Unmasking the Consequences of Toxic Masculinity Coming From Today’s Political Floor
We are slowly arriving at the end of 2023. What was the biggest hit this year? "Barbenheimer," of course. And what is the common point of the two movies? Probably the strength of the gender characteristics of the lead actors. Cillian Murphy, as Oppenheimer, plays a rather toxic man with immense masculinity, and, on the other side, Margot Robbie, as Barbie, symbolises everything that is wrong with a paternalistic system. The difference has made me think. What is the most significant aspect that separates the two narratives? And what causes it? Of course, toxic masculinity, with the effect of politics.
Toxic masculinity is a severe issue, which as a concept has been overused for the wrong reasons in the past couple of years. Since 2016, it has been a hot topic in the media and scientific literature; however, after some false appearances in the news, the common knowledge about it is insignificant and mostly prejudicial. And what is behind all this? Of course, politics. As everything structural and deep-rooted into systematic issues, toxic masculinity is also fueled by the political discourse. The lack of attention and even harmful wrongdoings of politicians lead to a system that causes mental issues in the lives of young boys and men. But how? And what are the consequences? Let's see, shall we?
What Is Toxic Masculinity?
The term has numerous definitions, both academically and socially. As toxic masculinity, the concept has been used since the middle of the 1980s, first by Shepherd Bliss, the leader of the Mythopoetic Men's Movement, which was a body of self-help for men, lost in the 'poisonous new-age men' system. The mythopoetic movement followed treatments and activities that would connect members with their inner "wild man", mostly using Jungian psychology. This whole situation seems strange, right? Nowadays, we mention toxic masculinity when men try to reconnect with their wildness, and not as a solution for the problem. That is right. Back in the '80s, the mythopoetic group tried to walk away from a system that they called the new age, which basically meant that men were only viewed as objects contributing to the economy and family finances. Mr. Bliss's group called out the concept of lost brotherhood between modern men. So, what did they mean by toxic masculinity? They figured that the masculinity that was expected in the workplace, the constant competition in society, militaristic men, and in the bedroom, satisfying women and losing friendships with other males is poisonous and leads to a male society that has lost its inner values.
But what do WE mean by toxic masculinity today?
Today, academia, news, and the public talk about toxic masculinity, when they blame something like the mythopoetic movement was. The oversexualization of genders and the inner wild-man concept is nowadays viewed as the main problem of the younger society of men. With critical concepts of suppressing emissions and dominance, young boys receive a false image of a paternalistic world, which passed by long ago. All in all, toxic masculinity is the environment in which boys have to grow up nowadays, and not even taking extremities into account, it can destroy the life of a young man, leading to unhealthy relationships and family life.
How did it emerge? What are the causes and main drivers?
Toxic masculinity has many different faces; therefore, there cannot be one cause for all kinds of it. In this article, I view the concept as a systematic problem and not independent, which means that in this section, I will try to find the causes of "aggregate" toxic masculinity in our society. The whole phenomenon is a reaction to the growing equality between genders and the idea of wokeness. It is typically driven by under-educated fathers and public figures; however, as a systematic problem, it has stayed quiet for an extended period of time. When did it start, then? Toxic masculinity emerged with the stream of other social debates that shook the previous "norm". So, the answer is around 2016. That is, when politics, mainly in the US, took the concept, formed it a bit, and then built it into the campaign mechanism. Therefore, toxic masculinity is the reaction to all the liberal movements, like equal rights and BLM, for example.
But who is to blame in this situation? Neoliberal politicians? Right-wingers? Public speakers? All of them. One person did not create the problem, say Donald Trump or Piers Morgan; it emerged rather by a combination of all these players. We are shortly going to go through some of the people; however, it is essential to note that the concept is a problem brought about by the whole of society.
Donald Trump and his effect on toxic masculinity
During his presidency and campaigning period, his rhetoric was highly dependent on calling out his masculinity as an attribute, implying that he was fit for office and to lead the biggest economy in the world. In his campaigning agenda he used the term 'compromise is a sign of weakness', which later on he tried to follow in his presidency. By stepping up and blaming society for "limiting" him just because he is a man, he broadcasted the view that in our world, men have no power anymore, and being a man is actually a disadvantage.
Later, during his presidency, he continued singling out his political opponents as weak and, therefore, untrustworthy men. Even when his VP Mike Pence did not help him overturn the election results of 2020, according to New York Times, he said, "You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy". With this statement, he clearly attacked the masculinity of his political ally.
How did his presidential communication affect our world and the US population?
