While many women and men have been working together over the past decades to attain more fairness and equality between the genders, there has been a dangerous response from reactionary forces to promote a toxic form of masculinity that is severely detrimental to both men and women.
While most people are aware of the hostility this hyper-masculinity holds towards women, few people understand the terrible damage it does to men. Boys are called ‘bitches’ and told to ‘grow some balls’, ‘toughen up’, ‘don’t cry’, ‘stop being a girl’, and ‘stop being pussy-whipped’. Men are expected to be ruthless, hard, testosterone-fuelled machines – an expectation that is both silly and unobtainable.
My clinical work tells me that these hyper-masculine ‘fairy tales’ can be both dangerous and highly destructive to men. In fact, they set men up to fail where no failure is required.
This toxic masculinity encourages men to hate and despise anything that is so-called ‘feminine,’ like kindness, empathy, softness, good communication and genuine love, which are all held equally in contempt in this brutal, unforgiving world.
Sadly, this hyper-masculinity can stop men from trying hard at school (better to be good at ‘brute’ sports) or from accessing their own empathy and vulnerability. It can prevent men from asking for help (better to be the ‘rugged’, ‘silent’ individual), and it can stop them coming forward to talk and solve problems. It can stop men from collaboratively working with women, who are often their greatest supporters.
But most importantly, it often stops men from being kind to themselves. It takes their ‘soft’ feelings off limits. Eventually, the only ‘acceptable’ emotions are hard, mean and invulnerable (as seen in most pornography). This can incline men to overuse alcohol to try and eliminate even remotely soft emotions.
Also, over the years men often ‘forget’ how to cry and therefore lose the capacity to ‘habituate’ to their sadness. As a result, sadness can become unbearable.
Men can then easily find themselves ‘deflecting’ away from all their pain into enormous anger, fury and rage, since these are often the only emotions that remain accessible and acceptable.
In these situations, men need to come forward to talk openly and comprehensively. They need to cry. Just like anyone, they need to resolve their sadness about life’s losses and struggles – without ridiculous notions of masculinity preventing them. In reality, men are full, living, breathing humans with sensitive, smart and complex brains, not some brutal one-dimensional brain-dead caricature of invented masculinity.
Tragically, when men fail to embrace themselves as vulnerable, whole and complex human beings and continue to adhere to one-dimensional masculine caricatures to ‘not be a wimp’ or to ‘go it alone like a man’, they can easily turn their unrelenting rage inwards onto themselves in the form of ‘hyper-masculine’ suicide.