Halie Sofich – Personal Opinion Column
Toxic masculinity. It isn’t a term you come across very often, but a quick Google search will bring up a plethora of results. While doing research for this article, I stumbled across an opinion piece on the Fox News website. In ‘Toxic masculinity’? Dude, Now America’s Universities are Turning Men into Women Todd Starnes writes about how universities are making men effeminate by teaching about toxic masculinity and providing safe spaces. I was somewhat taken aback by the unwitting brilliance of this article; Todd Starnes had proved himself wrong.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let’s start with the basics; what is toxic masculinity? It’s a societal perspective that characterizes ideally masculine men as unnecessarily violent, emotionless, and sexually aggressive. It leads to plenty of sexual violence aimed at women, but also perpetuates the idea that men cannot be sexually assaulted themselves (hint: they can be, and are still valid). It also claims that men can never truly understand women, men are useless at domestic activities, and they can never ask for help or be wrong.
Starnes’ article gives us more evidence of this in the form of an unscientific poll he conducted about what “the average American woman looks for in a man.” Here’s an excerpt from his conclusion.
“In other words — (women) want the kind of man made in God’s image — not the image of some effeminate intellectual stuffed in skinny jeans sipping chai tea with his pinky finger extended.”
His insult reminds me of something; the stereotypical non-traditional man. The dreaded millennial that doesn’t adhere to the wholesome conventions of their parents and instead becomes a “hippie.” This gives us some insight into the root of toxic masculinity; traditional, heteronormative gender roles.
At this point, it pays to look at suicide statistics in the United States. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are 4.5 times more likely to kill themselves than women. It makes sense. Being told to suppress emotions and not get help lest you be seen as weak could lead to extreme measures.
There are two other heavy prices for toxic masculinity. Violence and sexual abuse. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the aforementioned environment could lead to gun violence and other crimes. However, let me take a moment to talk about the sexual abuse that is rampant around men who accept toxic masculinity into their lives. When sex is treated like a competition, it’s no wonder that consent might be tossed aside. One in five women will be raped in her lifetime. That’s more than a statistic, it’s the result of a society that raises boys to be sexually aggressive.
So what can we do to help stop this vicious cycle? As noted in Todd Starnes article, there are many places that are now providing education about overcoming toxic masculinity. Brown University is providing a program called “Masculinity101.” Their website describes it as “a weekly discussion group for students who identify as men (in any way or in part).” This is exactly the sort of support and awareness that would benefit anyone struggling with societal pressure. I highly recommend reading Brown University’s page on unlearning toxic masculinity as it provides plenty of basic information on the subject.
A systematic breakdown of toxic masculinity is needed. If Todd Starnes is any indicator, we need more people willing to start changing their mindsets about traditional gender roles and what it means to identify as a man.
Sources and further reading:
Starnes, Todd. “‘Toxic masculinity’? Dude, now America’s universities are turning men into women.” Fox News. FOX News Network, n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2017.
“Suicide Statistics — AFSP.” AFSP. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
“Unlearning Toxic Masculinity.” Unlearning Toxic Masculinity | Health Promotion | Brown University. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
“Statistics about Sexual Violence.” National Sexual Violence Resource Center. NSVRC, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 17. <http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf>.
Lynn Stuart Parramore / AlterNet. “Homo Obnoxious: Is Toxic Masculinity Really Taking Over the Country?” Alternet. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Holloway, Kali. “Toxic masculinity is killing men: The roots of male trauma.” Salon. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.