We’re going to start this off with a statement that may be controversial to some and may piss other people off. Toxic femininity does not exist. To me, that is like saying that there is a reverse to systemic racism. It’s just not something that exists because it is related to power. Now the women’s rights movement (in “white feminism,” womanism, black feminism, intersectional, et cetera.), has made incredible strides in women’s liberation, especially in the western countries where we see a lot of predominant fights for gender equality.
Now notice that I said gender equality because the battle isn’t men against women, it is inclusive to every gender that exists. Unfortunately when we say that we are battling patriarchy people assumed that must mean that we are in a fight against men and we’re not. We have been fighting to destroy the concept implemented that say that men have to be in control, run things, be and exist in a certain way. We struggle to say that women and all other genders have the right to be who they are and forge their paths. It’s destroying oppressive gender constructs that way us down and giving the power back to the individual to choose their path. Yes, women had to fight to get from under men’s rule, but the premise of the movement was never about men versus women. That’s so self-oriented thinking.
To do this however we have to tear down the concepts of a patriarchal society that dictates how people should exist in the context of culture, and with that comes the understanding that we have to break down what traditionally has been seen as masculine. Now, this doesn’t mean that we are waging war against men and their ability to be masculine. It says that we are creating a dialogue to expand upon the ideas of what is masculine and what has been necessary for our past that no longer serve society as a whole; The archaic social dictates that may have been necessary for the “cavemen” eras.
I know some people will try to argue that society should not try to dictate how men should be. As this is an opinion piece, I don’t feel the need to do a blow-by-blow of all of the articles that I’ve seen since I was a teenager that have told men, women, transgender folx and non-binary people how they should exist. Ever since the days where there were certain ways to court a woman for a man to be the head of a household, there is always something telling men how they should act and in turn telling women what their place must be. That is where the concept of “toxic femininity” really comes from. Not so much as a matriarchal society that was telling women that men have to treat us a certain way, but the patriarchal rule in which modern society it has been constructed that says this is how men should act and be so, therefore, this is how everyone else. Many women demand men should be a certain way and have lopsided views of their gross behavior because patriarchial concepts have reinforced that their projections are standard or less damaging.
No some of this, of course, has been reinforced by social and biological sciences and the misunderstandings from the past concepts that were unearthed. In the budding days of scientific discovery of any topic, over scientific evolution, there are bound to be theories we realized were inaccurate. That doesn’t make it a bad thing; it just means that we know better now. We know that men don’t have to be stoic. We know that men can be just as expressive as any other gender. We know that men can experience various types of trauma like any other gender. That not every man necessarily desires or is capable of being the head of a household. We know that not every home needs one person to be the head of it. We know that not every family will have a head of it. We also know a penis is not what makes you a man. You are more than an appendage.
So many people that still push the idea set up a little boy cries he’s weak. If a woman is a breadwinner for a household that she is a part of and the man is also a part of that household he is subpar or a disgrace. If a household doesn’t have a man or in a hetero appearing relationship the person that appears to be a woman (whether they are or not) is too opinionated in the man lacks discipline. Let’s tap into queer culture. In a male-male relationship, there’s are still questions of who is the man in the relationship. It often happens with women-women and visibly queer groupings as well. There have been quite a few articles about butch and stud culture and how toxic masculinity has touched it. In non-monogamy, we can’t seem to get away from the idea that our relationship must inherently mean polygamous. If it’s not monogamous and the only way that it can be polygamous is if there is one male and two women. If anyone who is a part of non-monogamous culture knows that this is not the truth, it’s just a representation that we’re constantly battling. Because you know a real man would never let his woman step out; He has to mark his territory, right?
So let me throw a few quick definitions at you and then we’ll contextualize them.
1 : containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation
a toxic radioactive gas
an insecticide highly toxic to birds
2 : exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis
the patient became toxic two days later
3 : extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful
4 : relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market
These are some pretty powerful definitions right here. Relating it to toxic masculinity, we are saying that this concept is talking about whether something is poisonous. It has infected the way that humans interact and exist with each other. That it is abrasive and even harmful to our existence and evolution. That masculinity as it is currently prescribed is no longer an asset to our development and needs to be re-evaluated.
