In recent years, the phrase “toxic masculinity“ has become a growing buzzword. But what exactly is toxic masculinity?
It used to be men were held in high esteem if words like macho, red-blooded, stoic, were used to describe them. However, the underlying negative and dangerous mechanisms that come with these “old-school” descriptions have become increasing apparent in recent years.
What is toxic masculinity?
The phrase and concept of toxic masculinity emerged from mythopoetic men’s movement of the 80s and 90s. From here the phrase was adopted into classroom studies and university discourse.
But what does toxic masculinity look like in action? Research defines it as behaviors that include suppressing emotions or masking distress, maintaining an appearance of toughness, and violence as an indicator of power (ie., “tough guy” behavior).
Toxic masculinity also refers to the idea that certain men have a habit of objectifying women and feeling superior to women. And perhaps the biggest problem with toxic masculinity is the idea that somehow all of this is perfectly normal and acceptable behavior and that “boys will be boys.” A simple look at the MeToo movement offers a glimpse of just how dangerous this behavior and mindset can be.
Who does toxic masculinity hurt the most?
The knee-jerk response would be to say that toxic masculinity hurts women the most. After all, it is women who are “treated as second-class citizens and objectified” because of toxic masculinity and the “patriarchal society” from which it stems.
But how much do men suffer from the very concept of toxic masculinity. When you think about it, both roles of men and women have changed over the last 50+ years. Women have become more empowered and have been invited to embrace their independence and strength.
However, young men continue to receive mixed messages. What is and is no longer acceptable seems to be ever-changing. At times it seems the war isn’t just against “toxic” masculinity, but masculinity in general. What does it even mean to be masculine these days and how are men supposed to navigate these tricky waters?
For many men this can be a difficult question to answer and with the remaining stigma in American culture, many men are left to suffer in silence.
Men Need To Learn To Develop a Healthy Sense of Self
Many men are hurting right now, confused as to what the role and identity is in this modern world. This, in turn, impacts the relationships men have with the women in their life and the family they create. There can be devastating ripple effects – everything from substance abuse, addiction, infidelity, domestic violence, and emotional child abuse and neglect.
Therapy & Coaching Can Help
Therapy and coaching can offer men an accepting, non-judgmental environment to explore their feelings and uncertainties and to develop their inner character. Working with a therapist or coach can give men the opportunity to communicate what their mind is telling them and make sense of the conflicting messages they often get from society.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving to Thriving.