What is toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity involves the cultural norms and expectations which pressure men and boys to behave in certain ways. While masculinity is not inherently problematic, toxic masculinity refers to the belief that masculinity or “manliness” need to be associated with anger, aggression, and dominance. Examples of toxic masculinity include emotional insensitivity, promiscuity, heterosexism and homophobia, sexual aggression, sexism and misogyny, and violence. Many people have theorized that toxic masculinity is derived from male fragility, or the anxiety men experience if they do not feel they are measuring up to the cultural expectations of men. In turn, they act out in ways that are toxic to society and themselves.

What are the effects of toxic masculinity?

While masculinity is not inherently problematic, when masculinity is performed in unhealthy and problematic ways, it can have detrimental effects on others and the men themselves. Because it is socially unacceptable for men to experience and display any emotion except for anger, men often disproportionately perpetuators of violent crimes such as sexual assault, battery, and homicide. Moreover, men are more likely to die by suicide, and research has associated these outcomes with traditional masculine gender norms. Toxic masculinity and male fragility affect everyone, not just the men who behave in such ways.

How to combat toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity has become so ingrained in society that it may be difficult to recognize, let alone change. Some things you can do to combat toxic masculinity is to reevaluate what it means to be a man and whether you must be masculine to be a man. Second, learn to be vulnerable and allow yourself to experience the emotions you feel. Third, educate other men who are behaving in problematic and harmful ways. This could mean stepping in when you see men being aggressive or encouraging and normalizing men seeking therapy. Seeking therapy yourself, can be an outlet to practice all of these guidelines and redefine what it means to be a man to you.

This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.


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