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Let’s Talk About Toxic Masculinity

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By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor

Each year, International Men’s Day on Nov. 19 is met with much debate. Despite questions and concerns over the day’s rationale, it’s a great opportunity to address something that runs rampant within this particular community: toxic masculinity. 

It’s a complicated word. It encapsulates a lot of things, and it looks different on everyone. It’s something that’s internalized, but also stems from external societal expectations. Conscious or unconscious, it has detrimental effects on men’s mental and physical well-being and creates a domino effect that impacts the rest of society. 

As defined by The Good Men Project, it’s “a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness.” 

Clearly, this line of thinking has consequences. Expecting men to be this kind of “alpha” figure produces a slew of damaging personal consequences like depression, stress, substance abuse and body dysmorphia, and affects every facet of our society, both socially and economically.  

A man holding a broken piece of a mirror looking at his reflection
Men might find it harder to move past “masculinity” and be more “effeminate,” but being “masculine” or “feminine” is just a social construct. Remove yourself from the line of thinking that certain actions— emotional or physical— are reserved for “only men” or “only women.”

Many of these kinds of behaviors are ingrained in men from the time they are born, so it can be hard to break the cycle. Be aware of what kind of ideals you’re helping to instill in the men in your life.

Don’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes by avoiding asking personal questions or ignoring feelings, or saying things like “be a man!” even if you’re just joking around. Be cognizant of the fact that they might just need to feel like they have a space to be heard— there are years and years of societal harm to undo. 

Men, it seems trivial but remember that having and showing emotions is a completely natural thing to experience and something that you need to normalize for yourself. It might take time to work through, but it’s the best thing you can do for your mental health.

Take some accountability by educating yourself on issues (like misogyny and homophobia) that have historically had men participating in outdated gender behaviors and set new, better precedents. And don’t be one of those people that say “boys will be boys.” It isn’t a thing. 

We all have to change the way we talk about “masculinity.” There’s so much to destigmatize, but it first and foremost starts with awareness and participation from men. So, guys: why not celebrate this day by truly being the best version of yourself? It might start with having yourself a good cry. You’ll feel better— promise.

To better understand why talking about toxic masculinity is so culturally relevant, go here.

Featured image by Brittany Anderson via Canva.

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