Is traditional masculinity toxic?
- An intensive study released by the American Psychological Association reported that “traditional masculinity” is marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression and “on the whole harmful.” In 2007, researchers at Boston College found that masculine men were more likely to engage in “normal” risky health behaviors like heavy drinking, using tobacco, and avoiding vegetables.
- According to TalkSpace Voice, healthy masculinity is expressed by sharing a full range of emotions, treating women with thoughtfulness, accepting that anger is no excuse for violence, and being affectionate with other men.
- A Pew Research Center study in 2018 defined how society viewed men and women through a terminology poll. Positive terms for men were “provider,” “strong,” and “honest,” and for women, “beautiful,” “kind,” and “compassionate.” On the other hand, negative terms to describe men focused on “lazy,” “aggressive,” and “compassionate.” Negative words for women were “aggressive,” “powerful,” and “lazy,”
- Another Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found that over 80% of men felt pressure to be emotionally strong, 57% felt like they have to throw a punch if provoked, 45% felt pressure to speak about women sexually, and 40% felt like they had to have many sexual partners.
Toxic masculinity is 'the need to aggressively compete and dominate others.' Examining this brand of masculinity often triggers males, leading to accusations of a gender war. Note that being a man is not innately toxic; accepting aggression in young men is. Violent and destructive behavior has been normalized throughout our history. This tradition of masculinity has led to a toxic culture.
Toxic masculinity teaches boys they can't openly express their emotions. The adages, 'suck it up,' 'be a man,' or 'boys will be boys,' instill lessons of repression in young men while placing value upon hostility. Traditional attitudes surrounding manhood suppress boys' ability to emote while encouraging them to dominate. This mix of repression and aggression often turns into violence.
Toxic masculinity has dangerous results. Men are responsible for over 70% of all physical assaults. This violence often combines itself with sexual conquest. Nearly 17% of American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape by a male. The problem of sexual assault is so rampant that a DOJ study reveals that every 68 seconds, a sexual assault occurs. The problem is turning inward, too. According to a report by the PAHO, 1 in 5 American men will not reach age 50 due to issues stemming from toxic masculinity.
Biological arguments for masculine behavior distort conversations surrounding toxic masculinity. This attempt to conflate manhood with aggressive behavior is the very problem. Polling suggests our ideas surrounding gendered behavior are changing. For everyone's health, it is time to reassess traditional notions of masculinity.
Traditional masculinity is entirely subjective culture-to-culture, and it makes the idea of 'masculinity being toxic' a westernized, narrow point of view. For example, traditional masculinity in Japan is not viewed the same way masculinity is viewed in the west. While the fundamentals are the same—the sense of purpose, wanting to provide for the ones you love, and protecting those around you—the social attitude is entirely different. The conditions we associate as toxic aspects of masculinity—like swallowing emotion in an unhealthy way—are not seen in Japan. This makes the argument less about adhering to the idea that traditional masculinity is toxic and more about the ways we teach traditional masculinity to young boys.
The statement that 'traditional masculinity is toxic' would further imply that traditional femininity is toxic as well. Do the toxic parts of femininity—creating a hostile work and home environment, shaming the opposite gender, and bringing down others for their appearance—also overshadow the other aspects of traditional femininity, like empathy, sensitivity, and humility? Of course not. We actually find that the toxic ideals we associate with gender roles contradict traditional masculinity and femininity's true fundamentals. It is stated that a traditionally feminine person is someone who is nurturing, not vindictive, and a historically masculine person is seen as someone who protects, not abuses.
Overall, it is less important to focus on whether a traditional role is toxic and more important to raise and teach those traditional ideals in healthy and constructive ways. That is, of course, if traditionalism suits you.