In recent times, the phrases "male fragility" and "toxic masculinity" have been thrown around a lot mostly because of the upsurge of feminist movements.
FYI! These phrases have been in existence long before feminist movements gained any traction, but as you would soon discover, the feminist movements are the perfect triggers for toxic masculinity.
The phrases have been used so many times in several contexts, for diverse arguments that it is hard to know what they mean exactly. In fact, the phrases have lost most of their original meanings – that is if there was one.
The thing is, society often puts pressure on men to be, you know, “men”, unlike women who are considered to already be women – and are discouraged to try to be anything else.
And although being a “man” isn’t bad in and of itself, it creates huge problems when the men are unable to reach these demands.
For a start, there are huge expectations for men to be strong, competent, and reliable. For most societies, this translates to being able to protect, provide, and procreate.
Which traps men in a world where any signs of weakness and incompetence in certain areas makes people question their masculinity.
And so, in an attempt to prove themselves, most men who find themselves in precarious positions in life end up expressing their frustration – outwardly through violence, dominance, or aggression, or inwardly through addiction, depression, and ultimately suicide.
It is no surprise then that most crimes are carried out by young men under the age of 25 who have nothing to show for but feel they have a lot to prove. It is also the reason why men who have gained such qualities (of “manhood”, in the traditional sense) guide it with their life – and easily get triggered whenever anything or anyone tries to challenge or take it away from them.
Hence, the toxicity of masculinity doesn’t emanate from being masculine but trying to be (or remain) one. This too points to another problem: what does it truly mean to be a man?
For all the debate, hardly has anyone given a clear definition of what masculinity is, rather they have a clear definition of what it’s not – that is, it is not being "feminine".
It is not strange then that people use vulgar/abusive words like “pussy”, “bitch”, “princess” and so on to describe men who have been deemed unfit to be called “a man”.
It is also no surprise then that gay men suffer the most in our societies – since they are seen as feminine, which as you already know by now, opposes the traditional definition of masculinity.
This societal conundrum has led to paradoxes like the “Nordic Paradox”: which points to the fact that even though the responsibility imposed on men has been greatly reduced – by allowing women to assist in providing for, and protecting the family (Aka, gender equality) – the degree of sexual assaults, domestic, and intimate partner violence has seen a dramatic increase as well.
In essence, a lot of men consciously or unconsciously feel threatened by the uprising of women. And this is why the feminist movements are so upsetting to these men. It is also the reason masculinity needs an urgent redefinition.
This is because the rigidity and contradiction which the current definition imposes on men is stifling to them, and deathly harmful to women.
Toxic masculinity is so stifling that men are 5 times more likely to commit suicide compared to women, and teenage boys are 9 times more likely to kill themselves than girls.
The majority of violent crimes are executed on men, yet they (for fear of appearing weak) are far less likely to report or even express the pain.
It is no surprise then that they are more likely to become drug addicts, take on more dangerous jobs, work longer hours, ask for less help, and in general have a shorter life expectancy (with the causes ranging from emotional turbulence, chronic stress, fatigue, injury, and much more)
Thankfully, getting married goes a long way in smoothing out these hazards that men face – as the women help them unwind and also restrain them from more dangerous acts.
However, a lot of men are so emotionally unequipped and unavailable that they end up jeopardizing the marriage.
The result is that many women file for divorce due to “emotional neglect”, and the likelihood of recently divorced men to suffer mental illnesses, addictions, depression, or to take their life increases.
So, how do we solve this problem? The answer is by redefining what masculinity is.
The truth is that the masculinity we have today is outdated, precarious, and self-defeating. Men are being thought to measure their self-worth by an external metric – which is juxtaposed against womanhood and lacks any rigid meaning in and of itself.
Hence, rather than trying to argue about the toxicity of masculinity, or trying to shush it, it would be a whole lot productive to change the standard: to make it about being honest, an expert, a hero, a hardworking person – who is also loving, kind, emotionally open, and responsible.
If these positive aspects of masculinity are highlighted and stressed, then men would keep striving to be masculine, but the result won’t be toxic, but rather productive.
In conclusion, encouraging men to be more open, vulnerable and “fragile” would create a safer and healthier society. Men would no longer have to be “men” in the sense of masochism, but simply “humans who can let their walls down and experience a wide gamut of emotions just like women.
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