How many times have you heard the phrase “toxic masculinity” mentioned in the past few years? You’ve likely heard this term often but maybe have no clue what it means. This is because the history of the phrase’s use is long, and its applications vary. So what is toxic masculinity, and is it as big of a problem as everyone seems to think it is? And, if so, who does toxic masculinity hurt the most, and how can we identify positive masculinity?
What Is Toxic Masculinity?
The phrase and concept of toxic masculinity emerged from the men’s movement of the 80s and 90s. From here, classroom studies and university discourse adopted the term.
But what does toxic masculinity look like in action? It could be the perpetuation of the idea that men shouldn’t feel their feelings or express their emotions. Or, worse, making anger and violence the only acceptable form of masculine emotion.
Toxic masculinity also refers to the idea that certain men have a habit of objectifying women and feeling superior to women. And perhaps the biggest failure of toxic masculinity is the idea that somehow all of this is perfectly normal and acceptable behavior and that “boys will be boys.” Certain behaviors and characteristics are valued within the concept of toxic masculinity while others are marginalized.
Who Does Toxic Masculinity Hurt the Most?
The knee-jerk response would be to say that toxic masculinity hurts women the most. After all, it is women who are “treated as second class citizens and objectified” because of toxic masculinity and the “patriarchal society.”
But I would suggest that men suffer even more from the very concept of toxic masculinity. When you think about it, both men’s and women’s roles have changed over the last 50+ years. While women have become more empowered and have been invited to embrace their independence and strength, young men have gotten mixed messages. What is and is no longer acceptable seems to be ever-changing. At times it seems the war isn’t just against “toxic” masculinity, but masculinity in general. What does it mean to be masculine these days, and how are men supposed to navigate these tricky waters?
Therapy Can Help Men Develop a Healthy Sense of Self
Men are human beings, and many are hurting right now, confused about their role and identity in the modern world. This, in turn, impacts the relationships men have with the women in their life and the family they create. In other words, there can be a devastating ripple effect.
Therapy offers men an accepting environment to explore their feelings and uncertainties and to develop their inner character. Working with a therapist can allow men the opportunity to communicate what their mind and heart are feeling and make sense of the conflicting messages they often get from society.
Speaking with a licensed counselor trained in men’s issues can improve your self-understanding and provide insight into your expression of masculinity. If you’d like to discuss what this would look like, please click here to schedule a complimentary 15-minute session with therapist Deb Crawford M.Ed., LPC, BCN.