Masculinity is a Mask
Photo by Marta
By definition, toxic masculinity “refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.” In easy terms, toxic masculinity teaches boys that they must be violent, unemotional, and sexually aggressive. Toxic masculinity teaches young boys what they can and cannot do, forcing them into a societal box that restricts them as people.
Likely the most common effect of toxic masculinity is the erasure of emotion, especially kindness and sadness. The amount of times I’ve heard young boys told “boys don’t cry” or some variation thereof, is ridiculous. From a young age, boys are told not to express their emotions. These emotions are bottled up and often spill over into anger, violence, and aggression. Toxic masculinity creates boys who believe they are better and stronger than girls, and feel the need to assert their dominance, whether this is in a simple conversation or sexually. Many people will say that rape is the fault of the victim, when in reality, it is most often because the perpetrator needs to assert their power and dominance.
Body image issues are also a prominent effect of toxic masculinity. Society tells boys that to be attractive, they have to be ripped, have a six-pack, and have to be over 6 feet. Some guys do have bodies like this, but society’s idea of a perfect body is largely unrealistic. The awful body image many boys have because of society eventually leads to problems such as eating disorders, which is much more known in girls. However, eating disorders in boys are much less likely to be noticed because boys are not as willing to seek help and talk about their problems because society tells them to be silent.
Toxic masculinity is a sick cycle. Boys start learning poisonous values at a young age and internalize them. They spread them to other boys; friends, siblings, classmates, and future sons. It is more or less a disease, but as with diseases, there is a cure. This generation needs to begin to recognize what toxic masculinity is and its detrimental effects. If we can unlearn it, we can avoid spreading it to our children and perpetuating this cycle.