Toxic masculinity is a term that has evolved over time and now has a place both in academia and everyday speech. In short, it describes the negative aspects of exaggerated masculine traits.
A few days ago, Reddit user TacoHellDriveThru decided to figure out what that means for men personally. So they submitted a question to r/AskReddit, saying: "What's a form of toxic masculinity you've experienced in your life as a male?" TacoHellDriveThru specified they only wanted serious answers, and serious answers are what they got.
People act like I'm suspicious or dangerous when I travel alone with my daughter.
Every time I go out in public without her mother I get people watching me closely. I parked my car in a parking lot to feed her lunch a while back (didn't want to take her inside due to COVID) and a group of people gawked and circled our vehicle in their truck a few times. That is not an uncommon experience for me.
I'm legitimately afraid to take her into a family bathroom because I fear some Karen is going to call the police and tell them I am doing something unspeakable because God forbid a man act like a nurturing parent in public. I'm scared I'm going to get a gun pulled on me in front of my daughter.
A lot of people assume that a lone man with a child or adjacent to children is a predator by default.
If they're not assuming I'm a predator, I still get comments like "Babysitting for mom?" No, I'm not babysitting for mom. I am her parent and I'm every bit as capable at it as her mother. Me taking my child to the park and feeding her lunch isn't "babysitting" just because I am doing it alone.
Dr. Esther De Dauw, a comic scholar working on superheroes, gender, race, and anti-hegemonic narratives, agrees that toxic masculinity is deeply rooted in our society. "The stories we tell, our popular myths, films, books, etc, are ways for us to make sense of the world," she told Bored Panda. "A lot of our storytelling is wrapped up in toxic masculinity—it's all about the hero who can stand alone, take care of business, who doesn’t cry or relies on his community."
"We see these stories as kids and the adults in our lives tend to enforce the lessons taken from these stories 'boys don't cry', 'no means yes', etc. And then we become adults and while we might tell different stories, we tend to embed the values we've grown up with in our stories—because to us that's just how the world is, it's our normative world view. Research in sociology and psychology increasingly points to media as a really powerful tool to pass on norms and values, and with the increased media presence in our lives through smartphones, tablets, and binge culture – we’re constantly being influenced."
De Dauw also co-authored a book on the subject. Titled Toxic Masculinity: Mapping the Monstrous in Our Heroes, it's an exciting exploration of the impact of hypermasculinity on the creation of the modern superhero.
I've been called 'gay' for rescuing a starving kitten and taking it to the RSPCA.
Dr. De Dauw highlighted that when we're talking about toxic masculinity, we're not just talking about general sexism. "Of course, they're related and influence each other, but toxic masculinity is about the extreme rejection of what our culture thinks of as feminine traits (sensitivity, softness, etc) and the adoration of masculine traits (self-sufficiency, stoicism, etc)," she said.
"It's about the shame and pain that men are taught to feel when they're not manly enough and how that leads them to lash out (mostly at women). It's about how the traits of masculinity can become toxic to both men and the people in their lives."
I got made fun of for wearing lifesaving safety gear on job sites. There are people now who can't taste, smell, or hear properly because they were too stubborn to put on earplugs and safety glasses, since it's 'not manly' to protect yourself apparently.
"So, I’m thinking about the way that when men experience a mental health crisis, they are less likely to reach out for help because it’s not considered manly to be overwhelmed by your emotions or circumstances," Dr. De Dauw said. "Eating disorders, steroid addiction, and body modification addiction have been on the rise amongst young men since the 1980s because with bodybuilding action heroes and superhero films, the culturally ideal body type for men has shifted."
In the UK, for example, 3 times as many men as women die by suicide.
Getting sh*t on for not caring about sports. I'm sorry, I just don't want to spend my time watching people run around a field. And no, I don't want to play sports video games either.
De Dauw herself has experienced sexism. When she was doing her Ph.D., a fellow Ph.D. scholar referred to her as 'the one with the big b**bs' to another colleague. She has also had students make gender-based comments during teaching evaluations. She has even been harassed on the street.
