what is toxic masculinity?

Toxic Masculinity’s Impact on Men’s Mental Health

Have you heard the term toxic masculinity? When you think of the term, does it make sense to you? The concept of masculinity as toxic is one which resonates to us as real because so many men are told that they have to be tough, hard and cannot cry. We don’t think it’s fair to tell ANYONE how to be or who to be.

Toxic masculinity is a term that, when heard by those who suffer from it, tends to cause their eyes to glaze over and their ears to shut off. These individuals have become so desensitized to the term and its meaning that they automatically assume that they are about to be chastised and judged for “being a man” or showing their “manly side.” This, however, can be one of the most dangerous parts of the problem as it prevents the men who possess toxic masculinity from realizing their possession of a problem and recognizing the impact it can have on not just the mental health of those around them, but their own.

What is Toxic Masculinity?

Let us start by clarifying what it is with an objective definition of toxic masculinity. Kevin Foss, MFT, and his article, Toxic Masculinity and How It Impacts Mental Health, defines toxic masculinity as “the way men are culturally trained and socially pressured to behave.” He also determines that toxic masculinity can be broken down into three core tenants witnessed in one variation or another in those affected by it. These tenants can also be simply explained as toughness, anti-femininity, and power.

toxic masculinity

This is why if one is being truly accurate in their assessment of a man that they believe to be acting on influences of toxic masculinity, there would be little to no tone of accusation as the mainstream has led men to believe. In reality, there should always be the understanding that it has been unconsciously conditioned within that individual and, more often than not, not a choice. For instance, the tenant of toughness has been ingrained into the minds of men worldwide for as far back as history goes. This can range from believing that aggression rather than crying is the “manly” way to express negative emotions; to rejecting compassion as an essential emotion in a given situation. Let’s think of a more personal example. Can you think about the number of men you know who have resorted to punching holes in walls rather than crying when upset? Or in more extreme cases, it is known that murders and nonnegligent homicides are committed mostly by men. Approximately 90 percent, according to the United Nations Drug and Crime Office’s global study on homicide in 2019. 

Toxic Masculinity and Issues in Mental Health

Toxic Masculinity’s Impact on Men’s Mental Health

Regardless of how one expresses their skewed beliefs on what constitutes a real man, those suffering from toxic masculinity all have one thing in common. Their mental health has more than likely been impacted. Whether they present with unchecked aggression, harmful dominance over women, avoidance of any perception of partiality to femininity, or believing they are worthy only if they possess money and status; there is a part of them, no matter how small, that craves release from the mental straight jacket they have been taught equates to being a man.

Social media poses a grave threat to young men everywhere with the potential to expose them to the harmful rhetoric that perpetuates toxic masculinity. Nonetheless, there is also an antithetical side to social media. One that can help men whose mental health has been negatively influenced by toxic masculinity transcend the confines of this restrictive and harmful mentality and find a better and healthier mindset.

The ideals of toxic masculinity thrive upon telling men they are not enough, they are not worthy, and that they have to break themselves and others to become so. This is extremely damaging to the human psyche and, little by little, can lead to the disintegration of a person’s mental health. Constantly being told you are not enough is one of the most well-known and widely understood ways that lead to the development of depression, anxiety, etc. However, many outlets, even on social media, or sites such as The Good Men Project and Freedom At The Mat, can help both men and women impacted by these harmful ideologies improve their mental and emotional health.

To help eradicate toxic masculinity, give a man in your life the space to be a human. Allow him to emote however he feels, with no judgment.