If you hear “masculinity” when we say “toxic masculinity”, you’re one of the toxics!
By Erin White
October 12, 2017
Toxic Masculinity is a real problem. A problem that makes interpersonal relationships and society as a whole less safe.
So, what do we mean when we say “toxic masculinity”? A whole range of stuff. But mainly, we’re talking about the social standards and pressures projected onto people who are born with penises and men based on conventional notions of gender.
These standards (read: stereotypes) inflicted on masculinity create a harmful environment and way of thinking that impacts not just women and non-conforming folks, but men themselves. For example, the notion that the “man of the household” is supposed to be the breadwinner. While it’s true that white men make more money than their female counterparts, and it, in theory, makes sense that they could bring home more money in a cis-het relationship, even that logic works on the idea that men and their work are more valuable.
For the men who profit from the misogyny built into economics and industry, this might seem like a pretty sweet set up. But in reality, this creates a false sense of superiority that cannot withstand questioning. When that superiority is challenged by the presence of a woman or femme with superior skills and qualifications, the man with unearned and unchallenged beliefs in themselves are ill-equipped to handle propositions to the contrary. The very existence of a woman who is “better” at a certain job or more accomplished than the man is a direct threat to what he has been taught to understand as his manhood. His toxic masculinity that hinges on the weakness or “otherness” of non-men.
While challenges to the status quo and conventional ways of thinking are almost always a good thing. How does masculinity, when toxic, know how to react to such situations? Situations when someone is unexpectedly better than you or when you fail at something?
When toxic masculinity teaches men that they are better/smarter/more capable than women, and that dynamic is questioned, the male victim’s entire manhood is called into question. The way they understand who they are is threatened. Women with power that matches theirs then present an existential threat to the misguided man, a threat that so often manifests as hostility towards women and a system (patriarchy) that makes it unbelievable hard for women to make career advancements into spaces reserved for men.
And while the evidence of a man’s personal shortcomings can be camouflaged by institutional misogyny, so many men who suffer because of toxic masculinity are left with psychological anxiety over personal inadequacies with no outlet to de-pressurize and work through these anxieties. None of which is fair for men.