What is Masculinity and Why Does It Matter?
Masculinity is a term that refers to the social and cultural expectations of how men should behave, think, and feel. Masculinity is not a fixed or innate trait, but rather a dynamic and fluid construct that varies across time, place, and context. Masculinity is influenced by factors such as family, peers, media, education, religion, and politics.
Why does masculinity matter? Because it affects the lives of men and boys, as well as women and girls, in many ways. Masculinity can shape how men and boys view themselves and their roles in society, how they relate to others, and how they cope with challenges and emotions. Masculinity can also have an impact on their health, well-being, and happiness.
However, not all forms of masculinity are healthy or positive. Some forms of masculinity can be rigid, restrictive, or oppressive. They can limit the choices and opportunities of men and boys, as well as women and girls. They can also lead to violence, aggression, discrimination, or abuse. These forms of masculinity are often called toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity is a term that describes the harmful aspects of certain masculine norms and behaviors that are based on dominance, control, aggression, competition, or suppression of emotions. Toxic masculinity can cause men and boys to feel insecure, inadequate, or ashamed of their own identity. It can also make them more prone to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or suicide.
How can we challenge toxic masculinity and promote healthy masculinity? By recognizing that there is no one way to be a man or a boy. By encouraging men and boys to express their emotions, seek help when needed, respect themselves and others, value diversity and equality, and embrace their own strengths and vulnerabilities. By supporting men and boys to develop positive relationships with themselves and others. By creating a culture that celebrates multiple forms of masculinity and allows men and boys to be their authentic selves.
Examples of Healthy and Toxic Masculinity
To illustrate the difference between healthy and toxic masculinity, let us look at some examples of how men and boys can respond to different situations.
- Scenario 1: A man is feeling stressed and overwhelmed by his work and family responsibilities. He has trouble sleeping and feels anxious and depressed.
- A healthy masculine response would be to acknowledge his feelings and seek support from his friends, family, or a professional. He would also try to find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies.
- A toxic masculine response would be to deny or suppress his feelings and isolate himself from others. He would also resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol, drugs, or violence.
- Scenario 2: A boy is being bullied at school by his classmates. They call him names, make fun of his appearance, and physically hurt him.
- A healthy masculine response would be to stand up for himself and report the bullying to a trusted adult. He would also seek help from his friends, family, or a counselor. He would not let the bullying affect his self-esteem or his academic performance.
- A toxic masculine response would be to internalize the bullying and blame himself for being weak or different. He would also retaliate with violence or aggression, or become a bully himself. He would suffer from low self-esteem and poor academic performance.
- Scenario 3: A man is in a romantic relationship with a woman. They have different opinions and preferences on various issues.
- A healthy masculine response would be to respect his partner’s views and feelings, and communicate with her in a respectful and honest way. He would also compromise and cooperate with her when necessary, and appreciate her as an equal partner.
- A toxic masculine response would be to disrespect his partner’s views and feelings, and manipulate or coerce her into agreeing with him. He would also dominate and control her in various ways, and treat her as an inferior or an object.