Toxic masculinity is destroying boys’ mental wellbeing

March 6, 2018

Isaiah Cordova

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    In one of the deadliest mass shootings in the last decade, 14 students died at the hands of a gunman on Feb. 14.

   In 2012, 20 first and second graders were killed by another gunman.

   Closer to home, in 1999, 13 students were also tragically killed by a gunman.

   A sad commonality exists between all of these shootings, and many more not listed: the killer was a man.

   The boys are not alright, and this has been made apparent by the all too common occurrence of the mass killings of children in schools, a place where they should be safe.

    Boys in our society are exposed to a toxic sense of masculinity. They must hide their emotions, other than aggression, in order to prove their dominance. But this has proved to be harmful to their emotional growth and development in the most violent way.

   The modern feminist movement is compatible with the idea of more emotional freedom for men in society.

   This form of “don’t cry” masculinity teaches boys to repress and ignore any emotion other than bravado and anger. There is no room for intimacy or worry or vulnerability, only competitiveness, aggression or anger.

    Any deviation from those emotions is emasculating. If you’re a man, your character is ruined if you are open and vulnerable. Men are taught to withdraw, get angry, and lock up anything else inside.

    This pattern of violence as a result of emotional repression goes beyond school shootings too. According to Psychology Today, 85 percent of serial murderers are men. According to Statistics Canada, 81 percent of cases of physical assault against women are done by men, which mirrors the numbers observed in the United States.

    So, what is going on?

    The last 40 years have marked an incredible levelling of the playing field for women in the U.S. With the almost universal abolition of the housewife in contemporary the American home life, there are more positions of power in society at large that are now occupied by women rather than men.

    The patriarchy in the U.S., and the Western world at large, is dying. For some men, that’s terrifying.

    Ever since the Industrial Revolution, masculinity and manhood have been defined by physical strength. This was the identity of an entire generation of men following World War II, and into the Cold War era, where the nuclear family, the housewife in her apron, the man in his business suit and cigar and the little boys “play-” fighting” in the front yard became the idyllic image of American Suburbia.

    Shows like “The Brady Bunch” reinforce these ideas in the form of mass-audience television. The era of “big boys don’t cry” and “be a man” are, nowadays, considered the heyday of America.

    These remnants of Brady Bunch-ian society live on today, despite all efforts to end it altogether, through the generation that grew up in it, and the generation that would grow up to parent the men that are shooting through classroom windows.

   As Michael Black writes in his Feb. 21 New York Times editorial, “(Men) are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.”

      And when positions that have been historically held by men go to a woman, this instinct bred in men that grew up in that isolating environment nationwide turns into reactionary politics.

    The so-called “alt-right” call men they don’t like “soy boys” (because soy products have some amounts of estrogen, no matter how negligible the amount really is), as a direct implication that to be a woman is to be weak.

    This anger is seen in sports where the idea of the jock was coined to describe these hyper-masculine, type-cast bullies in movies and TV. It is seen at home with spousal abuse predominantly caused by men.

    It is seen whenever someone loses at a video game and flips their desk, whenever sexist comments are made by people passed over for a promotion given to a woman and whenever a man beats himself up over shedding a tear.

        The gender binary, the one minted in the ‘60s and ‘70s, is damaging men and discriminating against women.  

    As such, the best way to end this problem is to fight for a feminist movement that ends discrimination and teaches men that emotions more complex than anger are okay and should be freely expressed without the baseless fear of emasculation.