Toxic Masculinity Phrases
Politics and Activism

6 All Too Common Phrases That Teach Toxic Masculinity

Tugging on little girl's pigtails on the playground is harmful, not cute.

2627
Paulo Silva

There are often things we say to both boys and girls growing up that do more harm than good. Whether we mean to or not, the following phrases develop what is termed "toxic masculinity" in boys, and teach girls to look for and accept that from the men in their lives.

To be clear, toxic masculinity is not saying that masculinity in and of itself is toxic. Masculinity is real and biological, and when done correctly, extremely beautiful. Toxic masculinity is referring to specific gendered behaviors that are...well, toxic.

It's behaviors that are taught and encouraged in little boys so that they grow up to be angry, emotionally-constipated, often violent people. It's what teaches men to be bullies, murderers, mass shooters, rapists, abusers, and victims of suicide.

On the less extreme side of the scale, it's what teaches men to excuse rape culture and not believe the victims who accuse, to force their opinion on others and assume they're always right, and to never express emotion.

If that sounds awful, it's because it is. But we can change that, starting with the way we speak to little kids:

1. "Boys will be boys."

boys will be boys

This comes from the idea that destructiveness and aggression and inherently masculine qualities that shouldn't be curtailed. While it is true that boys have more testosterone and are so more given to more aggressive modes of play and interests, that doesn't mean that bad behaviors should be excused.

If a boy is mean to another human being—verbally, physically, mentally, whatever—it should never be excused with "boys will be boys." Boys need to be held responsible for their actions like everyone else.

When we excuse destructive behaviors by saying it's just a boy "being a boy," we're setting him on the path to consistently excuse such aggression until it turns into full-on violence, something he justifies that wouldn't be able to avoid because that's "just how boys are."

There's a difference between being a boy and being a monster.

(Rachel Brandt explores the negative consequences of this phrase more in-depth.)

2. "He's only mean to you because he likes you."

mean because he likes you

A boy pulled a little girl's pigtail on the playground? Well, that's just because he likes her! He's just trying to get her attention; it's kind of cute, really.

No, it really isn't.

When we excuse pigtail-pulling behavior in kindergartners, we not only teach boys it's okay to hit girls, but we teach girls that if a man hits them, it's because he loves her. Cue women staying in abusive relationships and men abusing.

(I'm not saying only women are victims of abuse nor are only men the perpetrators. I'm merely pointing out that by proclaiming "a boy hurts you because he likes you"—whether that hurt is emotional or physical—it will produce negative, harmful behaviors and mindsets.)

3. "Man up!" or "Boys don't cry."

man up is sexist

I've seen firsthand multiple men—not their fathers—who have told my little nephews not to cry about something. Worse, they ridicule them for doing so. And yet I've seen how those men are the ones who are hurt and needing to cry and acknowledge their feelings.

Stop telling boys to "toughen up" or "man up" because the idea that men are somehow emotionless beings is blatantly stupid and scientifically inaccurate. All. Human beings. Cry. And have emotions.

Teaching your boys that they should feel ashamed for being like any other person ever and having emotions will teach them to bottle up those feelings and to never talk to anyone about them. It's what results in those whining about "the friend zone" or those killing themselves to escape it all.

4. "Pink is a girl's color."

pink is a girl's color

Pink actually only started to become a "girl's color" during World War II due to manufacturers. Before then, it was considered a boy's color since it was derived from red:

The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.

In fact, before that, all babies, boys and girls alike, were dressed in white because it's easier to bleach.

Basically, colors shouldn't be gendered. They belong to everyone.

And having boys fear liking the color pink is actually symptomatic of a much deeper issue of boys being afraid to be like girls because girls are less than. If it were because they simply aren't girls and so don't want to be called one (which, in some cases, that could be a possibility), then girls would be afraid of being seen as boyish. Instead, we celebrate tomboys.

So for goodness' sake, let boys wear pink and stop making them feel like they're different or there's something wrong with them for wanting to do so.

5. "Men think about sex every seven seconds." 

7 seconds

This is a straight-up myth.

There have been multiple studies done over the years to disprove this random figure that people have been quoting without backing it up with any sources, but the most significant one was done by Terri Fisher.

They found that the rate in which men thought about sex varied, but on average was 19 times a day (as opposed to the 8,000 times if men really thought about it once every seven seconds).

Meanwhile, the women studied thought about it half as often, normally once every two hours. However, this could be because either the women were uncomfortable with their sexualities or because they believe they're not supposed to think about it as often as men, so they wouldn't admit to the researchers how often they truly thought of it.

Point is, God created human beings as sexual creatures! The idea that men are more into sex could be due to nurture rather than nature. If men are taught they need to be sex-obsessed and women are taught it's shameful (either being shamed by society for being a slut or a virgin; we can't win), then that could explain the perceived differences in sex drives.

The harm comes when certain men aren't as interested in sex as they're taught they're supposed to be and so feel like something's wrong with them. Or when men are taught to be so obsessed with sex that they objectify women instead of viewing us as people, causing sexual harassment and assault.

6. "Men can't help but cheat. They're just wired that way."

men cheat

If men are taught that they're uncontrollably obsessed with sex, then that justification will surely impact their fidelity.

While a man physically cheating on his partner may only be justified by a few, roaming eyes are normally excused as "typical male behavior."

