to be a good human. Seeing through gender and sex and looking deeper at the bigger picture of emotion, feelings and general mental and physical health.
Some People Can Help
If you feel as though you are struggling with toxic masculinity, either yourself or with people around you, please don’t feel any shame in getting help and reaching out to these charities created to help you.
Future Men – Founded in 1988 as Working With Men, Future Men is a multi-award-winning specialist charity that supports boys and men along the path to becoming dynamic future men whilst addressing the stereotypes around masculinity and engaging in the wider conversation of what it means to be a man.
The Mankind Project – A registered UK charity helping men establish and pursue their own life purpose and nurture their emotional well-being for over 25 years.
Foundation For Change – They use applied psychology, philosophy and feminist theory to help people understand the root causes of their addiction not just from the perspective of personal experience but – importantly – within the broader context of social inequality.