Toxic masculinity and how it affects young adolescents

The way you decide to present yourself to the world does not determine how manly you are

June 6, 2021

Citizens+in+Portland%2C+Oregon+protest+against+toxic+masculinity+due+to+the+negative+effects+it+can+have+on+society.

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Citizens in Portland, Oregon protest against toxic masculinity due to the negative effects it can have on society.

Over the years, society has normalized phrases such as “you are so gay,” “you better start acting like a man,” “put on your big-boy pants,” “stop acting so soft,” and other similar terms when a male expresses any kind of strong emotion that makes that particular person seem vulnerable towards the eyes of the public. These phrases all fall under the category of toxic masculinity and they come to show how normalized the effects of this concept are in today’s society.

According to Dictionary.com, toxic masculinity refers to “a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health.”

“I believe that toxic masculinity is something that can be both taught and be born with,” said Jose Martinez, a Glendale High School sophomore. Martinez said that in today’s society, people are already provided with these kinds of ideas; however, toxic masculinity can also be something that is taught by people. 

One of the causes of toxic masculinity is that from a young age, men are taught to suppress their feelings in fear that showcasing these feelings will “threaten their masculinity.” This ends up affecting them, especially during their adolescence because since they fail to open up about their traumatic experiences and emotions, it not only can affect their mental health but can also lead to teenage males feeling depressed and suicidal. 

Another way in which toxic masculinity affects teenage boys is their ability to create bonds with other people. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), both boys and men “prefer building connection through physical activities” rather than sitting down and talking about their personal lives due to their fear of being “less masculine.” This is why it is common to see teenage boys and men with only a few close friends. Although men have feelings and close friendships with other men, they rarely display this side of their lives because they feel as though these actions don’t fall into the category of “masculinity.”

Patrick Davarhanian, the AP Psychology teacher at Clark, believes that toxic masculinity, without question, has a negative effect on men and young adults. “The APA’s research delves deep into the very real consequences of decades of androcentrism,” Davarhanian said. “The research states that boys who are brought up in an atmosphere of toxic masculinity often develop into men who display many unhealthy habits. This includes avoiding mental health services, resistance to preventative health care, engaging in heavy drinking, normalizing tobacco use and participating in other risky behaviors. It also includes being less likely to seek help and admit vulnerabilities which results in greater incidences of violence and suicide.”

Although toxic masculinity has devastating effects on men and teenage boys, this concept can also affect many other people including women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

According to a professor at the University of Aberdeen, men and teenage boys who feel intimidated by women and teenage girls will sometimes harass them in order to establish  dominance over these women. Research that has been conducted further suggests that women who contain “manly” features are more likely to get harassed by men than women who have “characteristics typically judged to be desirable.” This connects back to the idea that men want to feel dominant and superior towards women. 

“Women become victims of gender-based violence and domestic abuse when men succumb to fragile masculinity, enforcing their aggression towards women,” said sophomore Winnie Ann Masaoy.  Masaoy also states that these types of men create an unsafe environment for women, causing them to be afraid to walk out at night alone, wear clothes that men find “inviting,” and do anything that men may perceive as sexual and lead them to act violently. 

Other people who are affected by toxic masculinity and its role in society are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Men and young boys who are part of this community suffer from an identity crisis because they fail to understand where they belong in the “masculinity” spectrum. They must now learn how to handle appearing masculine toward their peers while also coming to terms with their homosexuality.

As stated by Justin Lehmiller, a psychologist at the Kinsey Institute, “in the gay community, a sexual premium is placed on masculinity, which puts pressure on gay men to be masculine.” A large factor of being homosexual is having to deal with the mental health issues that come with the constant pressure of having to look and act in a “masculine way” because of social stereotypes. 

With the rise of toxic masculinity, many celebrities and social media influencers have joined together to stand up and challenge this social norm. Singers Jaden Smith and Frank Ocean are both proud of embracing their genderfluid clothing style as well as their fluid sexuality. 

In an interview with Nylon Magazine, Smith stated that he uses his social media platform to inspire others to not be afraid to dress the way they want to. 

“I think this is a great start to normalizing femininity in men,” said Ivy Zhu, a Crescenta Valley High School junior. “Celebrities create platforms to represent change and inspire boys of younger generations to change their perspective on clothing and gender stereotypes.”

Another celebrity that participated in this social change was Harry Styles. He was the first-ever male to wear a dress and be the cover of Vogue Magazine in over 120 years. 

Back in December of 2020, he received backlash from many people, including political figure Candace Owens, for wearing a dress. Owens took to Instagram to express her feelings and stated that men needed to stop wearing feminine clothing and needed to start acting more “manly.” It took no more than a couple of minutes before his fans began to defend Styles and the thousands of other people that felt attacked by Owens’ comment. 

As many other celebrities continue to challenge toxic masculinity, they also manage to become yet another positive influence for many young teenagers. 

“In more recent years, people have been straying away from the old-fashioned ideology that women have to be passive and fragile, and that if they’re more assertive and independent, they’re still women — strong and confident ones at that,” said senior Sophie Peineke. “However, I haven’t seen the same kind of movement on the men’s side: telling boys it’s okay to have certain interests or insecurities. Because if being ‘manly’ equates to being courageous and headstrong, wouldn’t empathetic guys who aren’t afraid to cry or express their emotions be the ‘manliest’ of them all?”

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Toxic masculinity and how it affects young adolescents