(HS Insider)
Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: Masculinity is not toxic

The phrase “toxic masculinity,” a term first coined in the 1980s, has become a heavily popularized buzzword, with magazines such as “Teen Voguepublishing articles on the subject. 

As defined by dictionary.com, toxic masculinity is a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, dominance and is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health. 

According to Medical News Today, toxic masculinity is harmful because it causes aggression, hyper-competitiveness, low empathy and entitlement, which can lead to bullying, academic challenges, substance abuse, psychological trauma and more. 

To say that issues such as bullying, substance abuse or even suicide could be solved or mitigated if one were to end “toxic masculinity,” is an oversimplification and surface-level solution. The root of such problems is not merely caused by “toxic masculinity” but rather by deeper, environmental, circumstantial, spiritual, etc. problems that differ from individual to individual experience.

In addition, toxic masculinity is also said to affect men by causing depression, stress and body image issues. However, these problems are far from exclusive to men. Women struggle with these issues too, and have a higher documented rate of depression than men, therefore is toxic masculinity the cause for their problems as well?

A solution often brought forth to end toxic masculinity is the call for men to be more emotional. While this may seem like a reasonable response, it is really just calling for men to become more like women, when men are quite literally not women. Studies have shown that the emotional differences in men and women are not merely cultural or socially constructed, but rather inherent and biological. 

If we keep pushing men to become more like women (or vice versa), I believe this will ultimately be to the detriment of society. Men and women are meant to complement each other. Men and women are equal in value but are not equal in the sense that they are the same. 

If anything, “toxic masculinity” should be the least of our worries in today’s society. According to a 2007 study from the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism,” there has been a “substantial” decrease in men’s testosterone levels since the 1980’s unrelated to age. 

Instead of blaming problems on “toxic masculinity,” I believe we should simply encourage both men and women alike to seek help when they need it, whether it be from a doctor or mental health professional. We should also simultaneously encourage men to still embrace their masculinity (and women their femininity) instead of villainizing it. 

At the end of the day, the problem is never toxic masculinity (or even toxic femininity), but rather individuals with toxic thoughts and actions.