1a : MALE
masculine members of the choir
b : having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man
a masculine voice
2 : of, relating to, or constituting the gender that ordinarily includes most words or grammatical forms referring to males
So this is where the hang-ups are because you know what defines a man. We say that masculinity defines the man but how do you define masculinity. That’s the thing we are mainly as a culture demanding that masculinity as a supposition is redefined because we’re noticing on a wide scale that traditional constructs are hurting men. Let’s think about it for a moment. Women are considered to be the best option for caregiving, even legally and, we know that’s not the truth. It’s patriarchy that is the problem with its predefined ideas of masculinity that we have been working with. What about domestic violence and sexual abuse? How often are we discussing the fact that men can be abused in their relationship, or they can be sexually harassed, or they can be raped? Because again if you are a man and your partner is out of hand it’s because you’re weak. If you are sexually abused, you are either weak or “damn man that’s every guy’s wet dream.” What we have to realize is that masculinity and femininity are constantly evolving concepts that are described by the overarching themes of the society that we live within. This consequence of masculinity and feminity not being used as flexible descriptions; they’ve been prescriptive and rigid in nature. This consequence is a dangerous and detrimental outcome of a patriarchal structure – How “patriarchy” has fucked men over, which has fucked women over, which has fucked all the genders over, and it’s hazardous to us all.
1 : social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line
broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
2 : a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy
So right here I want to be a little bit transparent. I am a queer woman in a hetero appearing relationship to my white CISHET spouse. He also happens to be our agreed and negotiated head of our household. That confuses many people because I am an intersectional feminist, profoundly rooted in the ideas of womanism. I always want to emphasize that my relationship purposely seeks to deconstruct the idea that if a household chooses to have a head of household that it can be a negotiated discussion and the head of household does not have to be a man. I mean honestly, it came down to who was more willing to make phone calls and the fact that we have a negotiated power exchange style relationship.
Neither of us believes in the concept that men reign supreme in society. I honestly don’t think I know anyone personally that believes that men should be in charge. I do know people who have that belief, and I know there are many people within the broader context of our society with that belief. Those folks are not welcome in my inner circle. You see as a feminist I can’t entirely agree that any gender should have overall authority over everyone else in a culture nor do I believe that a society should be built on the principles of that concept. However, historically we can see that our society (and others) has slowly relied on the fact that there is a man who is the head of a family. A man who is in charge of a larger society, then a group of men who are in charge of a larger society on top of that. It was fairly accepted that that was the way of things, then women decided that we weren’t okay with that (I won’t get into the gory details of racism and queer erasure in that its a whole different discussion). Unfortunately, women doing something about it has been seen as hate towards men or even the attempt for role reversal. The reality is that men themselves as persons are not what’s being challenged. Its men are having their privileged place in society disrupted. That can be scary. It feels like the rights and privileges that you have are being stripped away when they’re just being extended to everybody else because they are just as deserving of those rights.
“Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual—are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.”
~ “What We Mean When We Say, “Toxic Masculinity” . December 11, 2017. Tolerance.org
So here is a straightforward definition of what toxic masculinity as a term and concept is supposed to embody. We all know dictionary definitions lack nuance and context. That is why general definitions for large societal discussions reduce the accuracy and the ability to have a real conversation. Toxic masculinity is a multi-disciplinary term representing a concept that embodies the intersections of sociology, psychology, and politics. Honestly, there is a lot more to it than just those disciplines, but those are the big three that this topic focuses on.
As you can see the term toxic masculinity is about broadening the definition of what masculinity and femininity mean in society. This expanded definition is a necessary reflection of how language and our interactions as humans. Society changes as more people are introduced into it, as our needs as humans change, and as we have scientific and technological advances. As we learn more about who we are and our place in the universe we grow and the way we view and describe ourselves has to change. Toxic masculinity is pointing out that we’ve been so focused on violence and sexual repression that we have hurt ourselves and men. The use of “Toxic masculinity” is a call to make sure that in the movements of gender, sexual, and relational freedom we are leaving no stones unturned. I want to point out that not only was this a robust activist push. It’s also a psychological push where the American Psychological Association is asking our society to look at our definitions of masculinity because it is psychologically hurting men with the current state of masculinity repressive views and that is something that is becoming a crisis for everybody.
I’m going to drop some links that way you can do more research on your own get different perspectives other than mine and form your own opinions about why this topic needs to be discussed. We’re not trying to isolate anyone we’re trying to build a better future for all.
Speaking of Psychology: How masculinity can hurt mental health
This article is more than 2 years old
Gillette #MeToo razors ad on ‘toxic masculinity’ gets praise – and abuse
ISU Professor: Addressing Toxic Masculinity Means More Conversations