Research by Pennsylvania State University Professor Theresa Vescio shows that Trump's presidency turned hegemonic masculinity not only into an ideal but into an aspect that our culture values. People who value the traits of toxic masculinity tend to be more in favour of the GOP than the Democrats in the considerable political debate. This leads to the phenomenon where male voters can easily be motivated simply by mentioning the "fading away" of true masculinity.
Other Politicians in the US
Even if Donald Trump does not get elected in 2024, he has transformed the Republican Party into his own image. This caused that other politicians of the GOP have also emphasised the need to bring back true male values; for instance, Texas senator Ted Cruz tweeted the infamous line "many leftist guys never grow balls." The toxic masculinity of the American right-wing comes into life in the form of light homophobia and distrust in liberalist policies.
Furthermore, a bit of fun. Even though he cannot truly be called a politician, he has tried to run for office in the US. Moreover, he has a considerable influence on young males. And criticising him will put me into the crossfire of many readers. Who am I talking about? Of course, the one and only Kanye West. The famous rapper, who entered the presidential race in 2020, is well-known for speaking openly about his opinion. What is in his soul is in his mouth, and he could not stop at some extremely toxic tweets about masculinity in our generation. Kanye West can be called a modern-day Picasso, and this might not be a compliment. He is a musical and lyrical genius, however his behavior as a civilian is, unfortunately, not something that should be tolerated. Why is that such a big problem? He is a rapper, after all. That might be true if we did not live in a world of social media, where people like him have a bigger influence on young minds than anybody else, including friends, parents, and a close environment.
Lastly, it is important to mention Tucker Carlson and Piers Morgan. Both broadcasters have a tendency to openly criticise the man of today. Their role in the problem is more significant than one would imagine. Given the fact that they appear in news programs, they should be objective and not share their personal opinion with the world. However, they both do the contrary, which is harmful, as the majority of viewers still believe that they might have an independent opinion, which, if they share, can only be the truth. This has gone so far that Piers Morgan has made a public appearance around the newest Gilette campaign that was introduced this year. The new marketing catch of the company treats toxic masculinity as unacceptable and emphasises the normalisation of men's mental health treatments. Piers Morgan did not like this concept, and he commented that the new ad is the end of manhood.
What does toxic masculinity cause?
Now that we have touched upon some of the factors that lead to the phenomenon, we ought to discuss what the problem with systematic toxic masculinity is.
Men are typically told that showing emotions is a sign of weakness and cowardice. With the exception of fury, toxic masculinity typically prevents men from expressing a wide range of emotions. As a result of emotional suppression, men may struggle to cope with their feelings or seek help when needed. In the extreme, this leads to anger issues and problems with conflict management, which can, in some cases, lead to domestic violence or just violence in general.
This, moreover, damages emotional connections, which makes creating relationships, especially with women, extremely difficult. Men may feel compelled to avoid sensitivity, making building genuine and supportive relationships difficult. And this phenomenon can be called a trap-22. The more difficulties men experience in romantic relationships, the more they shift away from the solution, which increases anger and loosens the probability of making deep connections.
Traditional Gender Roles
As the whole idea of toxic masculinity arose from the alleged suppression of males in society, men who have been poisoned with the idea tend to urge traditional gender roles. The concept of the breadwinner and the wife with a big family can be attractive for these males. Apart from the apparent disparity, the biggest issue with this is that boys who look up to this example tend to follow in their footsteps, creating a generational problem.
The stigmatisation of actions or traits viewed as "unmanly" or outside of conventional gender norms can be facilitated by toxic masculinity. This may result in prejudice towards people—including the LGBTQ+ community—who do not fit these stereotypes. Unfortunately, this also creates a generational loop that does not bring our society forward.
A Small Outlook to the Other Side of the Road
Toxic masculinity is unquestionably a big problem. However, it has frequently been implemented incorrectly. The far-leftist course generated an ugly perspective of the situation by, for instance, criticising Emmanuel Macron for consuming a bottle of beer in 7 seconds. By pushing it to the extremes, they kill any debate and, with it, every potential solution to the problem. That is why toxic masculinity has become one of those things that are too delicate to discuss, and we simply ignore it. While millions of boys are affected by the concept, we prefer to focus on who is to blame rather than on a feasible solution. This is fairly common in our society.
Is toxic masculinity an incurable disease of our generation? The entire premise and therapies are unhelpful. People recommend therapists, but then guys are labelled as soft, and if they don't seek help, they may continue to suffer from societal pressure. It is an enormously intricate issue that will never be resolved if the elite do not adjust their communication practices to the highest level.
Calling out masculinity in such a sensitive context as now is risky and can have profound implications. But, most importantly, I would urge that the saying "boys will be boys" be abandoned.