This article is in response to a recent publication of the Daily Aztec. One of their writers wrote an opinion piece where he deems that 'toxic masculinity' does not exist and is merely about the 'modern-day feminist's' preference for men. I'm not speaking on this to wage war with my institution's newspaper or even to argue with this article's writer. I'm writing this because there needs to be a space where conversations like this are broadcasted to the many, not just the few who take a women's studies class. There is information and perspectives that must become common knowledge in order for our society to grow and move forward.
The article refers to toxic masculinity as the shaming of men by today's feminists when that simply isn't the case. Toxic masculinity is not referring to men as a whole but the behaviors men learn from the media that harm both themselves and women. It is regarding the typical traits depicted in media that are deemed 'masculine.'
In today's world, there is a perpetuating cycle that men must be tough, physically strong, in control, show little emotion, be violent, objectify women, and teach their sons to do the same. All of these features derive from the way men are portrayed in movies, shows, and music videos. Those media outlets subconsciously shape the way we act. Calling attention to toxic masculinity is not an attack on men, it is a recognition of how they are hurt by patriarchy as well. Their idols and role models display these traits that are deemed masculine and trickle down to their viewers.
Toxic masculinity hurts women by the notion that in order to be man enough, one must brag about his sexual encounters, catcall women, talk over female co-workers, dismiss opinions of the opposite sex and view the female body as something to control/dominate. These are attributes that belittle women everywhere and it isn't just about hurting someone's feelings. These character traits (which are subconsciously taught) carry over into the workplace, into politics, and into the lives of our mothers, sisters, and daughters.
By creating the binaries that define masculinity and feminity, we create an entire set of characteristics that are withheld from men in order to maintain their 'man enough' facade. It is common for men to be shamed for showing emotion, being sensitive, affectionate, non-aggressive, insecure, weak, and hurt. Men go their entire lives thinking these experiences are not for them, that if they display any of the preceding traits they are not masculine.
So, you see that toxic masculinity hurts everyone. It is found in every "boys will be boys." It is built in every "don't be such a girl." Every rape case reeks of toxic masculinity. Every man carries it with them when they feel the shame of showing what is deemed a 'feminine' quality. Calling out toxic masculinity is not saying everything about being a man is toxic. It is saying that the way we have learned to define masculinity is harmful to both genders.
There needs to be a sense of balance. And it starts by calling out your guy friends when they do something problematic. It starts by creating spaces where men feel comfortable to be vulnerable in front of other men. It starts with learning from women (and not the media) how to treat your girlfriends, sisters, and mothers. It starts by listening and believing women when they say they've been hurt and standing beside them. It starts by shutting down "locker room talk." It starts by having male role models that challenge the norm and becoming those exact idols for their own sons, friends, brothers, and nephews.
Men, it starts by unlearning what it means to be society's definition of "masculine."
Justin Baldoni's TedTalk: "Why I'm done trying to be 'man enough'"