But, the toxic masculinity that De Dauw has experienced in her life has mostly impacted men she has known who were unable to talk about their feelings or trauma and, due to this inability, hurt themselves, lashed out at her and the other women in their lives.
My earliest memory of toxic masculinity was when I was on my first grade basketball team. We got to pick our jersey numbers. I chose 14 because it was my aunt's number, who was a D1 college player at the time. When I told them this, the coaches laughed at me. Apparently looking up to a non-male athlete was frowned upon, even though none of the coaches made it past high school.
At this point, De Dauw thinks it's hard to say whether or not we as a society have contained toxic masculinity. "Once you name a problem, it becomes more visible and you identify more instances of it," she said. "We're also living in an increasingly divided world, where a lot of people feel threatened when problems like this are identified and they feel the need to lash out to prevent our rapidly changing world from changing even more—and that also gives the impression that the problem is growing or getting worse."
"I think that, at the very least, we're identifying, thinking, and talking about things like toxic masculinity and that in and of itself is a good way forward," De Dauw explained.
I got raped by an ex. Nearly everyone I've told starts by arguing the toss that it wasn't actually rape.
Because she thinks the reason toxic masculinity is so embedded is (in part) because of the media, a really hopeful thing for her is that we're seeing more and more push-back against toxic masculinity in media from various audiences. "We are seeing more diverse roles in media, and this includes more diverse ways for men to be men," De Dauw added.
"There are shows that have kind, loving and sensitive men and shows that deal with characters showing these toxic traits and growing past them, [including] Dipper from Gravity Falls when he moves past his crush on Wendy, Soka in Avatar: The Last Airbender when he learns to value women, Captain Picard in the recent Picard series, who has learned to be open and affectionate with the men in his life, and Joel from Santa Clarita Diet who is supportive of his wife and daughter."
My favorite color is purple. I've tried to wear purple, and nope, too many dumbass comments.
In Toxic Masculinity: Mapping the Monstrous in Our Heroes, De Dauw wrote that, "When we consider how popular culture and its stories give us a lens through which we can learn to emphasize with and love those different from us, it becomes clear that representation is a promising start, even if it cannot be the whole our strategy to increase equality."
"Another important step is that we need have these conversations with the men in our lives if it is possible and safe for us to do so," she added. "Encourage men to seek support in their communities, to go to therapy if necessary, to learn how to communicate, and to perform emotional labor–we need to consistently understand that there's no one right way to be a man."
I always wear seatbelts in cars, but every so often, someone will scoff or poke fun that I put my seatbelt on when we share a cab or an Uber. I don't feel like smashing out my front teeth if the driver gets into a fender bender.
In the academic world, the notion of a singular, perfectly-defined masculinity has been rejected since the late 1980s. Led by the sociologist Raewyn Connell, this school of thought positions gender as the product of relations and behaviors, rather than as a fixed set of identities and attributes.
In her work, Connell described multiple masculinities shaped by class, race, culture, sexuality, and other factors, often in competition with one another as to which can claim to be more authentic. In this view, the standards by which a "real man" is defined can vary dramatically across time and place.
Let's hope that some day theory will become practice too.
About five years ago, I feel into a deep depression. I have been wrestling with the problem since I was a teen. I refused to see counselors for years until I snapped. As a man the expectations are to "hang tough". "Real men" don't need counseling was sort drilled into my head because it exhibited weakness. When I became suicidal, I had to leave my job and quite a few people insinuated I was weak. I sought treatment with the help of a psychologist and a counselor. That's when I realized the "manliness" garbage was toxic. I hate sports, cars and bullshit. I spend my time with my awesome wife not weekends with "the boys" ignoring my family. I haven't looked back since.
Oh another one for me is when I grew my hair out. Most guys called me gay and that it looked girly. Yet, I was dating more women than ever during that time because a lot of the women I dated loved the hair. So I guess being straight is gay?
