• Tom Sobel-Rowden

Toxic masculinity and mental health stigma among men


Toxic masculinity is a term that is used frequently in everyday speech and academia as well. It is very common yet is misunderstood and misinterpreted by many people. Mainly toxic masculinity describes the negative aspects of exaggerated masculine traits. The whole concept revolves around the so-called ‘traditional’ masculinity and it has become difficult for many people to get out of this concept. These outdated male values are still meant to be followed in our society for some unknown reasons.


What is Toxic masculinity?


‘Toxic masculinity is the constellation of socially regressive traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence’ – Journal of School of Psychology


Toxic masculinity is used to describe the exaggerated masculine traits and values that are to be maintained by the men of our society to be accepted by everyone. These concepts of masculinity have distorted the moral values of manliness. Often these traits are related to:

  • Aggression

  • Hyper-competitiveness

  • Suppressing emotions

  • Being extra strong emotionally and physically

  • Sexual aggression

  • The need to dominate others

  • Glorification of violence

  • The lower level of empathy

  • Entitlement

  • Sexism

  • Self-sufficiency

These concepts are often seen in our society where we don’t expect men to cry or express their emotions. We want them to be aggressive and strong about everything. They are meant to stay ahead in solving issues. They are expected to show anger when they are caught up in appropriate circumstances. They ought to take responsibility for their mistakes. This is how a society or culture sees men but obviously, this is now how all the men are supposed to be. But the pressure of being like that makes their behaviors and attitude more toxic.


The reasons leading to Toxic Masculinity


Many ideas and traditions that were set in the past are now continuously being followed and result in these values. Many factors play a significant role in developing toxic masculinity, such as:

  • Religion

  • Culture

  • Class

  • Age

  • Race

  • Sexuality

There are no set of rules that make the standard for manliness. Where a certain class, culture, or religion believes in the dominance of the men, others deny this. Thought the majority of the cultures cultivate the idea of men being the better part of the society and that they should play a dominant role due to which the toxic masculinity has become common.


What are the consequences of toxic masculinity?


The standard idea of masculinity is this extreme repressive and narrow form of manhood where the males are defined by their strength, the tendency towards violence, aggression, sex, and status. The men are not at all expected to show feminine traits like being emotional, attached, crying, dressing differently, etc. If they do anything different, they are not man enough.


This standard has ruined many people’s lives and personalities. If you are not living under the traditional ideas of idealized masculinity, you are not accepted in society. You risk being invisible and not important to the people around you. Moreover, it leads to bullying, violence, and other disrespecting acts.


Moreover, if the men become dominant and fall under the definition of traditional masculinity, it makes them ignorant of other people’s feelings and emotions. They lack empathy, drive on their sexual needs, and behave aggressively as they feel it is the right way of solving conflicts. They even avoid getting mental health care because it is seen to be less manly to express your weaknesses.


Toxic masculinity especially affects young boys who grow up in a world where they feel that they can only be accepted if they live up to the standards of masculinity traits. When such things go unchecked, and the standards turn in to toxicity, the following issues can arise:

  • School discipline

  • Substance abuse

  • Psychological trauma

  • Jail or prison time

  • Bullying

  • Sexual assault

  • Lack pf genuine connections

  • Risky behaviors

  • Suicide

  • Academic challenges

With such challenging traits to be met, young boys can be caught up in multiple issues that can go unanswered and can affect their whole lives.


Toxic Masculinity and Mental Health


Though it is ignored so much, mental health is a big concern when it comes to the men trying to fit into the standards of masculinity set by society. They feel pressure and the need to do something about it but they end up stuck in multiple issues.


The American Psychological Association also stated that there are certain dangers associated with the attempts to meet up the exaggerated standards of masculinity. Boys and men who are forced by society to do this experience adverse effects and can face multiple issues like:


  • They fall into depression easily because they feel like no one in the society is accepting them as they are, and they have to change themselves to feel like a part of it.

  • Body image issues are one of the most common consequences of toxic masculinity. Where women are usually taken as the victim of body shaming, the same is the case with men. They are expected to have this strong body to be physically fit, and if they don’t have that, they are usually made fun of which can cause issues.

  • It is very common for boys to lean towards substance abuse whenever they face pressure and stress in their life. And, it is observed that toxic masculinity has played a big role in making that happen and It gets worse because they can’t get the help they need to keep up the strong front.

  • Where the idea of masculinity is to give them the dominant position in society, it is making them anti-social because of the pressure of being the perfect one.


Where the mental health issues in the men and women should be addressed equally, toxic masculinity is creating more issues for the men. The more they get indulged in this toxicity, the more they face mental health issues. To break the cycle, the culture needs to be changed and we need to accept everyone as they are rather than wanting them to be someone they are not.


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