Traditional masculinity has gained different definitions over time. However, the masculine traits mostly projected are related to dominance, self-reliance, sexual prowess, and physical strength. Masculinity in itself is not bad. Rather, it is a form of self-identity that people who identify as males choose to differentiate themselves.
However, the concept of toxic masculinity stemmed from the 1980s with ideologies such as the mythopoetic men's movement. The movement was a sort of protest against the idea that boys were being feminized, and gradually losing certain masculine traits.
While the pioneers of this movement started it with seemingly noble intentions, the result was that modern society had a singular overall look at what healthy masculinity should be. Unfortunately, this movement and other traditionally masculine traits and ideologies further created societal pressures.
These pressures led to internal struggles for boys who later become men with toxic masculinity traits. It is easy to think the issue of harmful masculinity is the problem of the men folk only. However, women are usually at the receiving end of these masculine traits, healthy or otherwise.
As such, have you been excusing certain characteristics that point to toxic masculinity because you’ve been conditioned to believe they are normal? In retrospect, how harmful have such masculine behaviors been to you and your partner?
This article will help you with examples of toxic masculinity you might have been enabling, and how to help your man recognize and adjust them.
Table of Contents
One of the most common toxic masculinity traits we have come to accept is aggression. A man turns aggressive in the workplace, and people accept it as a part of him. When the gender displaying aggression is a woman, she is labeled as a shrew and uncouth.
Anyone, woman or man, can go out of character once in a while to show aggression. However, when aggression becomes a common trait a man exhibits and he makes no move to check himself, it should be unacceptable. In most cases, it is not directly the man’s fault for thinking he has to resort to aggression to make his point.
Societal expectations have made it so that boys are allowed to see bullying the female gender as a normal childish thing. Although this form of bullying evolves into different masculine traits, including aggressively exerting male power, it is still bullying at its core.
As such, if your boyfriend cannot hold a conversation without sounding defensive, he needs to check his character.
Male entitlement is another common toxic masculinity feature many men wear with pride. When boys are raised to believe they can get anything they want and no one can stop them, they tend to grow up to be toxic men.
It is right to raise your children to reach for their biggest desires. However, it is wrong to not teach them not to get what they want at the expense of other people’s comfort.
Another societal expectation still challenging to erase is the presentation of unequal gender roles. A boy raised in a family where only the women performed household chores will grow up to be a man who also expects his woman to handle his laundry and cook his food.
He will naturally feel entitled to this consistency in gender roles and see no need to change. If several generations before him did this, why should he act otherwise? You shouldn’t have to school him on this obvious menace that modern society has been fighting.
However, you should still speak out if your man acts entitled all the time. If he doesn’t adjust to your observations, you should consider leaving his entitled butt.
This particular toxic masculinity can be traced to thousands of years ago when the first set of men had no choice but to be dominant to survive. Such a society was wild, savage, and unsafe, which is why they needed weapons to source food, shelter, and even their women. Basically, they didn’t know of any other way to live.
However, it’s the freakin 21st century, and there are a million ways of being a strong man capable of living his best life. A man who still thinks he needs to exert dominance on his woman or other people he thinks he supersedes is actually weak.
Does your partner use words and actions to belittle your abilities? Does he use words like “I know what I’m doing. Because I’m a man, I can do it better”?
You need to let him know you can do things in your perceived weak feminine way without his toxic masculinity breathing down your neck. If he would allow it, help him see a better way to show his competence without putting someone else down.
Does your partner or brother show empathy sparingly because men are not supposed to respond to women’s tears? Showing a hard exterior or appearing harsh because you don’t want to be considered wimpy is usually more harmful to the actor than the receiver. When a guy restrains himself from showing empathy, he is reinforcing himself with negative emotions.
He is saying he also doesn’t deserve kindness. This kind of toxic masculinity expectation is what leads men to depression and eventually, suicide. The common notion is that more women should commit suicide because of their susceptibility to different emotions.
However, statistics suggest that men experience depression and give in to suicide more than women because they don’t allow their emotions free rein.
One way to help the men in your life is to show them empathy even if they grew up believing empathy isn’t a good masculinity trait. With time, they might come to accept that they are firstly humans before gender differences.
Most times, even women indirectly define masculinity in an unhealthy way. You strengthen toxic masculinity when you expect your man to be there for you emotionally, but you don’t spare his mental health any thought. This behavior might be subconscious because upbringing and society have conditioned you to think men are always strong.
