The problem with masculinity lies not within its entirety, but within its unhealthy components. Are virtues such as honor, strength, courage, confidence, and self-discipline a problem in today's society? No, or at least not as problematic as the following concepts that lie within the term "masculinity":
1. Repression: Have you ever heard the sayings "don't cry, you're a big boy," "stop being so sensitive," or "stop acting like a little baby"? While the intentions behind these sayings may be good, and not necessarily an insult, they are almost always counterproductive. These sayings only intensify one's problems, rather than weakening them.
Such sayings are foolish to be told! Mental states are crucial to be attended to. Simply ignoring them, or attempting to do so through their repression, only makes them stronger. Such a policy towards one's states of mind is not what masculinity should be about. Masculinity should not be about escaping things, but should be faced head-on, from external problems to internal problems.
Sayings such as the above are dysfunctional for a healthy masculinity, because every form of repression is escapism, and masculinity is not about escapism. Escapism is the act of the weak and the incapable. Those who are masculine should not be either weak or incapable. They should be strong, and facing one's emotions, with minimal to no repression, is a virtue of strength, logically speaking.
One of the core values that define what is called "toxic masculinity" is oppression. Oppression can take many forms, from violence and gore to bullying and threatening and other socially-violent acts. One does not have to punch someone in the face, bully a weak person, or lose their virginity regardless of the consequences, in order to be masculine. Masculinity should serve as a moral guide for maturity, strength, resilience, and autonomy. Oppression is the exact opposite of these values, making it dysfunctional for a healthy version of masculinity (femininity is not perfect either).
Think for a moment about the consequences of oppression, not only for the oppressed but for the oppressor as well. In a social construct based on democratic values, the oppressor may suffer severe consequences for their actions, from lifelong imprisonment to lifelong shame and guilt, to execution.
Oppression is not only dysfunctional for masculinity as a moral system, but it is also illogical. Even if you may gain some pleasure from oppressing someone, what makes you think you will be able to successfully avoid retribution? Even if you believe that you are currently getting away with it, this does not guarantee your eternal safety.
From oppressors such as school bullies and street thugs, to cult leaders and molesters, none of them are completely safe from punishment for their actions. This makes their demise almost inevitable, and oppression a bad gamble with severely negative consequences.
Shame is a common emotion among those who do not conform to traditional masculine norms. While I admit that I am personally deterred by feminine-oriented behavior in men, I do not believe that these men should be shamed for their behavior.
Modernity, when actualized, promotes not only technological and scientific progress, but also tolerance and diversity. Shame can be seen as a primitive part of unhealthy masculinity, which sees those who do not conform to gender norms as inferior.
While it is everyone's right to criticize and protest specific orientations and customs, these do not make the people who hold them inferior. A masculine person is not necessarily superior to a feminine person, regardless of their gender.
4. Superiority: It is foolish to claim that one is superior or inferior than others just because they have specific traits. Least, in my native language there is an expression that translates to “man-man”, which means “manly man”. I am not sure how it’s like in other cultures. Anyhow, examples of other values such as strength, courage, wealth and wisdom - the connection between them and superiority is stereotypical. One being physically stronger, braver, richer or wiser than other person - does not make the first person superior than the other. Such stereotypical connections make us ignore other shades of perceptions, just like any other types of stereotypes, from racial to financial.
Being better than others does not make you superior to them, even if such word is used as a synonym. Even when I end my writings with “thanks to X for requesting my wisdom”, it still doesn’t mean that I see myself as superior than others (hell, there is even no comparison or any other relation in this quote regarding wisdom).
Being gay, feminine, obese, physically weak and so forth - these are simply different traits that used to express one’s individuality. Superiority is about surviving the most than others. Masculinity and femininity got nothing to do with this way of evolution.
5. Objectification of others can also be related to superiority, as a method of not regarding people’s individuality, making those who objectify view others as mere pawns of chess. This concept is not only unhealthy but a cause that leads to ignorance, and in this case, of actively narrowing one’s perspective towards specific subjects, rather than doing the opposite, which is more beneficial and wiser to do.
Masculinity is not about narrowing one’s horizons, but expanding them as a way of developing one’s skills and strengths in the world, leading one to become not only more talented but wiser. What masculinity is there in ignorance, of not paying attention, of not seeking knowledge about the world we live in, about ourselves and others?
Regardless, not all of masculinity is necessarily bad. There are traits, such as vividness, strength, endurance and so forth, that could be defined as good, and as manly, as well.