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The harmful term otherwise known as toxic masculinity refers to the norms that govern not only men, but women and all of society as well; when discussing toxic masculinity, the goal is not to offend men, instead it’s to bring attention to the negative aspects of a socially constructed masculinity and the detrimental impacts which they may cause. When looking towards toxic masculinity the focus is specifically on how men are socialized in regards to traditional male gender roles, the restriction of their emotions, social expectations to be dominant and other such implications that have “toxic” effects which include, but are not limited to, sexual assault, domestic violence, and substance abuse. Foreseeably, many feminists have pointed out a possible link between toxic masculinity and rape which formats something known as a “rape culture”. In her book, Transforming a Rape Culture, Emilie Buchwald explains that a rape culture is created once society as a whole begins to, in a way, support and normalize sexual violence. She specifically defines Rape Culture in her book as “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent.” In a rape culture women are the main target for physical and emotional terrorism and it is seen as something normal and expected. In fact, within a rape culture, sexual violence as a whole is viewed as inevitable. With this given information emerges the question of whether or not toxic masculinity is what perpetuates rape culture within the different societies it is found in.
Today we can see implications of toxic masculinity almost everywhere in a country like the United States of America; college campuses are riddled with misogynist slang and fraternities that take part in significantly sexist activities. Even in elite, Ivy League universities such as Yale, incidents that normalize sexual violence against women aren’t necessarily uncommon. A little over a year ago members of a Yale fraternity chanted outside a women’s freshman dorm “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal!” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I fuck dead women and fill them with my semen.” and this isn’t the only experience of misogynist events the university has experienced. Lindsay Beyerstein explains in her article, “”No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” Frat Banned From Yale” that some of the university’s students and alumni had opined that these incidents had resulted in the creation of a “hostile sexual environment”— something we may reasonably interpret as a form of rape culture that is being maintained at the university through actions that support basic ideals of toxic masculinity by emphasizing the ability of men to have physical dominance over women. This article has strength in its credibility due to the fact that the author is an award-winning investigative journalist, someone who would have no vested interests or bias when writing about this topic; the article contains nothing but facts on the incident with the Yale fraternity and the opinions of people in the Yale community who may have been affected.
Today’s American politics falls under the influence of toxic masculinity as well. In an article called “The Party of Unapologetic Misogyny” opinion contributor, Jill Filipovic, elaborates on the idea that it’s most evident in conservatism as President Trump, who had been recorded talking about grabbing women by their genitals, lives in the white house and governs as the face of the country whilst the more female-populated party known as the liberals continuously sanction involvements of sexual harassment such as when they returned donations from Harvey Weinstein. Although the author of this article does have well articulated arguments and uses justifiable examples to back them up, a bias within her writing wouldn’t be surprising; the entire article, in a way, bashes on conservatism and the republican party as a whole and does nothing but praise the left-winged. A significantly impactful portrayal of toxic masculinity is also through language. Some every-day sayings are deeply engraved with sexism and gender norms which uphold the idea that the objectification of women is anything but detrimental and that manhood is drastically more important, such as the phrase “bros before hoes”— a common saying amongst teenagers today. Other sayings may also minimize the effects of rape, such as how most gamers say “I just raped you” rather than “I just beat you”.
When looking for more local implications of toxic masculinity that have a correlation to establishing a rape culture, the United States’ criminal justice system shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. According to Ministry of Justice records in 2008, only 38% of rape cases won a conviction for rape itself. Plea bargaining— when both sides of a criminal court case come together to form an agreement outside of the trial— has resulted in men accused of rape to be able to plead guilty to a lesser offense and thus spend less time in jail, facing the repercussions, than they would if they were truly charged for the rape they’ve committed. Rachel Williams, featured writer for the Guardian, explains in her article “Fewer Rape Convictions Because Plea Bargains Prevail, Report Suggests” that doing this results in the establishment of the idea that rape is okay and won’t have serious repercussions when committed. She also quotes Ruth Hall, of Women Against Rape, who says that “The rapist will be confirmed in his view that he can get away with rape and is more likely to do it again.”
On a global implication, gendered violence is indiscreetly a global pandemic that although improving, is still an issue to which we must all attempt to find a solution for. A multitude of patriarchal countries have been known to resist putting an end to gendered violence because it would be an infringement on their traditional, cultural, and religious customs. It would be completely warranted to claim that these same customs are built on toxic masculinity as well, considering they promote masculine superiority and do nothing but objectify women, making it clear that they are nothing but that of which men make of them. Look towards countries such as Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan as prominent examples of toxic masculinity that is culturally ingrained resulting in the nation becoming a rape culture.
A possible solution to this would be the creation of more masculine identities. What is meant by this is doing something to eliminate the social expectation of men to be dominant, emotionless, and whatever other traditional factors that fall under masculine gender norms. According to Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women, Action & the Media, and a charter member of CounterQuo, a coalition dedicated to challenging the ways we respond to sexual violence, “taking action can be as simple as men publicly owning their preference for “female” coded things, whether that’s child-rearing, nonviolence, feminism, or anything else—and being willing to suffer the social consequences. It can be more formal, working with established organizations like Men Stopping Violence.” As more men start working towards this goal of creating and promoting these new masculine identities, the end result will be stronger than any decrease in rapes that resulted in actions taken by women.
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