The troubles of toxic masculinity

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Toxic masculinity has a destructive effect on society.

Irish society has become better at discussing mental health issues. However, men across the country are still suffering and are largely being ignored. Last year, men accounted for 79 per cent of suicide deaths last year. That’s 335 men who took their lives. Why are so many more men dying of suicide than women in Ireland?

A part of it may be the toxic masculinity which still exists in Irish culture. Toxic masculinity is often seen as only negatively impacting women, but that’s not accurate. It impacts every member of society, regardless of gender.

Of course, the way it impacts different genders is not the same, and typically the focus is placed on how it affects women. This makes complete sense as women are often on the receiving end of violence as a result of toxic masculinity.

However, in order to truly eradicate the harmful attitudes that toxic masculinity present, it’s important to get men on board. And one of the best ways to do this is by showing its adverse effects on men.

Essentially, toxic masculinity reinforces strict gender roles – men are hardworking, confident and logical, while women are nurturing, caring and emotional. Even though many of the attributes that are associated with men are positive, they can still have negative impacts on male psyche.

Take for example, the idea that men are supposed to be strong. On the surface level this is a good thing – it provides men with certain advantages in society as they are seen as being able to handle a variety of situations.

Of course, the reality is that men are human, and they are no more capable of dealing with every situation than anyone of any other gender. This stereotype can hurt men as it intrinsically ties manhood with strength.

Thus, any man who is not stereotypically strong is not a “real man”. Attitudes like these pigeon hole men into certain expectations which they can never truly achieve.

Toxic masculinity inherently poses femininity as the opposite of what it means to be a man, and therefore, it’s seen as bad thing. Being emotional, expressing how you truly feel, sharing your worries – all of these are locked out as a result.

It’s difficult to say what exactly can combat this. It’s one thing to tell men that they need to be more open and honest with how they’re feeling – it’s another thing for them to actually be more transparent with their emotions.

Children should be made aware while they’re young that there are far more similarities than differences between men and women. The whole idea of a gender binary only serves to reinforce outdated ideas on how people should act and express themselves.

Emotions should not be gendered. More importantly, the way in which we deal with these emotions should not be gendered.

Men need to be able to express their emotions through more than just anger. Because, although it may be cliché to say, underneath all that anger is a lot of pain.

That, of course, does not justify the emotional or physical abuse that is committed by some men. Rather, it’s the exact opposite.

We need to hold men accountable when they react in an unhealthy and unproductive manner. What it means to be a man needs to be completely reconstructed to be more inclusive and less aggressive.

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Image credit: Orflaith Carragher