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Toxic masculinity goes back to the early traditions of “manhood” that incorporates traits and behaviors that could cause harm to oneself and others. Men are endorsed on stereotypical masculinity norms that are associated with toughness and dominance. However, feminine traits in men that are viewed as deviating from the cultural standards of masculinity should be accepted rather than stigmatized.
At a young age, boys are exposed to the idea that the ideal characteristic of masculinity is repressing any emotions that could be viewed as weak or vulnerable. Veissière (2018) explained that men toughen up children by setting an archetype of masculinity that is strong, aggressive, and not caring enough. Such archetype leads to emotional repression which could hinder a boy into his growth and in establishing meaningful relationships that fosters emotional intimacy among family members and peers. The adherence to these traditional definitions of masculinity could impact not only relationships, but also in expressing and regulating emotions towards others.
The notion of extreme self-reliance as a part of the many harmful traits and behaviors of toxic masculinity is concerning in the aspect of seeking help and mental health wellness. According to the APA (2018), men protect their vulnerability by showing aggression, irritability and interpersonal distancing, not knowing that these are covert expressions of depression. Exposing boys with the idea of being self-reliant, brave and resolving conflict on their own could result for young boys to exhibit behaviors of violence and aggression as an avoidant act which could hinder professionals in providing assistance.
As male adolescents emerge to society, they often portray strong and tough personalities conforming to the standards taught to them to avoid being excluded. Gender norms affect adolescents’ gender attitudes. In order to let society feel that they are manly enough, adolescent males try to assert as much dominance as possible, especially in their field of expertise or in this case, even in school settings.
Hegemonic conduct is practiced not only towards the opposite sex but also toward the minority group of men. Whenever they see someone who expresses femininity, they try to toughen them up with the use of brute force, like that they think real men can do and handle. Thus, cultivating bullying towards those men who show feminine attributes.
And these active expressions of masculinity to uphold the toxic standards of manhood expand throughout time. The maintenance of masculine norms, and the pressure from perceived defeat in embodying masculine expectations elicit hostility. These emerge as men’s expression of glorified negative attributes of manhood for example, violence towards others and intimate partner violence (IPV). It mirrors the sentiments of hostile men involved with circumstances that compromise their glamorized manhood. Accordingly, it reveals the incessant penetration of an unhealthy idea of masculinity through time and its possible progression towards violent behavior.
Furthermore, this behavior is a result of their conformation to the standard set by decades of patriarchal beliefs of the society. It manifests through their tendency to establish dominance, as well as suppress or oppose ideas that do not adhere to perceived masculinity. Patriarchy infers that men hold power in all the significant foundations of society. It is a set of social relations between men and women, which have a material base, and though hierarchical, creates independence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women. Thereby, it can be argued that toxic masculinity does not only embed its ideals on a single man, but the society as a whole.
Men have the capability, and in some cases, should emphasize on the embodiment of their feminine traits. Women as well have the capability to act on their masculine traits. Ergo, toxic masculinity, at its roots, imply that rather than men themselves, it is unhealthy gender notions that mold such perilous idealism. History, as individuals and as a collective, implies that shaming men for their feminine attributes is an ideal we should actively be conscious of; in order to promote acceptance rather than stigma.
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