The Prowler

Toxic Masculinity Tarnishes Our Society

Noam Haykeen, Student Writer

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The Prowler.

What does “being a man” mean? Are men obligated to be tough and aggressive? Are they allowed to express emotions? Are they expected to be shatterproof?

In a 2014 documentary Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL player, said: “The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to ‘be a man.’”

This is an inadequate and demeaning perspective of how men should behave. Boys start to experience this phenomenon in their early years. They are taught to refrain from fragility and to be tough. Such lessons carry into their adult lives, as men undertake the pressure to meet social expectations of resilience.

This culture stains our society. It is no coincidence that men commit more crimes than women. Traditional masculinity principles advocate for men to be hostile. According the Federal Bureau of Prisons, more than 93 percent of federal inmates are men. Other studies conclude that since tradition encourages men to be independent and contemptuous, men are less likely to seek help after traumatic events.

In Marvin Allen’s book, Why Men Can’t Feel, Allen states that societal messages encourage boys to “withstand physical pain, and repress their vulnerable emotions.” He explains that “when boys violate the code, it is not uncommon for them to be teased, shamed or ridiculed.” Our society demands males act unnaturally. And if they act differently, they are not accepted.

Disney movies are a great part of the average American childhood. Unfortunately, these films’ toxic masculinity levels are instigative, to say the least. Disney men have always been muscular, strong, heroic and indestructible. Simba is called upon to be the savior, Prince Charming rescues Snow White and Hercules restores peace. With such children’s classics, we can’t blame boys for thinking they must be unbreakable. In the future, these boys will believe it is unacceptable to act “girly.”

Sadly, Disney movies are only a small part of toxic masculinity carved into childhoods. Boys’ toys, customarily in “manly-colored” packaging, are guns, lightsabers, swords, and other items that encourage aggression. Boys are obligated to not only admire belligerence, but also exemplify it. They are expected to be robust.

And while this culture begins with boys, it ultimately affects all genders. This phenomenon teaches girls that their societal role is contrary to boys’. Females are taught to be gentle and soft. They are not allowed to be forceful.

Let’s face it, toxic masculinity is to blame for gender bias in the workforce. Traditional male characteristics, being assertive, bold and decisive, are more valued in the job market than the conventional female attributes of being caring and gentle.

In a PNAS study participants were requested to hire applicants for a mathematical task. Without information about the candidates other than their appearance, men were twice as likely to be hired. It is evident that biological aspects, which individuals cannot control, impact a person’s success in the workplace.

Our society determines gender roles. It causes men to face unneeded pressure to prove their “manhood,” and it underestimates women. Instead of allowing individuals to grow up as they wish, our society is doing the opposite.

The bottom line is this: men are not born brawny, and women are not born tender. But they are, dismayingly, promoted to be.

This phenomenon begins with our youth’s observations. Our society, in California specifically, has already made progress toward gender equality. Still, when big corporations use pink and purple, colors that are viewed as soft, for girls’ toys, they stimulate our society to view females as weak. Large companies have the power to make a real change here. If a platform like Google or Target decides to defy gender norms, true equality will be reached faster.

At the end of the day, we all engage in this culture. It is important to identify it, and make the necessary change. Future generations should not have to experience this demeaning phenomenon.

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Toxic Masculinity Tarnishes Our Society