Added: Willian Motyka - Date: 25.10.2021 18:35 - Views: 25943 - Clicks: 8816
Across the country, men and women are united in condemning toxic masculinity, and everyone agrees that it is very, very bad. But what exactly is toxic masculinity? They grow with every mass shooting, MeToo allegation, and Dave Chapelle special. How did the term get so much traction? Social media had a lot to do with it, but so did social science. But what does it mean to be guilty of toxic masculinity? Hard to say. For how much the term is bandied about, it remains poorly defined. The toxic bit is simple enough, but masculinity has always been difficult to pin down.
Whereas feminine ideals are fairly consistent over the course of Western history, masculine ideals are not. The only consistent truth about masculinity has been this: Men have always feared having it taken away.
This is why serious gender researchers are increasingly dismissive of the idea of toxic masculinity, which suggests that manhood itself is some form of congenital defect. What seems to be more plausible is that toxic behaviors are a reaction to perceived threats to the masculinity of a subset of men with poor self-esteem.
Bosson and Vandello concluded that many men view masculinity as a sort of currency that can be earned and stolen rather than as a fixed trait. They found most young boys working hard to earn manhood and a smaller population of men preoccupied with protecting this valuable social status. These men, the ones who worried about their masculine status being taken away, demonstrated a tendency to lash out if not externally validated. By contrast, girls tended to view the transition to womanhood as physical rather than social. Questioning their femininity was unlikely to trigger much more than a laugh.
Bosson and Vandello posited that men are quite a bit more anxious about gender than women. But why? The answer seems to be more cultural than biological. In almost every culture, boys begin to police each other as they approach manhood, deeming only specific behaviors acceptable and demanding, in many cases, that aspirants to masculinity perform feats of social and physical strength. The modern hazing rituals found in college fraternities are essentially an extension of this. Gender is performative in general, and women certainly experience social pressures and have hierarchies.
Feminists lampooned by their enemies for being too masculine — Lady Gaga has, for instance, been accused of hiding a secret penis — tend to shrug off the jokes, while the men who make them struggle to grant the premise that gender roles are oppressive. Understanding that they have more to lose, men flee the conversation or prepare to fight.
If the precariousness of the male identity is more potentially destructive than masculine behaviors, one would expect the most toxic behavior to occur in the most precarious groups. The exception is gambling. The median age for most crimes is under Who engages in dangerously toxic behavior? Young men, the people that worry most about their gender status.
Communities with a high density of underprivileged young men without access to validation tend to be high crime communities, in which manhood is expressed through substance abuse, homophobia, sexism, harassment, extreme risk-taking, and violence. This is toxicity, but the problem does not seem to be masculine ideals. Testosterone tends to shoulder the blame for poor male behavior and it is true that higher testosterone levels are linked to low-risk aversion, aggression, and violent tendencies.
Men with higher sex hormone levels are also more sensitive to masculinity threats. But Vandello is reluctant to blame biology for men lashing out when their manhood is threatened. Social rules, consequences, and the policing of masculinity reinforce the idea that men have to perform and defend it. Men must be convinced that their manhood is suspect. This is not an innate anxiety. One of the five pillars of male identity she discussed in her keynote was trauma.
She explained to her majority female audience that most men experience rejection tied to masculinity at some point in their lives and that this often leaves a profound mark. To illustrate this point, she shared a clip of the documentary The Workabout men in group therapy in a prison.
In the clip, a man describes being sent away by his engineer father for not understanding how to help work on a car. Decades after he was told to go find his mother, the wound is still clearly fresh. He cries. But not all of her colleagues have been so pleased to have a woman looking under the hood of maleness. Precarious masculinity seems to show up everywhere. But the most obvious place most people encounter it is in humor. Research indicates that men do not typically prefer sexist and homophobic humor.
But psychologist Thomas Ford has found that men who believe masculinity can be taken away are more likely to respond positively to sexist and homophobic jokes.
Interestingly, this group of insecure men do not seem to have acquired a taste for racist jokes. Why not?
Presumably because sexist and homophobic humor has a uniquely gender-affirming quality. Jokes allow men to reassert their masculinity by distancing themselves from perceived femininity. The high-stakes stuff is much more disturbing.
Perceived threats to masculinity lead to higher incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault. Despite having some of the highest rates of gender equity in Europe, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden have the highest rates of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in the EU.
One study of more than 4, families found that women who were the primary breadwinners were more likely to be victims of domestic violence when their partners held more traditional beliefs about gender roles. The data indicates that men have a problem with the precariousness of masculinity rather than the toxicity of it, but the core issue is that too many boys and men struggle profoundly for self-worth without the help of outside sources. Clinical psychologist Daniel Sher echoes those sentiments, adding that there are some men who see masculinity as stable, biological, and a relatively arbitrary construct, or some combination of the three, which reflects more psychological maturity and likely a higher quality of life.
Vandello acknowledges that some men are able to reject the notion that manhood is unstable and needs to be regularly proven, especially as they age.
But many of these men who privately reject this still buckle when subjected to the social consequences of nonconformity. Aside from the uncertainties of masculinity, what clinicians and social scientists overwhelmingly agree on is that making manhood the enemy may not be a constructive way to push for change. It is itself an affront to define masculinity and, as such, a pretty lousy means of striking up a constructive conversation.
Proving this is not hard. One only needs to try to participate in a discussion about gender on Twitter. Lack of masculinity is. The discourse devolved from theredivided between people supporting, insulting, and questioning Stirr and Tomassi. Still, coddling or talking past problematically insecure men is not a viable solution to the problem presented by gender insecurity.
So what is? Strangely, the answer may be demanding more. Each expert interviewed for this article independently noted positive aspects of performed masculinity — heroism, action-based empathy such as protecting others, expertise, amassing resources, and work ethic. Demanding men meet these standards and celebrating those who do might positively refocus the energies of men afraid of having their masculinity stripped from them. Caregiving demands a lot of men but can be ennobling and, if positioned correctly, masculinizing. Masculinity will not likely cease to be important to these men, but if the values attached to it become healthier so might the men plagued by it.
Perhaps the ultimate twist in the myth of the toxic man is that an evolved and intrinsic form of masculinity might be the solution. If masculinity is a construct that needs to be reinforced for some men over and over again, make it bear repeating. Please try again. Give us a little more information and we'll give you a lot more relevant content.
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