It is also your responsibility to check yourself when you are selfishly taking from your man without giving him the same kind of support. Men shouldn’t be completely self-reliant because they are men. Men should be able to lean on anyone they trust without being perceived as weak.
Another unhealthy masculinity trait that many people, including yourself, might have been enabling is making men think the financial burden of a relationship/family rests on their shoulders only. In recent times, it’s hard to find a fully ‘kept woman’ because everyone gets the memo of ‘all hands should be on deck'
However, this reality doesn’t erase the fact that many men still work harder than their women because they are the stronger gender. Ironically, this idea defeats the concept of gender equality while increasing the disadvantages of toxic masculinity.
Doing your part to contribute adequately to the financial responsibilities in your relationship is a good way of limiting the power of toxic masculinity.
It is not that men don’t feel anything, what they do is isolate their emotions. Instead of speaking out constantly about how they feel, most men bottle their feelings and go on with life. Some address the wrong feelings because they don’t want to admit that they are hurt, broken, or even elated by something.
These isolated emotions build-up to a negative crescendo that results in nasty or unexpected actions. The men who take the courage to talk about their feelings are not addressed properly. When a man is made to feel he should be on top of his game all the time, he would wish he hadn’t spoken out in the first place.
One way to help in this case is not to ignore his expressed feelings. Instead, listen to him talk or cry even if you don’t have any obvious solution at the time.
It is a sign of harmful masculinity when a man thinks he needs to use his physical ability to make a point. Whether it’s with a man or a woman, masculinity shouldn’t be determined by how muscular a man is.
Sometimes, you think it is cute for your man to use his bulky shape to scare away other men at the bar. However, it’s a sign of insecurity for him to use his fists when only slightly provoked.
Exerting physical power doesn’t define masculinity. Kindness, checked protectiveness and mutual respect are more up the aisle of what healthy masculinity should look like. If your man cannot learn to control his temper and use his fist less while defending himself, his violent behavior might inadvertently hurt you someday.
Most men are naturally competitive, and so are many women. The thing is, healthy competition should be a common trait among everyone rather than being seen as a sign of masculinity only. However, there is still the narrative that men should be more competitive and get their desires at all costs. This has made every competition a do-or-die affair, making men play dirty.
Toxic masculinity plays dirty, not caring who gets trampled or hurt. You need to help the men in your life realize they can play fair and still achieve their dreams. When healthy competition is involved, opponents can even help one other get closer to their goals. If men don't deliberately assess and reassess their actions, their masculinity will remain harmful.
Showing emotion is seen as a form of weakness in men, which is why they end up acting out of suppressed aggression and frustration. This is why the mortality of men is higher than that of women. They don’t take time off to rest or get checked medically as most women do.
The average man self-medicates and forces his weak body through day after day of hard work. The only reason some men take better care of themselves is that they think they think they’d rather be seen as weak than die young.
It is not normal for men to think this way, which is why you should do your bit to help your man feel comfortable sharing both his strength and weakness with you.
The mantras “men are scum", and “men will always cheat because it’s in their DNA '' have been glorified so much that many men don’t try to be faithful at all. They know that they can easily turn to one of these socially acceptable mantras.
You’d think the presence of various religions would have reduced the occurrence of cheating partners. However, these sayings have been subconsciously ingrained in men so much that they’ve accepted their ‘fate'.
One way to stop enabling this toxic behavior is to stop making excuses for your cheating partner or male friends. Men should own up to their cheating ways and change.
Some examples of masculinity include physical power, the ability to provide for the family, sexual dominance and competence, and unwillingness to display emotion.
The major cause of toxic masculinity is toxic imbalanced societal rules. These unspoken rules guide and form the way most men think and act.
One of the subtle ways unhealthy masculinity affects men is by making them think they don’t need to check their mental health. Soon enough, they slip into depression and start entertaining the thoughts of suicide.
Unhealthy masculine traits can be curbed by raising awareness of the importance of men's mental health. Also, intentionally correcting some of the unhealthy unspoken rules will help.
Toxic male energy refers to the unhealthy masculine traits responsible for bad behaviors such as sexual assault, lack of respect for women, domestic violence, and violation of rules.
Everyone must work on limiting the presence of toxic masculinity in every sector, including relationships. The first step is to recognize what to look out for, then help to correct the unhealthy traits.
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