We need to break the stigma around toxic masculinity


I am not a man. I am 4’11 and maybe around 115 pounds. I know someone like me writing an opinion on a topic like this is not ordeal.

I will admit that I have no idea what it means to be a man in today’s society. After all, I am still trying to figure out what it means to be a woman, but that’s a story for another day.

I understand that whatever words I write for this piece will not resonate with every male on the planet, and I can only imagine what the environment is like for the males in my life.

So, with that in mind, I am going to write this opinion piece the only way that I know how. I’ll use research and explain my perspective on what I have been taught and what I have seen.

The way I was raised meant that men in today’s society were strong, tough and brave. Nothing more, and definitely nothing less. I was raised on a stereotype, just like we all were.

That stereotype grew up with me, and I saw it with every grade I entered and every PE lesson I had. The boys were rough and strong. It was just normal for them to be that way.

But what about the boys that didn’t like dodgeball or basketball? If girls didn’t want to play, they got out easily and sat down. If any young boy in my class did that, they were made fun of.

I probably had a hand in that, and I should have known better. But boys were tough, and it was all I knew.

We all have had a hand in what we now call “toxic masculinity.” The Good Men Project defines toxic masculinity as “a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression.”

Toxic masculinity is this outdated idea that strength is everything while emotions are a weakness. Sex and violence are the standards by which men are judged.

Showing “feminine” traits such as “being soft” or fostering are the means by which your position as “man” can be taken away.

That stigma is everywhere. I have seen this toxic pressure at my house with my father and my brothers. It is at the gym and at school, especially high school.

There are terrible comments online. There are men calling one another insulting names. There is even horrific graffiti in the men’s restroom.

The whole concept is appalling and very easy to buy into.

The phrase toxic masculinity is such a touchy thing for guys, and I am aware of this. I asked a couple guys if they would like to write on this topic, and they all said no. They all pretty much said that they stay away from a topic like this.

I respect that. At least they were honest with me when they told me no. I know how scary it seems to put an opinion out in the world, and the last thing anyone wants is to piss people off.

Actor Justin Baldoni did a TED Talk called “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough.’

In the video he talks about his effort to reconcile who he is with who the world tells him a man should be. He wants to start a dialogue about redefining masculinity. In the video, he gives the men a challenge.

“I challenge you to see if you can use the same qualities that you feel make you a man to go deeper into yourself,” Baldoni said. “Your strength, your bravery, your toughness: Can we redefine what those mean and use them to explore our hearts? Are you brave enough to be vulnerable?”

I have trouble asking for help. The last thing I want people to see me as is weak.

I want to prove to everyone that I can do things on my own. I want the world to never underestimate my abilities. I want everyone to see me as brave, smart and strong woman.

I can guarantee that is what men want too. So, to the man reading this, you and I may understand one another better than we think we do.

I know this is a reach coming from me, but it is okay to ask for help. We, as a society, need to stop pretending that men will never have mental and physical problems.

To the men out there: you cannot do this alone, and you don’t have to. You are human, and humans screw things up. I don’t expect you to change overnight. To finally accept the emotional vulnerability that scares the crap out of you will take time, but I believe in you.

I do not know what goes on inside a male’s head. Honestly, I don’t want to. I have stuff in my own head that I have to deal with. What I do know is that we all deserve help no matter what gender you are.

The stigma that there are many ways to be a girl but only one way to be a boy will be erased. I hope that a male will see more thoughts like this the next time he goes to the bathroom.