Toxic Masculinity: What Is It & What Can Men Do To Eliminate It?

Written by Chris Williams, Clinical Intern

Toxic Masculinity is a term that has been widely used over the past decade, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. This definition of masculinity has harmful consequences for all genders and society overall.  So it begs the question…what can men do to reduce toxic masculinity?

1. Stop trying to be masculine

Masculinity is something that society invented to dictate how males should act in their everyday lives.  While some masculine norms can be positive and healthy, there are a lot of harmful masculine attributes as well.  Some of these attributes can include hiding emotions, expressing ‘toughness’ through unwanted aggression, showing ‘dominance’ by verbally or physically hurting others, or oppressing other genders and/or sexualities through sexist or homophobic views.

2. Learn to be vulnerable

Vulnerability is not something that is normally associated with masculinity.  In fact, through a masculine lens, vulnerability is equated with weakness.  However, being vulnerable with our emotions does not have to equate to weakness.  In fact, it is very healthy, displays emotional maturity, and shows confidence in one’s true self.

3. Educate other males and lead by example

If you really want to help society rid itself of toxic masculinity then you need to educate other males in your life about the harm that it can have on others. You can lead in a way that’s not masculine, feminine or representative of any gender role, but in a way that’s inclusive, supportive and healthy for all. 

4. Intervene when you see it

Action!  If you see other males enacting toxic masculinity through aggression, sexism, oppression or in any other way, stop it and call them out!  Let them know that this is not how any human should treat another human, no matter what gender they are.  You don’t need to use your fists to get this accomplished.  You can write about it, talk about it within your friend group, teach your sons, your students, your teammates, your colleagues, your neighbors, etc.  Make your voice LOUD as you say that you won’t stand for it anymore, so that we can have a more accepting society not defined by gender roles.

It is through these four steps that REAL change can occur and make our world a much healthier, happier place to live in.

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