Being harassed by women multiple times and having it dismissed because I'm a man.
Apparently guys are absolutely required to like any attention from a girl even if it's invasive as f**k or borderline rapey.
I work at a grocery store.
I was ringing one day and one of the other register employees was giving this older gentleman a really hard time about wanting a bag to carry his stuff. She said something to the degree of “Come on! You should be able to carry that on your own; you’re a man. You’re supposed to be strong!” The dude had a cane with him. I’m not even sure if she realized what she was saying was demeaning and toxic. I turned around and gave her a WTF look.
She didn’t last too long.
Men in a group tend to sexualize any and all women
I hate that
Also growing up I got s**t for not knowing about cars, like cause I’m a dude I should have the knowledge of a mechanic
I am currently in therapy to unlearn all the toxic behaviours I learned growing up. I learned in my 30s that feelings aren't a burden to be suppressed and ignored.
I remember in high school (I went to an all-boys school), I would go to watch my older sister play hockey, and I’d get made fun of. I never understood what the problem with going to watch a women’s hockey game was, especially one where my older sister was playing.
My old roommate was the definition of toxic masculinity. He told his parents the other night that all other guys who go to the gym are 'betas,' while he is a 'biological alpha' and then proceeded to make fun of out-of-shape people at the gym.
Lost power during a cold (and wet) spell pre-covid. As the building management guy who also lived in the building, I was tasked to stay on-site for the entire 10 days to coordinate repair efforts while the rest of the residents left for hotels/relatives' places. On the 7th day, I also got food poisoning and spent the day expelling from both ends while taking time in between to meet with contractors. The then girlfriend came home later that evening to see me pale, dehydrated, shivering, and exhausted in bed wearing all of my snow clothes. She asked how I was, I said "rough" and she went on to say how her day was so much worse because of some office drama. After her rant she asked why I didn't go make myself some tea as if I was stupid enough to not consider it.
She was a self-proclaimed feminist but was always blind to my needs.
My mother in law told me to stop whining and "man up", we were new parents and I was working nights. The only thing I said was that I was "tired". It's stuff like that. I'm actually clinically depressed, but I never talk about it because I'm 6'3" and masculine so I'm not allowed to feel sad or tired.
For being straight but exclusively using the gay trainers on Peloton. They are more fun and have better music, sorry not sorry.
Mainly how boys are raised to disregard pain and view emotions as a nuisance to be avoided and stifled. It’s helpful for getting things done but not so good for being mentally healthy.
When I told someone I was a chef, they told me that career path was for women.
I was expected to be able to chug alcohol and just keep on going. I just can't. I have a low threshold. I can't have like five shots of tequila and go about my business. I'll be a mess.
My dad. He's never been wrong about a god damn thing in his life. The solution to a problem he picks is the only solution.
Examples include: lighting fires under our water pipes to thaw them out in cold weather for hours to fix a blockage, setting our house on fire at one point, when it turned out the block was at an elbow that was easily broken loose once mom found it. Another is his insistence on gluing s**t together with silicone to 'fix' vehicles. If I have a bad day, I clearly need a higher dose of antidepressants, as I'm a man and I'm not allowed to have negative emotions. Launching a piece of plastic into my eye breaking open the box of our water valve and it's my fault because I was 'sticking my face in it'
If the man decided he was gonna headbutt his way through a brick wall, he wouldn't stop until his skull broke. He's ridiculous.
After the final exam, my classmates and I went to a nearby bar to drink our pains away. I ordered a lime Margarita and was mocked by both the males and females that it was a girly drink. Same thing when I ordered a long Island afterwards. (I've now moved to cosmopolitans, since three or four can get me happy drunk, and tastes awesome!)
"Cooking is the woman's job" said to me when I told them I like to cook
I grew up in a cowboy town. I saw a guy fall off his horse and break his leg. He refused to be helped off and insisted in getting back on his horse and riding out. There was an ambulance right there.
Almost everyone I know has at some point ridiculed or bullied me because I don't like or want a car.