The other day I shared a post on Facebook reflecting on #masculinitysofragile. It was a post which, in my opinion, liberated men from the silly social construct behind the idea that “men can’t wear pink.” However, I got a backlash from my male friends who said I didn’t have to attack their masculinity to defend my feminist views. I was not attacking them or their masculinity. On the contrary, I believe I was helping them to break free from the emasculation that allegedly comes from simply wearing pink.
I’m sure many self-proclaimed feminists like me have received backlash from their male, and sometimes female, friends. We are often seen as man-hating and accused of disregarding non-gendered females’ needs, however, at least here at Adios Barbie, we advocate for an inclusive intersectional approach to feminism, which of course includes men.
We live in a society that puts as much pressure on men being strong as it puts on women being thin. Men are not expected to have feelings or emotions other than anger, and are expected to be violent, fulfilling the “warrior” role in society. This “toxic masculinity” not only translates to violence against women, but also to violence against themselves. Seventy-eight point seven percent of homicide victims worldwide are men. In the US 44.6% of victims of domestic violence are men; 38% of rape victims are men. Men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide. And we wonder, why are 75.6% violent criminals men? Probably because we have culturally conditioned men to be so.
According to philosopher Tom Digby, we’ve culturally conditioned “strength in boys and passivity in girls” in order for boys to become warriors and women to become mothers. As Randall Horton explains “militaristic societies establish values and goals that require men to cut off their feelings of care for others and for themselves, see women’s freedom as a threat, and rely on violence to solve their problems”. The theory exposed by Digby offers an explanation for the increase of violent attacks against women.
Due to technological advances, the male “warrior” demand has greatly diminished. The lack of direct combat has left men without an output for their implicitly violent and conditioned “masculinity”, which leaves them with two options: either express violent behavior to others through social media, movies, videogames, etc. or express the emotional needs that this “warrior” identity crisis has led them to. Many men don’t even consider the second option because expressing emotional needs is deemed feminine.
The belief that men are not emotional has not only left the emotional burden on women, but it has also led to a decline in men’s emotional and physical health. The idea that men should not express their needs, either emotional or physical, leads to men not seeking treatment for physical or mental ailments, which has serious consequences, including death.
Think about it. How many times have you seen a man severely cut his hand (while doing some manly task with a saw and not cooking, of course) and he just puts a band-aid on, instead of going to the ER. Or, how many times have you seen a man with anxiety being told to “man up”? Worse of all: how many times have you seen a man crying? Probably not many or none, because when that man was a child, and he fell and scraped his knee, he was told that “boys don’t cry”.
This social conditioning begins even before conception, way before falling in the playground. Toxic masculinity expects men not to be interested in parenting and solely interested in sex. It excludes men in household activities and, in the case of a divorce, assumes that custody of the child will go to the mother, regardless of the individual condition. In the case of “machismo” culture, it renders men dependent on a housewife (or mother-figure) to fulfill everything from cooking to cleaning, because God forbids a man washes the dishes or sweeps the floor.
“Real men” don’t want babies. “Real men” don’t order flavored martinis. “Real men” don’t use sunscreen. “Real men” don’t help around the house. “Real men” don’t get sad. “Real men” don’t get sick. “Real men” don’t cry. These “real men” are wearing masks.
This is why the ideals of femininity and masculinity are toxic. These ideals hurt men, women, and disregard non-binary LGTBQ+ folx. If we seek social inclusion of LGTBQ+ people, we must first unlearn “real men” ideals. If we want to end violence against women, we must begin by ending the violent conditioning of men. If we want to end men’s pain and death, they must first acknowledge that they need, can, and should get help.
If men were not supposed to cry, their innate biology would not allow them to. Toxic masculinity is only one of the many ways about patriarchy that hurts men and feminism offers an opportunity for change.