Masculinity. What is it and what do we do about it? Depending on who you talk to it’s either a central way of being, an ethos to live and die by; or something very toxic that society would be better off without. As always the devil is in the details; and the details change from person to person.
So what does masculinity mean to me?
It means leaving the world in better shape than I found it, and that takes many forms.
- Professionally, I hope to have made people’s lives easier
- Personally, I hope to have made solid, and sincere friendships, and that I’ve helped them out enough so they remember me after I’m gone
- Hopefully, I’ve left a better world for my children
- Hopefully, I’ve left better children for the world
Next question, what do we do about masculinity?
Personally, I think we do nothing. It makes sense that a man has a context in which to base his position in the world. To know who you are, and if masculinity is a part of it, to know what that means to you.
Of course we can’t talk about masculinity without its darker counterpart, toxic masculinity, which we should all absolutely do a lot about. The common definition is as follows.
Toxic masculinity is defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the "alpha male") and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.
Toxic masculinity has been brought more into the limelight recently. I think it’s because the world is becoming more diverse and socially inclusive; each action and the words that we speak on social media, and/or to each other are becoming permanent records, instead of being kept hidden inside echo chambers of like minded people.
Toxic masculinity has always been there, it’s just that now it is out in the open.
So what do we do about this??? Everything we can to not normalize it. The tenant of toxic masculinity is that every boy and man must prescribe to similar thoughts and feelings which mostly include entitlement, anger, and the suppression of supposed “weak” emotions and a worldview of how things should be instead of how things are. It is a great disservice to anyone that has the misfortune of coming across it. As an example if you’re an amazing, empathetic individual who happens to be male? Too bad, that’s known as a “bad” trait. This example cuts deep with me as my middle child at a tender age of 8 is able to manage deep and meaningful connections with people that I at 37 years old, struggle to foster. Having seen it in action, I know that it’s not a weakness, but a strength very few people have, a strength that is under attack by toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity also ties people to misogyny, unhappiness and a lack of introspection. You owe it to yourself to make sure you don’t get caught up in something negative and rise above it all. So here’s to the thinkers, here’s to the makers, here’s to what makes you a good man.