Toxic Masculinity

“Grow up”, “man up”, “stop being a b***h” I’m sure sound familiar. In every walk of society I hear these things being thrown around. It’s funny because ‘back in the day’, as in a very long time ago, societies used to be split into tribes, where the fastest, strongest tribe got to eat the best food. Even within that tribe, the fastest, strongest individuals got the best food. Those people were most often young men.

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Image via ShutterStock

Masculinity was (still is to some degree) defined by three P’s. Protector, provider, procreator. The men who could protect the tribe, provide the food and procreate human life were seen as the best for the society. In today’s world, it’s seen as a show of strength, a sign of your masculinity to protect, as in fight over a spilt drink in a nightclub. To provide, as in, “I’ll get the bill”. To procreate, as in have sex with as many women as is possible. I didn’t realise that it was still the Stone Age.

I genuinely thought progress was being made in this respect, targeting mental health campaigns at men, speaking to men about their emotions, offering safe spaces for men. These things are so unbelievably necessary it’s not funny. It’s when you introduce women to the equation that things get scary. Men are 20 times more likely than women to end up in prison (1) , 3 times more likely than women to commit suicide (2), yet women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression (3). This concept that men have to be strong and can’t show their feelings, is likely resulting in some of these figures. Perhaps the cost of an ancient tribal society, is outweighing the benefits in modern society.

An interesting statistic, reported by the Department of Education in 2015, is that 74% of school teachers in England are women (4). In a mans, arguably most important stage of development, we are surrounded by women. If I fell and cut my knee in primary school and cried, I’d be met with a female teacher trying to help, telling me that big boys don’t cry. Is it any wonder men withhold their emotions later on in life? Rosenfeld found that 69% of divorces are initiated by women, and the most frequently stated reason is ‘emotional detachment’ from their husbands (5). Here is a man who doesn’t express emotions because all the women in his life have told him ‘big boys don’t cry’. Yet his wife tells him that she feels emotionally detached. I wonder what the odds are, that at some point in that relationship, he was told to ‘man up’.

It’s not a secret that women are objectified because of their looks and beauty. It’s also not a secret that men are objectified by their strength and courage. Women often say that men always want a Victoria’s Secret model, but I don’t see many women queueing up to be with the bin man. Maybe that’s the reason the handsome, strong, valiant hero always gets the girl in the movie?

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Superman; The Man of Steel (2013)

Recently, a woman posted on a certain Facebook page (where one can get tickets for events or post a witty comment to get likes for the beauty contest of university), where she had gone into the male bathroom on a busy night because the woman’s toilets weren’t equipped for all the girls at the time. She went on to suggest that men were gross, misogynistic and should “grow up and get over yourselves”. Lets break this down together.

1. A man has a right to a safe space where he can feel comfortable using the bathroom surrounded by other men, or in fact, use the cubicle if he so desires. To assume all men should ‘grow up’ and be comfortable with a woman in their safe space is ludicrous. Imagine the outrage if I walked into the female bathroom. Whilst some men may be ok with that, it’s clear that some men also were not. I would imagine there were loud cries along the lines of, “get the f*** out”.
2. Whilst I don’t doubt some a***hole probably launched a misogynistic assault on this young woman, on the basis of her comments, she probably wasn’t unaware that some men are misogynistic, so why would you put yourself in that position?
3. Yeah, boys are gross sometimes. Get over yourself.

It’s clear that there is a large public misunderstanding of masculinity in a modern world, where we aren’t under threat of sudden invasion, a lack of food (at least for the majority in this country), and its actually a better idea to stick to one woman and start a family. No longer are the 3 P’s relevant. Our incredible women are well equipped to protect and provide. Under no circumstances should anyone (man or woman) be left to their own devices in times of struggle, but you get my point.

Can we all grow up and get over ourselves. Men have emotions, men can be vulnerable, and men need support.

References

1. Prison population and capacity in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2017, g. (2018). Prison population & capacity 2017 | UK Statistic. [online] Statista. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/283475/prison-population-and-capacity-of-united-kingdom-uk-by-gender/ [Accessed 5 Jun. 2018].

2. Samaritans. (2018). Suicide: facts and figures. [online] Available at: https://www.samaritans.org/about-us/our-research/facts-and-figures-about-suicide [Accessed 5 Jun. 2018].

3. Mayo Clinic. (2018). Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725 [Accessed 5 Jun. 2018].

4. School Workforce in England. (2015). [PDF] Department for Education. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/533618/SFR21_2016_MainText.pdf [Accessed 5 Jun. 2018].

5. American Sociological Association. (2018). Women More Likely Than Men to Initiate Divorces, But Not Non-Marital Breakups. [online] Available at: http://www.asanet.org/press-center/press-releases/women-more-likely-men-initiate-divorces-not-non-marital-breakups [Accessed 5 Jun. 2018].

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