Women Need to Stop Putting Up With Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity benefits no one, except possibly a patriarchal society that encourages power play between individuals. “But what really is toxic masculinity?” I hear you cry. Toxic masculinity is the term given to a type of masculinity that is defined by aggression, sexuality, and power. This aggression, shown through both emotional and physical violence, is teamed with a hunger and need for domination of both women and men, however possible. Some examples of toxic masculinity, according to GeekFeminism, include withholding emotion, acting out of “competition, not cooperation”, reactive anger and emasculation within both the home and work. The problem with the term ‘toxic masculinity’ is that it makes men defensive–the same “not ALL men” argument has to be used in order to maintain equilibrium. The idea of masculinity as a whole is intrinsic to what it means to “be a man”, so much so that it becomes an act rather than just an identity. Men live up to this act in order to “be a man”, rather than just… being a man–regardless of social construction and norms. Dr. NerdLove states, “When manhood is something you do rather than a part of who you are, that means it can be taken from you.”

And what happens when it is taken? Toxic masculinity, of course.

However, it dawned on me that the responsibility of dealing with, normalizing and even abolishing toxic masculinity lies solely on female counterparts; be them sisters, mothers, daughters or partners. We tell girls that a boy being physically or verbally abusive in the playground just means he likes you and that you should keep going until it works out. We tell girls that boys being pushy about sex, going too fast, being coercive or demeaning when they don’t get what they want (“prude”, “frigid”, “tease”) and even when they do (“slut”,”easy”,”whore”) is just their way of showing desire–as if it woos us into bed. We tell women to expect the bad parts: to expect the shouting, the slamming of doors, controlling and coercive attitudes that keep us ‘in our place’. We undermine claims of rape and domestic violence to shut women up, to maintain the patriarchy within our relationships whilst giving voices to their abusers. Women are told to expect this dynamic. Women are expected to put up with it if they really want to be a ‘good woman’ full of unquestionable loyalty. ‘Ride or die’ culture tells us that this is how it has to be–and all guys want a ‘ride or die’ chick. But is it really something that we, as women, need to change? Is it down to us to see our men through their toxic masculinity, can we really stop this approach to ‘being a man’?

After all, that’s what feminists do, right?

Yes, toxic masculinity is a feminist issue. Yes, feminism can create change. But how many of men subscribed to toxic masculinity claim to be feminists? How many of those men are objective about their behavior, are aware of their internalized abuse and are willing to make the cultural and structural changes needed to overcome it? Not many, I’m guessing. The patriarchy is not a myth, the patriarchy harms men too and there is only so much that women can do to abolish toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is killing men, and it’s time they–fathers, husbands, workers, teenagers and boys alike–take claim for this behavior and make the changes themselves. Change their socialisation, change the education system, change their attitudes and outlooks to life and relationships. We all have attitudes that we unlearn within life, why can’t toxic masculinity be one for men? Because women cannot sit in silence anymore.
We cannot excuse damage and abuse and toxic masculinity because “this is what they were taught”–as if feeling hurt, scared or humiliated is warranted for their ‘growing stage’. We cannot keep reassuring men that feelings are valid though foreign to them, showing them how to love like they are loved with nothing in return. We cannot sit with our chins high, pretty smiles on our faces and our lips closed. We cannot argue with anti-feminists who work only to belittle feminism rather than changing the things they believe we can’t. This isn’t just our fight anymore. How long until we stop paying the price for toxic masculinity? Why do we have to parent a calm-mannered nature into adults and deal with the reactive and scary tantrums that come with it? We allow this to happen because of culture, because of society, because of tradition. Yet women overcame tradition alone. We fought to be mothers, workers, voters, humans. We shouldn’t have to make men human too.

By Grace Middleton

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