Toxic masculinity is a term often used to describe Western understandings of manhood that are ultimately harmful to men and society at large, including the pursuit of status, exertion of dominance over other people and excessive self-reliance. Academics in the field have written that these expectations of men, along with all other forms of masculinity, are socially constructed.
I’ve heard quite a bit of discussion recently about the nature of masculinity and its tendency to err towards toxicity, but I’ve heard very little about the potential for goodness within the nature of men and what might constitute healthy masculinity. If we are to believe the claims of the potentially destructive nature of socially constructed masculinity, what, then, should we do as men to reject the negative influences that shape not only our perceptions of our identity, but also our behavior in society?
Our solution lies within understanding that our perceived social roles are not destinies we must fulfill. Each of us is responsible for developing our own system of values and conducting ourselves in such a way that allows us to reach the greatest heights of our individual potentials.
To understand how we should act in the world, we should first make a meaningful effort to know where we stand in relation to society at large. Naturally, this is a complicated issue, and I encourage us to reject any attempts to oversimplify the issue by categorizing us all as being either malevolent propagators of an oppressive patriarchy or innocent victims of some nefarious Marxist-feminist conspiracy.
We have certain privileges as men, but we are ultimately shaped by our individual experiences and decisions. Our privileges and expected social roles cannot be the final arbiters of how we live our lives.
We can live healthy, fulfilling lives without having our good behavior exist only within the confines of masculinity, and we can derive our own value without worrying if others view us as masculine.
If we free ourselves from the societal constraints and expectations imposed upon men, recognize that we have the potential to create something beautiful with our lives, commit ourselves to a value system that will allow us to exist in cooperation with the world around us and take responsibility for ourselves, for the well being of those around us and for the fulfillment of our own purpose, the world might be a little bit better off.