Toxic Masculinity (An Age-Old Institution)

Updated: Jul 1

If you were to flip back the history books before the 1960s you will find 0 mention of the term 'toxic masculinity'. That is because it is a rather new phrase that started gaining widespread usage around the 1980s and 1990s. But today, it's widely regarded as an established (and correct) term used for today's society.


Toxic masculinity has taken many shape and forms throughout history from men being expected to be dominant in a marriage to men being expected to suppress any sign of weakness (including emotions). We'll get back to the latter point later.


But how do you define toxic masculinity? A term that's definition evolves every time psychologists discover a new social norm that is harmful to men because of toxic masculinity. A good definition for toxic masculinity would be 'toxic masculinity refers to the notion that some people’s idea of “manliness” perpetuates domination, and aggression’. This could also include the components of men having to be tough, anti-feminine and powerful.


Toxic masculinity is passed down generation to generation through phrases that are toxic the most famous example being “boys will be boys”. This phrase is often used in response when boys/men do violent and aggressive actions to other people. It passes these actions off as an inherent trait of boys and in some cases that is correct. It is an inherent trait. But only because of toxic masculinity has it become inherent to be overly aggressive.


And of course, if it is passed on generation to generation, there will be modern examples of this type of behaviour too. And there are. The following are based on my observations around schools.


  • Boys are expected to be able to defend themselves violently and aggressively. Always ready to get into or even start a fight.

  • Boys are expected to be anti-feminine. Anything that is perceived as feminine including certain TV shows, certain interests and even the tone and pitch of your voice and you are seen subconsciously as not a full man.

  • Boys are expected to be homophobic with all the points linked in the previous point in it as well as to the point that if you don’t actually ‘ABHOR!’ homosexual people, you are gay and therefore not a full man.

  • Boys are expected to be excellent at sports and if you’re not then you are not a full man.

  • It has even gotten to the point that if you are academically successful and are excelling academically then you are a ‘neek' and therefore not fully a man.


These 5 points are the most prevalent issues facing student life today and it has reached so far that social exclusion is always an option if you don’t meet this criteria. Not only is it the most prevalent though it’s also the most deeply rooted.


These behaviours carry on way into adult life causing problems for not only the people that do have these behaviours but the ones that don’t. Peer pressure is used the most when you don’t fit this criteria. These type of behaviours (ones of violence and hatred) are the driving force behind hate crimes and domestic violence.


However one more factor tops them all is emotional repression. Men are taught to hide and eradicate all forms of weakness and vulnerability. You know the trope in television that the husband is not open with his partner. This is why. It links to the idea that men have to be tough. This is often regarded by psychologists as a dangerous psychological issue and is why most men are notoriously against therapeutics. It is no wonder the suicide rate among men is so high.


It would take a miracle for society to change in an instant and for toxic masculinity to become a thing of the past. And it looks like a miracle is really all we're going to get.


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