Examining Toxic Masculinity

It’s often used but does it do more harm than good?

You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it. The term “toxic masculinity (TM)” has been getting thrown around a bunch in recent years. It is often used to describe negative behavior from men, usually behavior that target women. It is seen as a symptom of the patriarchy, the system of power being implemented by men in our society that is designed (whether intentionally or not) to keep women oppressed and unequal. The term itself carries a lot of weight, and honestly, it doesn’t sound very nice either. So let’s examine this term and try to understand if it is helpful.

First we’ll look at the two words that make up the term. “Toxic”, according to our old friend Webster, can be defined as ” extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful “. Let’s use the word harmful going forward to simplify. “Masculinity” is defined as ” having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man”. That’s pretty straightforward. So now let’s combine the two definitions to get our final meaning. Toxic masculinity can be defined literally as “harmful qualities that are usually associated with a man”. There you have it.

So is using this term the best way to address poor behavior that is often carried out by men? My opinion is probably not. That is mainly due to the term not really accomplishing what it should accomplish, helping to identify a problem and promote positive change. Many men see it as a personal attack, more of an insult than anything else. Using the word masculinity to describe specific behavior ultimately generalizes that behavior and creates a divide. Being masculine might mean different things to different people but using the term TM disregards that to a degree.

You never want to generalize behavior using a blanket term or statement, it will always lead to alienation and resentment.

So is there a more inclusive term to describe the behavior associated with TM or is it fine how it is?

Let me know your thoughts down below!

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. asher slade says:

    The Term Toxic Masculinity is an attack by women and feminist to demonize all aspects of male nature as evil or wrong . Personally any person I hear or see using that term in an non joking way I pretty much go in on them and explain why they are wrong and how they might have been tricked by feminism into thinking that to be masculine is to be bad and to be feminine is to be good . Personally I think both genders can have so called toxic elements to them , Being Masculine is not toxic so to speak being an abusive vindictive asshole is toxic and anybody on any day can fit that mold if they are pushed to their limit

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both genders can indeed be toxic in their own ways. I perceive masculinity and femininity as being traits we are born with, each being neither good nor bad just different. It’s up to the person to decide if those traits are used in a positive or negative manner.

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  2. darthtimon says:

    As someone who has had the misfortune to come under fire from certain quarters over masculine traits (such as the old stereotype that men don’t cry, or should not show weakness), is it perhaps the case that elements of traditional masculinity are indeed toxic?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem is that all elements of masculinity serve a positive purpose. Aggression is used to protect self and others, sexual drive to procreate, Competitiveness to challenge oneself and improve, etc. like anything else these elements can be corrupted and used in a negative way. For this reason I don’t believe the elements themselves are inherently toxic even if they can ultimately produce toxic behavior. The majority of men would have to consistently exhibit toxic behavior to deem natural male traits as inherently toxic.

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  3. You bring up an interesting question I’ve never really given much thought to. I have often used the term toxic masculinity, but given the divisiveness of the term, you raise a good question as to whether the term toxic masculinity is the best term to use.

    I’m just throwing an idea out there in hopes that it will stick, but how about the phrase “Be a Man” Culture? I think that there are maybe some people who don’t like the term toxic masculinity, but can identify with the fact that certain expectations of their “manhood” are just unrealistic. That is where the idea of “Be a Man” Culture comes in.

    Once again, it’s just me throwing an idea around in hopes that it will stick. I could be completely off-the-mark.

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    1. Brendan, that suggestion is well thought out and I believe you hit the right cord. Using that term or even “toxic male behavior” identifies the problem directly rather than corrupting the term masculinity. Masculinity should be defined by the positive things men do as I believe most men are good people with good intentions.

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      1. Hmmm…okay then. Though I have to admit that I am not still fully at peace with the “Be a Man” Culture idea, because thinking about it more, I feel like it deflects all misdeeds to culture, instead of leaving room for personal responsibility (something I am sensitive to because I have certainly been tempted before to blame any misdeeds of mine on culture and not on my making a mistake). It takes care of the demonization issue though.

        I also don’t know how I feel about the whole idea of healthy masculinity (to go somewhat off topic). I feel like the qualities of healthy masculinity are also qualities that anyone (man or woman or someone outside the gender binary) should have.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Blaming your behavior on your manhood is just as bad as blaming it on culture, in my opinion. Personal responsibility means that you, the individual, made a poor choice. This is why not every man is a rapist. If you think of it that way using toxic masculinity is actually a cop out, it is saying that someone behaved poorly simply because they are a man. A huge deflection of personal responsibility.

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