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Toxic Masculinity: What is it and ways to fight it

Read it somewhere… ‘Toxic Masculinity is the reason whey women do not feel safe out on the streets.’ Some may feel it is a little too harsh on men but having gone through the data and my interaction with fellow men, unfortunately it seems to be true, to some extent.

The sense of entitlement, the straitjacketed societal definition and the pressure to adhere to the traditional ‘macho’ male gender roles is what is feeding this type of masculinity.

‘Man up’ is feeding this toxicity…

Men can not cry, men should silently suffer pain of all kinds, men are not supposed to seek out warmth, tenderness, men should always succeed in whatever they do and men need to ‘man up’ BUT thankfully, the norms is slowly going through a organic evolution.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to “man up” is to “demonstrate toughness or courage when faced with a difficult situation”. This is a sexiest expression and this is what is fuelling toxic masculinity. 

Three Ps — providing, protecting, and procreating is where some men still get their ‘masculinity’ from and what fuels it further is their fear of having it taken away.

‘Mark ko dard nahin hota‘ used to be an oft repeated premise of lot of earlier Hindi (Indian) Movies. Thankfully changing times is slowly helping change this flawed narrative. Btw, ‘mard ko dard nahin hota’ roughly translates to… ‘MEN FEEL NO PAIN.’

Shepherd Bliss, a psychology teacher at John F. Kennedy University at California was the first academician who is noted to have coined the phrase Toxic Masculinity. 

I am the Alpha Male of this tribe”

How many times have you heard that friend of yours say this with pride and with a streak of egotism in his voice, although uttered as an apparent joke? When men go through certain types of feelings and emotions that label them as being someone who stand above the crowd, what creeps into them is toxic masculinity. 

Toxic masculinity can be imagined like a box where men have to compel themselves to fit in order to be labelled as ‘real men’ – a sort of male chauvinistic approach that makes him don certain dispositions and beliefs. “I am a man and I am not supposed to do this”- and a statement like this immediately makes him feel the ‘superior kind’ as toxicity sneaks into his veins. 

Thankfully, changing times, is bringing about a subtle shift in the way masculinity is being interpreted. 

Some of the traits of toxic masculinity?

The regressive ‘macho man’ image of how men have to be, is harmful and needs an overhaul. All that is required is to drop the tough exterior and accept the winds of change…

1/4. Being strong, independent and without any needs
toxic masculinity. don’t cry, be a man... "masculinity" becomes toxic, knowingly or unknowingly.

“What can happen to me? I am a man, after all!”

“You cannot do what I can, I am a man, I can be out till late night, who’s going to question me?” 

“Don’t cry, be a man.”

These are expressions that we hear so often and these are instances when masculinity becomes toxic, knowingly or unknowingly. A man is expected to be strong, both physically and mentally, cannot be crying over issues, even though it may make him emotional and are not to be questioned about anything. 

Questioning makes a man with toxic masculinity angry for then, in a way, he is being forced to come out of the comfort of the ‘box’ and it is a sort of disrespect to his male aura.

2/4. Promiscuity
toxic masculinity. promiscuity in the choice of sexual partners CAN BE SEEN AS A badge of 'STUD' masculinity.

When men are promiscuous they are admired as ‘studs’ by their male pals, when women go around with more than one man, they are condemned. The more a man has female companions, the higher is his respect among his fellowmen. And to add to it, ‘no homosexuality please’- for men with toxic masculinity make it clear that they have male friends only as friends and not as partners.

3/4. Violence and Dominance
toxic masculinity. dominance means control, the need to have the final say. Dominance is Violence.

“You are supposed to tell me exactly where you will be going at what time.” 

When men seek to dominate over women or even want the last word in family affairs, it is toxic masculinity that they are giving precedence to. Being dominant and violent to prove masculinity cannot be healthy and definitely not conducive to relationships.

4/4. Indifference towards Household Chores
toxic masculinity. household and children are a woman's job.

In most fights between husbands and wives where the wife complains about the husband not sharing responsibilities of household chores, especially in rural areas, a stereotypical answer by the husband is, “I am a man, how am I supposed to know this?” or “This is a woman’s area of work, do not expect me to do anything.”

Not taking part in household chores or only focusing on earning for the family and financially supporting it is just what an Alpha Male is supposed to do as a traditional practise and this is what has led to this sort of inequality among gender roles.

How to Fight Masculine Toxicity

Do not suffer in Silence- Silent suffering is detrimental to not only mental health but also physical health. Remember, as a man, it is perfectly fine to feel the need of voicing your sufferings and even cry it out. After all, you are a human too and not an emotion-less one. It is therefore, important to be vocal if you want to get out of the box and once you do so, you will be the one to inspire hundreds like you around.

1/2. Passion matters, activity does not

Stereotypes with regard to activities or things that a man can indulge in have carved the toxic man. He feels it is alright to play football, to mow the lawn, to lift heavy luggage and to indulge in quiet ‘me-times’ reading the newspaper in the morning. However, it is high time that these clichéd thoughts be relegated to the backdrop and men be encouraged to do what their passion lies in.

So the next time, your spouse takes to the culinary corner, encourage him to do so, if it is there that his passion lies. Or when your son wishes to take up music instead of Engineering, why stop him when his knack lies in there? Even if it means that he choose a career in music, let him pursue it. This does not make him less masculine. 

2/2. Build stronger bonds

Let the man of your life nurture ties with everyone else in the family. If he is exhausted after the whole day’s work, let him relax in bed with your little ones or just indulge in a tete-a-tete about the day’s workings. Just because he is a man, doesn’t mean he has no role to play other than providing food and clothing for the family.

Let him be as much part of the household as you are as his wife and improve lives of your children as well as they get closer to their dads. The more quality time you spend with the man of the house, the lesser the feelings of toxic masculinity will creep in. 

Writer’s Note: Remember, it is perfectly okay to feel the need of being respected, something that is the right of every man and woman. But that should not take the proportion of excessive dominance, desperation and flaunting of one’s masculinity just to earn respect which actually veils feelings of neglect and fear. When it reaches to such heights of egotism and violent attitude or excess pride, it is then that the masculinity turns sour and toxic and needs to be checked.

To escape from the gravity of someone’s toxic masculinity or a toxic relationship is difficult and may need expert guidance. Please take one, whenever needed…

Also Read…

[1] How to deal with Manipulative Personality

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