The topic of toxic masculinity in our generation is an overbearing emotional issue that is important this day in age. It affects not just men but everyone as well due to the same catalyst that sparks this issue of men being unable to freely express their emotions without the fear of this catalyst, that being toxic masculinity and hypermasculinity. The first step to help ending and wearing down this issue is educating our generation and the public.
What is toxic masculinity you might ask? Toxic masculinity refers to traits of dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotion. This rise of this kind of masculinity limits and puts various fears into the current age and youth of men not being able to express themselves freely in fear of being shunned and threatened by various sources of this toxic masculinity. An example of this can be shown with the hashtag of #MasculinitySoFragile was trending in September of 2015 to showcase these sources and attacks from hypermasculinity, especially online. In a rather emblematic tweet of the situation, Twitter user Mech of Justice (@mechofjusticewz) sneered, “I challenge any female tweeting unironically with #MasculinitySoFragile to last three rounds against me in a fight, We’ll see who’s fragile.” Which highlights the various online groups conducting these acts of hostility towards any sort of femininity or emotions shown through men. Online harassment is a large contributor towards this rise of toxic masculinity affecting those across the public and across social media. Another example of how toxic masculinity is how ingrained it is within societal norms and how it affects the youth of men and boys alike.
In 1998, William Pollack wrote a book titled “Real Boys: Rescuing Our Boys From the Myths of Boyhood”. He described the “boy code” as that it is required for boys to be stoic and independent, macho, athletic, powerful, dominant, and phobic of anything close to feminine. If not, they would be failures. These kinds of things ingrained within the norms of society can often be the motive and driving point for these retaliations against any hint of femininity or emotions within men. In a recent documentary, “The Mask You Live In” films boys from various backgrounds that describe the way that they suffer from our culture’s narrow definition of what is acceptable masculinity and what is not. This is another example and as well as a means of educating the public about the true mental health effects that toxic masculinity has on men and boys alike. This important issue can lead boys into depression, conduct disorders, isolation, violence and problematic relationships as a result of this current problem. According to the CDC males die from suicide four times more than females and represent 77.9% of all suicides. Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for males and 14th for females. Results from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that females are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than males despite males having a higher suicide rate. Part of this might be for toxic masculinity to blame into pressuring males to not show or express emotions which lead into depression and suicide. An associate professor of counseling psychology from Indiana University named Y. Joel Wong has also done extensive research into this topic picking apart certain masculine traits and how they contribute to the deterioration of mental health.
Through means of education and discussing these issues of toxic masculinity and the problem with the fear of showing emotion among men we can crack down on ending the stigma behind men having emotions. Men are allowed to show vulnerability, and show weakness. Emotions are a human trait and not a female trait. As Voiceofyouth.org puts it best, “Men have tear ducts for a reason, men have emotions for a reason. We men were not made to feel heartless, we were not born without the ability to feel. We do feel things, some deeper than others, so why should we feel the need to hide these feelings from everyone around us?”
What can we as a community do to help end the stigma of boys having emotions?
The first thing we can do is recognize and support organizations that help raise awareness of these issues like toxic masculinity. For instance, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism is a men organization of men and women that helps raise awareness and support positive changes for men. NOMAS advocates to have a perspective that is pro-feminist, gay affirmative and anti-racist. The Healthy Masculinity Action Project is a national grassroots movement that looks to eradicate the harmful expectations and stereotypes with how our society teaches boys about what it means to be a man. The project aims to make a new generation of male leaders to be models of strength without violence and serve as positive change makers within society and taking their communities from awareness to action. The next thing we can do is promote these types of organizations and take inspiration from them and apply them to our communities in order to help make it a better place. Another example being such as in Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois having a program called Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS) which helps raise awareness with gender equality and to create a space where all genders can discuss issues that affect them. We can take examples such as these apply them to our own communities as we are now with Teen Summit to help raise awareness with issues such as this one, with dope programs like these. Precautions like these can help support our folks, become even stronger allies with one another, and make our society and communities an even safer place without having to worry about expressing one’s self.
 Laura Kastner, PH.D. October 10,2017