If you watched the Oscars like millions Sunday evening, you saw an example of what happens when someone suffering from toxic masculinity reacts badly. In front of millions Will Smith slapped the host Chris Rock for a joke he had made regarding Will Smith’s wife. It was an impulsive emotionally immature action on Will Smith’s part but is common with anyone who aligns with harmful masculinity. It was not an act of love or honor; it was an act of violence. Healthy masculinity is not the same as toxic masculinity.
Being a man and masculine had nothing to do with being toxic. Being a man can be respectful, gentle, strong, and emotional, but when a man begins thinking he must deny his feelings and win or get respect using aggression to protect what is his, he begins objectifying and discrediting his partner as well as the people he loves most. Protecting someone can be done with giving your support, engaging in discussion, understanding, and planning rational actions.
Signs of Toxic Masculinity
· Stoicism and not displaying emotions
· Never lose
· Suffer pain in silence
· Homophobia and violence against homosexuals
· Bully behaviors
· Excusing violence by saying "I’m a man, what do you expect?"
Society, like personal relationships, is affected by masculine toxicity. Issues of rape, violence and social exclusion are all part of a harmful masculinity mindset thinking that to be a man gives them freedom to act this way. This is dangerous, making aggression look like a reasonable way to solve conflict. In relationships, it kills innocent victims every year. I have suggestions that can help replace toxic masculinity with healthy masculinity, the first step is the biggest step and encourages each of us to look in the mirror and be honest about where we are in our thoughts about masculinity.
· Be self-aware and insightful on how you identify yourself as a man and use your masculinity to be an integrous leader for other boys and men growing up.
· Learn to be vulnerable in relationships. Society tells men that to be vulnerable is to be weak. This is a myth; being vulnerable is a courageous stance in relationships. It draws others closer and begins conversation.
· Intervene and be the change when you see sexism, oppression, and aggression. Talk to your children about what healthy masculinity looks like and why it’s important for both sexes to be encouraged to own their feelings and to feel as though their feelings are heard. Men are as emotional as women and shouldn’t be labeled as weak when they share feelings.
· Don’t surround yourself with men who have archaic macho masculine identification. Violence, dominance, aggression and always being the tough guy is not healthy masculinity and is driven by a fear of appearing weak to others.
Toxic masculinity is ingrained in our society and most of us have experienced the effects. Identifying it and becoming self-aware of our own actions to avoid furthering it in the next generation is a good place to begin replacing it with healthy masculinity.