If you could trace all of the problems in our culture back to a single problem, one culprit would be toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is a vile collection of harmful behaviors and attitudes which are often attributed to, and performed by, men. It is one of many harmful components of patriarchy which informs the reactions of many men to women and other gender minorities.
As we get started, it’s important to note that toxic masculinity is toxic to men just as it is to women. It harms men, destroys their relationships, and negates their identities. At the heart of toxic masculinity is the suppression of individual identities and emotions. To be a man, one must give up all of the unique feelings and expressions which comprise their identities. They cannot be who they truly are without their “maleness” being called into question. Moreover, no man is immune to the effects of toxic masculinity. Men who we instinctively feel should be immune to toxic masculinity, such as gay men and trans men, can be just as deeply indoctrinated into toxic masculinity as straight and cisgender ones. Women also can be complicit in toxic masculinity. They reinforce the systemic misogyny which teaches and enforces toxic masculinity. We tear each other down, rather than building each other up. We perpetuate slut-shaming, and we defend our male rapist friends. We allow ourselves to be used by our “male overlords” to perpetuate their violence, indirectly, against women- both victims and their defenders.
This suppression of emotions and identity leads to men being much more prone to violent behaviors and reactions to any question of their male “superiority.” Toxic masculinity places men, specifically masculine men, at the top of social hierarchies. The result of this hierarchical construct is violent colonization and oppression as men struggle to get to the top of this alpha male dog-eat-dog world. Within toxic masculinity is the concept of rape culture, the notion that men are not to blame for rape. That women, or male victims or non-binary victims, are culpable for what happens to them. Along with this idea is the propensity of men to ignore the voices of women and other minorities. We cannot possibly have a valid complaint nor are our feelings valid. Indeed, what else can we expect from a group of people who have had their feelings (and individual voices) suppressed by toxic masculinity.
Consider the ways in which women are silenced by toxic masculinity when they confront it. We are threatened with rape and violence. We are threatened with legal action. Our intelligence and credibility is called into question. Every experience we have ever had, good or bad, will be called to account. We are held to a double-standard because men cannot possibly be to blame for their actions.
There are men out there who are rejecting the concept of toxic masculinity. In order to identify these men, we must look beyond their words and look instead to their actions and their words combined. If men say that they are against rape culture, but their actions in response to a rapist in their employ is to keep silent about it and threatening those who call them on it, then they most likely are not really rejecting toxic masculinity. Indeed, it is a pretty good rule of thumb that if a man responds violently to what you have to say, then they are probably not rejecting toxic masculinity.
Reject toxic masculinity. You deserve to live your identity, live your expression. Your worth as a man (or a woman) should not be determined by an arbitrary, unwritten code of what it means to be a man or a woman or even just a person. You deserve better than that. And your sisters, your wives, your female friends, your non-binary friends, and even your bros deserve better than that. Women, we must build one another up and support one another in the rejection of toxic masculinity. We cannot love ourselves, we cannot love and care for those around us, if we allow ourselves to be colonized and oppressed by men. We cannot be silent in the face of toxic masculinity, because women are killed more by men than any other thing. We cannot let our identities, as women, as men, as non-binary folk, be hijacked by toxic masculinity. Reject toxic masculinity and accept you.