Updated: Feb 13
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 are a problem in today’s society? No, or at least not problematic like the extant of the following concepts that lie within the term ‘masculinity’:
1. Repression: Have you ever been encountered with sayings such as “don’t cry, you’re a big boy”, “stop being so sensitive”, “stop acting like a little a baby”? Such sayings, while the intentions behind them may be good, and not necessarily an insult, they are almost always counter-productive; such sayings only intensify one’s problems, rather than weaken them. Thus such sayings are foolish to be told! Mental states are things which are crucial to be attended to. Simply ignoring them, or attempting to do so, through their repression, only make them stronger. Such a policy towards one’s states of mind are not what masculinity should be about. Masculinity shouldn’t be about escaping things, but should be encountered with face-to-face, 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, for escapism is the act of the weak and the incapable. Those who are masculine shouldn’t 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.
2. Oppression: One of the core values that define what is called “toxic masculinity” is oppression. Oppression has many faces, from violence and gore to bullying and threatening to sexual harassment and rape. One does not have to punch someone in the face, haunt a weak person, or lose their virginity regardless of the consequences, in order to be masculine. Masculinity should serve as a moral guidance of maturity, strength, resilience and autonomy. Oppression can be the exact opposite, making this value dysfunctional for a healthy version of masculinity (femininity is neither perfect). Think for a moment, what outcome is there not only for the oppressed but for the oppressor as well. In a social construct based on democratic values, the oppressor may suffer from severe consequences due to their methods of oppressing someone else or a group of people - from lifelong imprisonment to lifelong shame and guilt, to execution. Thus, oppression is not only dysfunctional for masculinity as a moral system, but logically as well - even if you may gain, somehow, pleasure from oppressing someone, what makes you think you’ll be able to successfully avoid retribution? Even if you are evident yourself that currently you’re getting away, it still doesn’t ensure you eternal safety. From oppressors such as school bullies and street thugs, to cult leaders and molesters - none of them are completely safe from punishment in accordance to the different deeds they’ve done, making their demise almost inevitable, and thus a bad gamble with severely negative paybacks.
3. Shame: While such component can be evident among feminine people as well, shame can be found among those who do not obey the definition of a traditional masculine man. While I admit that I am deterred from feminine-oriented behavior among males, I don’t think said males should be put to shame, just because I am deterred from them. Modernity as a value, when actualized, promotes not only technological and scientific progressions, but tolerance and diversity among the population. Shame can be described as a primitive part of unhealthy masculinity; of seeing everyone that do not obey a gender’s norms as inferior to those that do obey. While it is one’s freedom to criticize and protest specific orientations and customs, said specific still do not make them and the person that holds them as inferior. A masculine person is not necessarily a superior one to one that is feminine, whether they’re male, female or somewhere between. Which, leads me to the following value:
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.