Caution: Toxic Masculinity Ahead

Brooke Shapiro is the founder and editor-in-chief of The F-Word Blog. She enjoys listening to 90’s R&B, having spontaneous dance parties, and studying feminism in film. 

The other night, I watched this TED Talk of Jane the Virgin’s Justin Baldoni addressing masculinity and calling for the redefining of masculinity. He invites men to embrace the parts of themselves that they have been told were feminine, learn from the women in their lives, and be confident enough to be vulnerable and sensitive.

More and more, I am beginning to believe that toxic masculinity is our most significant and pressing gendered issue. I believe that it is THE reason for gender inequality. We cannot even begin to address women’s rights until we find common ground with the men in our society. As long as men continue to adhere to these violent, tough, unemotional standards, women will never be treated as equals. It’s important for men to embrace their feminine sides, as much as it is important for women to embrace their masculine sides. Human beings need a balance. It’s unhealthy to repress one side to match society’s expectations for each gender. Only by embracing our other sides will we be able to fully understand one another and find equality.

However, the issue of toxic masculinity shouldn’t be addressed just for female equality’s sake. Toxic masculinity is oppressive to men and even more harmful than any of the expectations set for women by society.

Let’s start on a large scale. Toxic masculinity is certainly to blame for the shocking amount of sexual harassment and abuse cases that have recently been revealed. Toxic masculinity has even been theorized to be responsible for the influx of mass shootings. This is big. And it’s negatively impacting pretty much everyone worldwide.

On an individual basis, toxic masculinity is what makes middle school LITERALLY unbearable. Boys are expected to develop into prideful, strong, manly men. Those who exhibit any feminine characteristics are instantly singled out and viciously picked on. The result? These boys are forced to conform and are never truly able to overcome the insecurity they begin to experience upon not fitting in.

These expectations for men are wildly unrealistic. They are mentally harmful to the men who are forced to conform to these standards, and consequently harmful to the women around them. These standards are woven so deeply into the foundation of our society that we struggle to address them and often overlook their detrimental effects. But we can’t let toxic masculinity go on any longer. The consequences of such behavior- rape, mass casualties, bullying- are becoming increasingly significant and dangerous. This list will only grow if we don’t put an end to it now.

So, yeah, that patriarchy thing? Not just harmful to women. Men need to care, too. Because it’s hurting them. And hurting everyone else, too. It’s time that we stop examining gender issues from a female perspective only. Our society isn’t just oppressive to women. It’s oppressive to men, as well (in different ways of course, but nevertheless burdensome). Feminism is a cause that involves men and DESPERATELY needs them. I’m talking to you, men. We need you to care about feminism and participate in it. We need you to be willing to be sensitive, perceptive, and vulnerable. This is about you. It’s time to get on board.

Oh, and you really need to watch that TED Talk. So here:

Brooke Shapiro

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