I am walking down the street when I feel a few eyes on me. I look sideways and see a few guys gaping at me. Is it my dress? Is it my hair? No. I keep walking, they hoot. They call out a few names and laugh among them. I am uncomfortable now. I walk faster. They follow me. I am scared. Should I call someone? What’s the police’s number? Should I run? I look back and see that they’re stationary now, laughing nevertheless. I am relieved. They are proud of how they were successful in making one tiny girl scared. They are proud of successfully being able to make someone uncomfortable with their remarks. Kudos, guys! We are the victims of toxic masculinity.
This is just a drop in the ocean that I am talking about. Every day we come across different versions of these scenarios. Oh, wait, I am not here to rant about how oppressed we are and how we need help. I am here to discuss the upbringing and the pressure of the society that most likely leads to situations like these. This issue has so many tributaries that it will only take a second for us to diverge from the one that I am writing about.
What it means.
I have always been a little underconfident about what these words meant together. How a general characteristic of a person can be considered toxic always startled me. I had assumed it has more to do with women than with men and I was wrong. It is more closely associated with how the upbringing of men in a patriarchal society instills a false ego, a sense of superiority and pride, and a dominance over other “weaklings” creates a kind of behavior that is harmful to them and their dear ones.
When I look back on that incident, I see a bunch of guys who are laughing about being able to scare a single girl when they are in a group, by cracking lame comments at her as she passes by. This gives them the “pretense authority” over her and they know how they seek validation of being a superior gender every day. This is their easiest way. I feel sad for them.
More often than not, men get offended when this issue is addressed to them. Perhaps, they know it’s wrong and yet they do not know how to defend it because no one in their childhood sat them down and spoke to them with words of acceptance, understanding, and compassion. They were told to put up a brave front and wipe off those tears and show strength, arrogance, and exterior of “manliness”. They were told that crying is for the weak and dominance was their power, even if that led them to abuse and assault others.
Addressing the issue.
Barring the torture that their loved ones go through, even the people suffering from toxic masculinity are undergoing constant pressure to be bigger and better. Being unable to cope up with that, they tend to take up substance abuse and unhealthy habits, slowly leading to depression and seclusion. A sequence of disturbing traits builds up in them which leads to more and more sorrow and less and less of joy. If there is anything that this false sense of pride associated with toxic masculinity brings is dissatisfaction and discontentment.
So, “Boys will be boys” doesn’t have to be an acceptable thing anymore. It’s more of a personal choice rather than what the society has been pinning us under. Shedding tears is not weak, it’s human. Lending a hand of help to those who need you is a sign of generosity; turning your face away is inhumane. Harassing others doesn’t make you more of a man. You don’t have to raise your voice to prove how masculine you are. If you slightly feel the need to prove yourself to anyone, I think that’s where you need to pause, take a break, and rethink the toxicity that you might have been harboring.
To read about how to deal with certain insecurities, head on to Dealing With Insecurities.