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Are You Man Enough?

By E. R.

Toxic masculinity. It sounds like such a dramatic and over-the-top term that could no way be a part of anyone's life. But unfortunately, the cold truth is that it’s everywhere in the world around us.

Graphic by Ki Tally

As defined by the BBC, toxic masculinity is “a set of negative behaviours that men think they have to follow in order to be ‘proper men’.” These negative behaviours can include things such as risk-taking behaviours (i.e. drinking too much, reckless driving or mild to severe violence towards people more vulnerable than them, such as children or female partners). They are rooted into values and beliefs that are instilled into them as young boys, that to be a ‘man’ you must be tough, strong and never show any weakness whatsoever.

“Man up.” “Boys don’t cry.” “Take it like a man.” These are all common phrases that nearly every guy gets told as they’re growing up or over their lifetime. They may seem like small, throw away comments but they always stick, especially because of how they’re so pervasive: they come from teachers, schoolmates, relatives, sports coaches and other relevant adults in our lives. Messages involving toxic masculinity can be seen everywhere in the media, social media and entertainment. Whilst they are not always said, they’re always demonstrated through images that act to enforce the ever-spreading belief that to be a ‘real man’, a boy has to display toxic masculinity.

Comic by Rasenth

A major problem involved with toxic masculinity being experienced on a daily basis is how it affects men’s mental health so negatively. These phrases and all the other elements of the ‘tough man’ stigma have a detrimental impact on a huge number of men mentally. It generally causes an immense difficulty in men being able to express emotions in words, accept emotional vulnerability or insecurities or admit to any form of weakness to anyone.

Personally, I’ve experienced all these things in my life and noticed everyone else around me going through the exact same stuff. But the main issue is that guys don’t really notice how trapped they are with their emotions and they just keep feeling worse and worse and worse, because they won’t talk to anyone. They think they have to “take it like a man” and “never show weakness.”

This effect really shows up quite obviously in society, and it doesn’t take much looking to find examples of it everywhere. What really demonstrates the effects of toxic masculinity on men is shown in the majority of male friendships when compared to the majority of female friendships. From personal experience and also others around me, generally there is a stark difference between the two types of friend relationships. The female ones tend to share a lot more emotions and deep feelings with each other, where the male ones tend to not talk about it all.

When guys are trapped with only their own feelings and no way to share them with anyone, it has a hugely negative impact on their wellbeing and ability to function at their best in everyday life. This is reflected strongly in the statistics showing that around 75% of suicide deaths in Australia are male and roughly 45 males take their lives each week.

And what’s more, guys thinking that they have to be tough to be a man leads to more violent behaviours. Think about it, how many female friendships have you seen where they punch each other for fun? Girls just aren’t generally taught or shown to be aggressive the way guys are.

Photo by Lopez Robin

Furthermore, think about all the examples of men being violent that are exposed to young boys growing up. W.W.E. (wrestling TV shows), all the fighting in cartoons/movies, toy guns, etc. All this aggressive behaviour is very commonly shown to boys as a solution to a problem or a fun way to spend time, and always as something a ‘true man’ would do. This repeated pressure of the need to be tough and violent obviously has an impact on making males more violent in general.

We need to teach all men in the world, that no matter who they are and no matter what stereotypes are reflected on their gender, they should always reach out to someone. No one should trap themselves in their own feelings and emotions, and doing so can only make things worse for themselves, or even others. Being vulnerable or insecure about anything can never make you less of a man, and no one should be ashamed for that. There’s nothing that actually defines what a man is or what a man should be like, because everyone’s different. You can be masculine without being toxic. You can be masculine without being aggressive. You can be masculine and vulnerable. We all need to reach out and express our feelings to people, never hold them in. “Man up” and talk to someone about how you really are.

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.


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