Recap- Toxic Masculinity

We have to know one another and ourselves, even our shadows. Source. Photo by Nick Page. CC-BY 2.0.

We discussed toxic masculinity in our last discussion.

On the Infactorium blog this past week, Dr24hrs wrote a post called ‘Responsibilities of a third millenium man’. He addresses a lot of how the masculinity is changing and broadening. It’s also about broadening the definition of what is considered valuable. Right now, what are thought of as traditionally masculine values/characteristics remain valued and legitimized a lot more than others. It’s not quite a success if women can succeed, but only if they ‘act like men’.

In addition, there is also a documentary that explores masculinity:

It was pointed out at the end of our discussion that the term ‘toxic masculinity‘ might not be the best to convince men to change.

I’m somewhat sympathetic to that point– it’s important to avoid labeling people and assuming that is the end of the story. However, there is a real problem with how many men behave around and treat women. This is a world where when women win book prizes, sexist ideas about why come up in prominent publications. Donald Trump demeans women regularly (and yes, he may be an extreme case for the long-term and public nature it). It’s a world of Brock Turner and many other men getting off easily with criminal behavior. These are things that are toxic to wide parts of society, and largely result from the behavior of men that is toxic. It needs to be called out as such.

It’s also the case that toxic masculinity discourages inclusiveness:

The tropes do exist. I couldn’t help but think the (new-to-me term) misogynoir stereotype of the ‘strong black woman’ bears some similarities to what is stereotypical masculinity as well – though experienced very differently, obviously.

Emily’s thread at the end sums things up well and echoes The Infactorium post I linked above well (click through for the whole thing):

The fact is it’s still hard to discuss masculinity, especially among men. Broadening what is valued by men to be more inclusive is important too, and is also a challenging discussion to have. Yet it is worth studying, having the discussion, and even having a scholarly discipline dedicated to it. Almost everything else has an area of scholarship, it strikes me as a privileged position for masculinity not to be studied too. That doesn’t mean other areas that already exist like medicine and science need to double down to study men more since they have been the default study subjects forever and do need to focus more on other un-represented groups.

The toxicity of masculinity might come from outward behaviors, but it is also just toxic because the discussions can’t be had. They’re toxic. As the social work researcher Brene Brown has said, we’re a culture afraid of vulnerability and shame and that is in no small part because men have an outsize influence in our culture and see being vulnerable as weakness even though it isn’t.

Thanks to all who participated in #DiversityJC last month. And look forward to our next topic later this month.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)


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