Toxic Masculinity Is Real but Doesn’t Affect All Men

Mae Buck | United States

Many ultra-traditionalist conservatives might have you believe that toxic masculinity is just an excuse for boys who aren’t “boy enough” to exist and for men who aren’t “men enough” to exist. It’s the lack of masculinity that causes erratic violence, right? But, is it the surge of masculinity (and perhaps its friend, testosterone) that catalyzes “good” violence? The same masculinity that gives rise to calculated violence against deserving enemies and makes enemies in the first place?

The classic historical argument of women being submissive and men being dominant in social structures unfurls, and what reveals is weird. The gender politics not steel-cut; they become a volatile body subverting itself constantly.

Fluid Gender Roles

For instance, we can take the case of Marie Curie. Curie found Radium and Polonium and won two Nobel Prizes in physics (shared) and chemistry during 1903 and 1911 respectively. She is the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two categories, and also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize ever. The scientific community took Curie seriously even though she did what was traditionally a man’s job, and she did just as well as the men. She and so many women after her have done the traditional man’s job and won nonetheless.

Because we have this history, we can now say for sure that the role of man and woman are not entirely rigid, and have some degree of plasticity. Gender roles can be as flexible as proven. So, criticizing toxic masculinity isn’t criticizing a permanent thing. It’s criticizing something flexible.

In this case, it’s criticizing our modern day’s masculinity. Not men per se, but masculinity as a system. Following the logic that gender roles are flexible, men are thus not ossified into the very system they are somewhat expected to act out by name. They just happen to participate in the rambling landscape of masculinity, or otherwise the inputs and outputs of masculinity.

These inputs and outputs function in a way influenced by historical legacy, that men are expected to fit into a general mold of what a man is. This mold, of course, is informed by history, and so men are socialized by the vestiges of history itself. To abscond from this mold is to almost quit being a man, and to be a deviant.

Toxic Masculinity in Society

This is evident, one example being in an implicit bias study from A. Tilcsik on workplace discrimination. Time and time again, gay men who openly stated their sexuality on resumes received fewer job opportunities. Another study states that implicit bias has been on the decrease for gay folks, yet the results only suggest a 13% decrease in implicit bias against gay folks from 2007 to 2013. One ought to note that there is considerable variability in the results of the IAT (Implicit-Association Test), and results can be faulty, but still useful.

So, we have various ways to look at the situation. To posit alone that toxic masculinity exists is acceptable. But one must deduce what exerts stress onto it in order to help.

This is where we begin to move into the theoretical. What causes toxic masculinity? What makes it fulminate healthy bounds of masculinity?

To be frank, I don’t particularly know. I do know, that in this quest to understand what it means to be toxically masculine that one must consider socialization, history, and hegemonic structures to evaluate this, as men’s development hinges on these (as well as women’s!). Think carefully once again, and stay informed.


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