Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Toxic Masculinity is a massive problem in modern society, with phrases like ‘man up’ and ‘take it like a man’ still frequently being used in casual conversation. According to the charity Samaritans, British men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives. The suffering isn’t limited to men, however. Toxic masculinity is also massively detrimental to society as a whole.
Toxic masculinity is the term given to the stereotypical masculine gender role that inhibits a man’s ability to express his emotions freely and controls his social behaviour. Not only does it encourage men to behave in a certain dominating, ‘alpha’ fashion (imagine your stereotypical ‘lad’), it may also curtail his ability to freely ask for help or emotional support. Displaying ‘excessive’ emotion, or requiring support can be seen as emasculating and detrimental to a man’s status. It is easy to see how feeling forced to conform to this constrictive brand of masculinity could have damaging repercussions on male mental health.
On an individual level, toxic masculinity teaches men that anger is one of the few emotions that is appropriate for public display as an ‘ideal’ male figure. This invalidates other emotions the man might be thinking, negatively impacting his mental health. This might explain why, according to a Medco Health Solutions study, only 15% of assessed men take medication to assist their mental health, as opposed to 25% of the women. Toxic masculinity is so dangerous because it prioritises the outward display of emotion over the internal reality.
Socially, toxic masculinity is not only detrimental, but also dangerous in some cases. It can encourage men to engage in violent interactions to prove their strength and power instead of expressing their feelings in more productive ways. Excessive anger and aggression may isolate the man from his immediate community, running the risk of negatively impacting his mental health. This brand of masculinity is isolating and damaging to an individual’s state of mind. It holds no benefits to the affected man, nor to his family or friends. By encouraging men to act in a threatening and potentially even violent manner, toxic masculinity is destroying relationships as well as contributing to the already high percentage of men suffering with a mental health condition. According to the Men’s Health Forum, in 2017 the percentage of British men suffering from a mental health condition was already at 12.5%. We don’t need this number to climb any higher.
Toxic masculinity is inherently harmful to both the suffering man and his immediate community. It is time to recognise that these stereotypical attitudes towards an ‘ideal’ form of masculinity are reductive and disadvantageous to a progressive and peaceful society. Whilst we have begun to recognise it as the damaging attitude that it is, we are still so far away from eliminating it altogether. Indeed, until men and women are acknowledged as equally emotional genders, we still have more work to do.