Over the last few years we have seen the phrase, ‘toxic masculinity’ being used more and more. While the majority of the time this is used to put down men and blame the patriarchy for most of the issues women face in the modern western world; there is actually a massive issue here and it is going largely ignored.
While I am not ignoring the plight of women in the 21st century, toxic masculinity has a far more destructive affect on men and young boys than our female counter parts.
Suicide rates are higher among men than women. Depressive, anxiety, various disorders, and abuse all seem more prevalent in men and yet for the most part, men are shamed into keeping quiet rather than reaching out for help. Choosing to suffer in silence rather than take that first step that they have been trained to believe they will be mocked for—as somehow this makes them ‘less of a man.’
From an early age boys are groomed into this polarized image of what a man is. The problem is of course that this imagine simply isn’t realistic. You are either too skinny or too over weight. This by itself can lead to a number of eating disorders than can go ignored and unchecked for years and well into adulthood.
Parents often look at their daughters’ to make sure that they are eating enough—but how often do they take the time to check their sons’? It’s simply too easier to write a thin boy of as just ‘a thin boy,’ often thinking it’s just a quick metabolism.
Sometimes you can see it has gone the other way. While the plus size boys are far from the rock hard abs and bulging muscle and so they can all too easily begin the downward spiral of comfort eating. This too can last long into adulthood.
This pressure of the perfect body isn’t just forced through the media and society we have but can even come from the other boys. Mockery for being too short of too tall, too fat or too thin. Toxic masculinity sets in the early days and bombards boys from all sides. Not just on how they should look—whether reasonable or not, but also on how they should act.
While I give the LGBTQ+ community great respect for the progress they have made over the last few years, we are sadly still in an era where boys are compared to the ‘John Wayne’ standard and if they differer too much from this template then they are label as, ‘not a real man.’
This has very real consequences on a boy’s psyche. It can lead to a number of social anxiety issues and a wide range of self-esteem conflicts and that too can lead to eating disorders and even self-harm.
All starting at a young age, it can be years before these demons are laid to rest—if at all.
Men are mostly likely to die in the work place.
Now while there are many who love to spout that women are abused in the work place, there is more abuse taken by men. The difference here is that the men are expected to take it and are insulted endlessly if they complain. In the past I worked in the Frozen areas of factories. This involved 14 hour shifts in freezing conditions, a lot of heavy lifting and standing for the whole shift with only 60 minutes break.
Even with all the safety conditions we have today there are still a number of ways that a fatal accident can go wrong. Now there is nothing stopping a woman from working in these conditions but by enlarge, the women in the factories preferred to work on the line and not in the frozen areas.
Yet if a man showed objections to this he will get ridiculed for it. His masculinity called into question and this can all too easily extend beyond the grounds of work.
Of course not forgetting that for most of the world, the retirement age for men is higher than women, leading to work-related stress playing a role in a man’s life for a lot longer than a woman’s life.
As more women are in the academic circles it also falls to the man to do the most physically demanding and stressful jobs. And for those who settle down and raise a family, it is often the man sent out to earn a living. (Yes, I understand and fully support a woman’s right and choice to work—but this is what is simply expected by society and not the exceptions to the rule.)
Yes the woman is at home with the baby. But the man is not exactly resting in the pub with his feet on the table. And when he comes home he must be superman. Because now his hard working day is done, he must take over as Parent-on-shift, so that the mother can rest.
When we think of an abusive relationships we automatically think of the man abusing the woman. However what we are seeing more and more is that woman are abusing men. Using physical abuse knowing that the man won’t hit back or that he will be spat on in the public if he does resort to violence even if it is in self-defense.
Or with mental and emotional abuse as a grown and sometimes much more damaging form of abuse that can lead all too easily into the man committing suicide.
By reaching out the man has to have the stigma that they are not a man—as a man would not have been put into that position. The shame can keep a man trapped in that kind of relationship for years- and sadly leaving them with the idea that the only ‘out’ is the one that ends it all.
A single one of these factors is something that shouldn’t be ignored but as we are men they are written off. And when each issues is stacked up they act like boulders being stacked on a glass floor. Any crack lends to the idea that that man is a weakling and not really a man because ‘real men’ don’t crack.
I’ve said before that being weak doesn’t mean that you are weak or that you have failed. It simply means you needed a break and as a human being, you need to reach out to someone. There is no shame or fault in something like that. Yet it is the toxic masculinity that forces too many men to keep quiet with the problems that they are facing. Social anxiety builds, social problems build. Depression builds and seemingly out of nowhere the man will take his own life.
While people scratch their heads and wonder what had lead to this, it was the toxic masculinity that pushed him to it. That kept him from reaching out and asking for help and in some cases, that stopped the rest of us from looking and seeing the problem.
Again I want to say that this is not to undermine women who are suffering at the hands’ of our society, or are handicapped by the patriarchy. But simply to say that the toxic masculinity is a much bigger problem for men than it is for women.
So I will simply end with this. You are great. You are loved. You are not alone. Share that message with men and women alike and maybe one day we can all be free from toxic masculinity.