“qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men.”
- Strength (physical, emotional, mental)
Take a moment and imagine something: a tank of gas, perpetually filling up, becoming increasingly more volatile by the second. Every day this tank continues to fill—constantly growing more dangerous to itself and those around it—until it is nearly bursting at the seams. A leak, a breach, a bit of release…any means of letting off some of this pressure could help negate the explosive force building up inside — but none can come. Eventually, the tank simply bursts, a violent rupturing in a cataclysmic blast.
The tank, its surroundings, and everyone around it are all destroyed.
Now imagine that tank is a man. Imagine that toxic gas, slowly seeping inside day in and day out, is suppressed emotion. The unyielding waves of sadness following an unwarranted breakup—masked with a humorous facade. The pangs of hopelessness resonating from a rough family situation—hidden by a tough-guy persona. The emotional turmoil caused by everyday woes and stress—completely covered by a confident smile. All of these bottled up emotions accumulate inside, until there’s nothing left to feel but bitterness and the inevitable explosion to come. Someone always gets hurt.
The idea of masculinity has become a social stigma that inhibits men from properly expressing their emotions. Normal human acts of emotion such as crying or experiencing fear are considered taboo and outside the realm of masculinity. Talking about the way you feel is explicitly prohibited and best left inside—lest someone see you as “weak” or “less than a man.” According to the rules of masculinity, it is best to feel nothing at all.
Deny, repress, conceal. Denying the way you feel or that a problem exists only extenuates the problem—how can you ever be rid of an emotional trauma without properly accepting it to begin with? Once denied, these underlying emotions are repressed and left to fester in a man’s mind—and open wound that he refuses to acknowledge and thus refuses to close, allowing disease to spread. Though these psychological wounds continue to lead to devastating damage, they are meant to be concealed—if no one can see the issue, then it should be easy to ignore, right? Each wound begins a new cycle of self inflicted damage, causing a constantly building pressure of volatile emotions waiting to be unleashed. Oftentimes this buildup is too much for one man to bear, causing him to take his own life—there’s a reason male suicide rates are three times higher than females’.
As if self harm wasn’t bad enough, the toxicity of masculinity affects others as well. If the root of toxic masculinity lies within an inability to express emotions, then how do men properly deal with emotionally charged situations? The short answer is, they really can’t. Often times, the massive buildup of suppressed emotions is released and misdirected at things/people that don’t deserve them. A minor frustration/inconvenience could set off a violent emotional outburst, severely damaging relationships, reputation, and in extreme cases, can lead to the physical harm of others. Be it getting cut off in traffic, a stubbed toe, or a dispute with a significant other—any little thing can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Without a proper means of self expression, there is no telling the damage (both physically and mentally) these explosions can cause.
Toxic masculinity is a plague on humankind. Stoicism needs not be mistaken for emotionlessness, strength for hostility, or manly-ness for coldness. These misconceptions are spreading the disease of toxic masculinity and poisoning the minds of countless men. Expressing yourself is not girly, discussing the way you feel is not weak, and having emotions does not make you any less of a man. The way you feel in the moment does not define you, but if you choose to deny the way you feel and let that feeling fester, it will always be with you.
Too many brothers have allowed themselves to grow distant and cold with a smile plastered on their face. Too many fathers have allowed their families to deteriorate because they’re incapable of expressing emotions in a healthy way. Too many men have taken their own lives over a toxic concept. Masculinity as we know it today is toxic, altering this concept is the only way to stop the spreading of this sinister disease.