While the definition of toxic masculinity is not clear-cut, the Good Men Project identifies toxic masculinity as “a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression.” Not all masculinity is bad, and in no way are men themselves toxic. Masculinity only becomes toxic when it becomes unhealthy for men and the women around them. Toxic masculinity manifests itself as a result of the unrealistic expectations that society places on men.
Toxic masculinity can present itself in a number of ways, such as homophobia and misogyny. According to the Good Men Project, toxic masculinity also can stunt intellectual and emotional growth. But, most importantly, toxic masculinity can present itself through violence that is sometimes deadly.
To be clear, most men never become violent as a result of toxic masculinity. Most men will be fine. But many will not, and that is a problem that should be a priority. It is vital to address toxic masculinity as it is and deal with it in a positive manner.
To solve a problem, one must first understand why the problem is occurring. The problem of toxic masculinity, while far-reaching and reinforced by decades of complacency, is simple. We, as a society, are putting too much pressure on men not to be seen as feminine, because femininity is often negatively perceived by our society.
Society perceives women as being overly emotional, weak and prone to irrationality. From an early age, we teach young boys to reject anything feminine. We teach them to suppress their feelings and “be a man” long before they become men. The American Psychology Association reports that men are 33 percent less likely to seek treatment for common mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. And suppressing emotions can oftentimes lead to violence, according to Social Psychology and Personality Science.
Steve Stephens, according to police, targeted and killed Robert Godwin at random in Cleveland, while Godwin was walking home from his Easter dinner in 2017. Authorities said Stephens filmed the innocent man’s death and posted the video on Facebook all because he was “mad with his girlfriend,” according to CNN. He even went as far as forcing the man to say his girlfriend’s name before he killed him.
“She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you,” Stephens said, according to CNN.
While it is unclear whether Stephens had underlying mental health issues, it is quite clear that he was aggressive and thrust that aggression upon an innocent man, perhaps because, like other men, Stephens was not taught to express his emotions in a healthy manner.
According to co-founder of Mentors in Violence Protection Jackson Katz, this was not the first time a man reacted aggressively at least in part as a result of toxic masculinity, and it certainly won’t be the last. He notes that “boys and men in our society are conditioned to see violence as a solution to their problems, a resolution to their anxieties, or a means of exacting revenge.” Society needs to reject the ridiculous notion that men cannot have feelings and instead come to terms with the fact that men do have emotions and deserve to express them in a healthy way, devoid of violence. Until we disregard this notion, the effects will persist, including violence, will still prevail, and we will continue to be in danger.