"He just checked the waitress out, don't make it a big deal. It's what guys do." As if men are somehow excused from morality because they're too weak and undisciplined to keep it in their pants.

Men aren't that obsessed with sex because of their biology, and any interest in sex certainly never excuses immoral behavior. You cheated because you suck as a person, not because it's in your nature.

Let boys cry and wear pink. Don't allow destructive aggression or meanness towards others, especially girls. Teach them to value others and that they're not actually the "more sexual creatures" by nature. Maybe by cutting out these phrases and the ideologies they come from, we'll raise better, more truly masculine men.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Taylar Banks

May 25, 2020: the day that will forever be remembered as the day George Floyd lost his life at the hands of cops.

The day that systematic racism again reared its head at full force in 2020.

Keep Reading... Show less

The worlds of beauty and fashion often collide, whether for good or bad. In both, underrepresentation has always been, and remains to be, a major unresolved issue. After the recent killing of George Floyd, many people are rightfully enraged, compounded by the fact his death in police custody wasn't an isolated incident.

Police brutality against Black people is not new, and isn't going away till we start dedicating resources to fighting it. Many of us, as individuals, have only begun in the last week scratching the surface of what it means to educate ourselves on race, historical race relations, and how to be an ally to the Black community.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Feel A Lil' Better: Because You Can Still Connect While Disconnecting From Social Media

Your weekly wellness boost from Odyssey.

No matter how good (or bad) you'd describe your health, one thing is for sure: a little boost is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether that's reading a new, motivating book, or listening to a song that speaks to your soul, there are plenty of resources to help your health thrive on any given day.

I don't know if you've heard, but there's a lot going on right now, particularly in relation to George Floyd's death, Black Lives Matter, and public protest of racial injustice in the United States. While we can all agree that this deserves conversations, change, and actionable good, social media arguments with Great Aunt Linda are not where social change begins and ends. Spending too much time scrolling through your phone has never been healthy, but now it's even more addicting — what does that one person from my hometown say about this? How can I further education within discussions? Am I posting enough?

Keep Reading... Show less

I don't know about you, but reading is at the top of my to-do list this summer... especially with all the social distancing I'll still be doing. If, like me, you're hoping to pick up a romantic page-turner (or a couple dozen), here are 23 romance novels by Black authors you'll absolutely LOVE reading.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

22 Black-Owned Etsy Shops With The Perfect Gifts For Everyone In Your Life — Including You

Treat yourself and your loved ones while supporting Black creatives and artisans.

R-KI-TEKT, Pontie Wax, Lovely Earthlings, and blade + bloom on Etsy

The world is taking action against the injustices and under-representation plaguing Black lives, and one small but impactful thing you can do to actively make a difference is support Black-owned businesses.

Etsy is likely one of your go-to sites for gift-buying, but have you ever paid attention to which independent artists and sellers you're buying from?

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

True Self-Care Is HARD, That Face Mask Isn't Actually Going To Solve Your Problems

There's a line between self-care and self-destruction.

Anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past few years has seen something somewhere about self-care whether it was on Facebook, Twitter, or their Instagram feed. Oftentimes it's pictures of celebrities or influencers sipping green smoothies or slathering on mud masks with #selfcare. It's posts like these that made me realize that "self-care" has become the ultimate buzz word, soaring in popularity but in the process, it's lost most of its original meaning. It's time to set the record straight and reclaim the term.

Although self-care has been around for quite some time, within the past few years it's been misconstrued and commodified as our capitalist society tends to do with things it thinks can be profited off. Self-care is now being peddled as something that can be bought and sold on the shelf at Target rather than something that takes real work to achieve. This fake self-care movement is not only enabling people to over-indulge themselves, but it has created a crutch for people to avoid the responsibility of taking true care of themselves. Instead of doing the work that needs to be done, many people fall into the trap of rewarding themselves for doing nothing at all — this can quickly become an unhealthy coping mechanism, especially with corporations cheering us on (to buy their next product). Long, hard day at work? Just grab your third iced coffee of the day! Fight with your SO? Buy that 50-dollar face mask, it'll make you feel better! This is how self-care becomes self-sabotage and self-destructive.

Keep Reading... Show less

Minorities are consistently under-represented in our day-to-day lives, notably in the world of fashion. It's likely you're looking for a way to support black artists. Whether that's the case or you're just a fashion-lover in general, these brands aren't just some of the best black-owned fashion brands — they're some of the most innovative brands of our time, period.

From luxury staples to fun accessories and loungewear, these brands aren't just stunning names you should definitely be following on Instagram, each honors the founder's roots in unique ways with the power of storytelling through artistic expression that manifests in pieces we can't wait to wear.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

10 Home Items You Need For Stress Relief, On The Days You 'Literally Cannot'

Fill your home with peaceful, calming coping mechanisms.

I'd like to think that 2020 is teaching us a lot. Or will teach us a lot. Or will be a story we tell at parties one day. Ultimately, this year has been — and is probably going to continue to be — a bit of a mess.

At the beginning of the year, Australia was on fire and we mourned the death of Kobe Bryant. Then, coronavirus (COVID-19) took our spring and shut us in our homes, inciting panic over public health and sparking political upheaval at every decision made by local and federal officials alike. Now, a week after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a nationwide conversation is reignited with protests regarding racial injustice in the United States. There is an enormous amount of tension, hurt, and change that is upon the American people.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments