Sex & Gender

how to unlearn toxic masculinity – steps to better understanding gender

April 28, 2017
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Context is key. “The medium is the message”. When we talk about social constructs like gender and race, recognizing context is fundamental to understanding why and how these identifiers exist and what they signify in the only two context’s in which they matters—social perception and the subsequent personal experiences that result because of those perceptions.

Women have different experiences, but they are not different beings.

Ultimately, working through Toxic Masculinity is about respect. Respect for others and respect for yourself. Respect for the autonomy of other beings (like women) and thoughtful respect for your own humanity—divorced from toxic gendered norms.

So much of Toxic Masculinity sets up unrealistic standards of manhood that divorces men from their humanity. It denies men a healthy relationship with themselves where they cry, be sensitive, empathetic, queer, vulnerable, etc. or have interests that diverge from what’s “acceptable” for boys and men. It limits men and the idea of what manhood can be.

So what can men do to fix this?

Learn to listen to critiques without taking things personally. “If it don’t apply, let it fly”. If reading this right now makes you feel angry/argumentative, it’s probably all that manhood telling you that you alone know better than anyone else and never need to be introspective or challenge the way you think about things, or how you came to hold those opinions in the first place.

But more often than not, getting upset when your views are challenged is a clear symptom of disrupted privilege. So just for a second, do everyone a favor and consider how you might be doing things that unintentionally play into ideas and systems that are harmful to other people and ultimately to yourself.

Signs Of Toxic Masculinity

  • Patriarchal world view: male-centeredness
  • Hyper conformity to gendered norms
  • Misogyny
  • Perception of superiority or entitlement over women
  • Fear or suppression of emotions
  • Homophobia/transphobia/queerphobia
  • Violent and abusive behavior
  • Denial of victimhood
  • The use of physical strength to oppress

And so many other things. The point is to become aware of unhealthy practices and patterns of behavior of Toxic Masculinity and work towards unlearning them by using healthier standards to create your own definition of “manhood“. Standards that do not depend on someone else’s ”weakness“ or a false perception of someone’s inferiority.

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at

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