Man up

Toxic masculinity is hurting us all

Aubrey Rhoadarmer, Staff Writer

Illustration by Micky Flores-Nieves

In our society, men are told a lot of things. They are told to be strong. They are told not to cry. They are told to “man up.”

To “be a man,” you have to be aggressive, confident, and emotionless. If a guy expresses any amount of femininity, his status as a “man” can be taken away.

That is toxic masculinity.

This is not to say masculinity in itself is a bad thing. Men are not terrible for expressing themselves in a masculine way; masculine men are not inherently toxic. It is when it becomes repressive that it becomes a problem.

Repressive “manliness” is harmful to everyone, and it is our responsibility to each other to change it.

In our society, being feminine is seen as a weakness. Painting one’s nails do not make a man any less of a man. But according to the strict societal rules placed upon him, it does.

Because of this, men are often afraid to reach out or admit they need help if they are suffering from depression or anxiety. Needing help can be viewed as a sign of weakness.

Men experience incredible stigmatization around mental health and are at a far higher risk of suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 3.56 times more men died by suicide than women in 2018.

Being emotional is associated with femininity, which is viewed as a negative trait. Therefore, showing emotion is hard for many men because they are often ridiculed for speaking out about their feelings.

Men are more prone to substance abuse than women. Drowning his emotions in alcohol is easier than going to a therapist. Instead of admitting how he is struggling, a man can numb himself to it through drug use.

Yet, toxic masculinity is not just hurting men.

Hypersexuality is often imposed onto men, which can have dire consequences for men and women alike.

In the eyes of society, if a man is not constantly seeking out sex or sexual gratification, there is something wrong with him.

This hypersexualization puts the responsibility on women and tells them that it is their job to keep the men around them in check because men can not do it themselves. It is where the roots of victim-blaming start.

“They can’t help themselves,” women are told when men sexually harass and assault them. “Boys will be boys.”

But men are not just sexual monsters who can not be tamed. They want loving, meaningful relationships just as much as women do. It is male stereotypes that tell them that having those desires is something to be laughed at.

Men are expected to be strong. If they are viewed as weak, they may turn to violence to prove they are not.

According to the United States Department of Justice, men commit three times more violent crimes than women. This is not because men are inherently violent, but because when their “manhood” is questioned, violence is an easy outlet for them to prove themselves.

Men are not the only ones hurt by these rules. We are all being affected, and that means it is up to all of us to change the way we view masculinity and femininity.

It is our responsibility to fight against this stigmatization of femininity, and allow men to be who they are. They do not have to be the violent, hypersexualized people society often paints them to be.

There are many things each of us can do to change our culture.

Calling out toxicity when we see it is an important first step. When you see someone pressuring their friend to have sex when they clearly do not want to, call them out. When someone is pressured to “prove” they are a man through violence or risk-taking, speak up.

We need to learn to let men show emotion. Even from a young age, we should assure little boys that it is okay to be sad, stressed, or upset, and it is okay to let those feelings out.

We should stop shaming men who choose to express themselves femininely. We should not restrict things like makeup or skirts to just women. Men should be able to wear whatever they want, and we should encourage them to express themselves in any way that makes them comfortable.

However, do not think that by combating toxic masculinity we are trying to feminize men. We just need to remind men that their status as a “man” is not something that can be taken away from them. It is not determined by anyone other than themselves.

So next time you tell someone to ‘man up’, take a second and think about what you are really saying.