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Toxic masculinity is a term describing common or accepted aspects of being male that are socially and psychologically damaging, both for men and the society in which they live. Toxic masculinity is one of the key ways in which society’s gender-based hierarchy, known as the patriarchy, negatively impacts men. It occurs when men attempt to conform and live up to the stereotype of being a “real man.”
A desire for dominance, being unemotional, and ascribing more value in masculinity are two key areas where masculinity can become toxic. Striving for dominance can lead to violence, including sexual aggression. Being unemotional can impair men who do not process and deal with their feelings in a healthy way. When masculinity is held up as the ideal for men, anything seen as feminine becomes devalued.
Toxic masculinity negatively impacts men and the people who associate with them. Men who do not meet reinforced standards of masculinity may feel inferior. Men may also feel pressured to act in a way that doesn’t feel natural to them to fit in. Women may also feel threatened and devalued by the behavior of men conforming to standards of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is also closely linked to domestic violence. This has a negative impact on the perpetrators, who may feel guilty, their victims, and any children they have. Toxic masculinity also pits men and women against one another, forcing them to compete rather than cooperate, which has negative repercussions in the home, the workplace, and socially.
It’s a common misconception that toxic masculinity comes from being masculine or male. However, this is not true. More correctly, toxic masculinity comes from trying to conform to the behaviors accepted by men and society at large that are negative.
It’s also incorrect to assume that all aspects of masculinity are toxic. Being ambitious is regarded as an inherently male trait, but as ambition is positive a positive characteristic it cannot be considered toxic.