The Mask of Toxic Masculinity

Why we see twisted versions of Troy Bolton in the classroom and what to do about it.

When God first created Man, it was in the image of Himself, the Divine. It is then difficult to accept the disastrous model of the ideal man that has been superficially imposed as the set standard which is that of toxic masculinity. The term, itself derogatory, unfortunately holds true to many young men of our current generation whose potency is imminent and in need of immediate attention. It describes a man who is consumed by dominance, physical aggression, athleticism, and the need for sexual validation. One who lacks the emotional capacity to give sympathy but so dearly desires and requires it. It is downright pitiful that we have allowed the image of Man to have spiralled so distant from God’s standard of man, which is in the image of Himself. The blame can be attributed to the hapless values which society has prioritised, for instance, the prerequisite for men to think logically over that of emotionally. It is these beliefs, values, and the way fathers educate their sons, that mould the “ideal man” to be one overwhelmed by toxic validation — it showcases the bravado effects of toxic masculinity as well as the ultimate, ironic, dependence on women.

Within each community are the beliefs on which the society is run. These are the cogs that control the people within the community. In the case of young men, the cog designated for beliefs has grown rusty and is in need of immediate repair. It is the belief of what it means to be a man. The conventional standard follows the imposed norms of a regular outbreak of physical violence toward others around them and themselves, as well as the tendency to turn to traditional drugs such as alcohol as an escape from appearing “weak”. This man often partakes in risky sexual behaviour, isolated in depressing thoughts and a lack of confidence between him and his peers. These men put on a mask. A mask of masculinity. And as we know, masculinity is enticing and is endured through social conformity. The idea of “sucking it up” and “being a man” has compelled many young boys to believe that they are right in domineering the relationship, as if having sex with as many women as possible was an unspoken competition. Little do they know that this masculinity is downright degrading. Downright shameful.

This mistaken belief of having to act in such a manner for validation among peers has led to another lie: there is successful masculinity in owning dominance, sexual prowess, good looks, stoicism, athleticism, and being exceptionally wealthy. Masculinity teaches boys to not confide in anyone about their feelings, because if they cannot “man up”, they are not a so-called “man”. The worst part is that crying is identified as human frailty; something reserved for girls, not boys. This is not only derogatory towards boys, but also girls in the same sense. Crying is a part of human nature; to deny young men this affection significantly reduces the sympathy they receive. In turn, boys realise there exists a barrier that prevents them from confiding their true emotions, keeping it unhealthily bottled up inside. The inability for boys to express their emotions is what prevents them from escaping toxic masculinity. They are lacking in sympathy from the preceding generation. How many more testimonies of uncaring fathers have to be told for the pattern to be curved? However, we cannot blame alcoholism or bad parenting on this one. Rather, it is the hesitation to confide their inner feelings because of the way society has been moulded.

Despite the mistaken beliefs, there are still values that still hold true. Organisations such as Boy Scouts teach young boys from an early age what are the traits to value. These characteristics are often attributed to that of a gentleman. To be courteous, loyal, friendly, kind — these are values that are a rare gem amidst the dehumanising “man” seen today. These values, as is with others, do not assemble on their own, but rely on educating boys. The role of education must be taken seriously, as a wayward education leads to hapless values we see in the “bro culture”.

The “bro culture” is addicting and dangerous as it persuades boys to believe that the only way to properly behave is to act “manly”, negating the gentleman’s role in egality. Sports teams and athletics are often a prime example of nurturing this type of culture. It values a different kind of loyalty. It is a sort that justifies hostility towards anyone who is not on the team. To further the masculine image, profanities are rather abundant in the locker room. It is as if the utterance of such curse words strengthens and promotes the masculinity ranking.

If a young man was feeling especially prideful one day, he might even explicitly describe illicit sexual relations with a young girl in an attempt to gain superiority and asserting dominance. This toxic masculinity encourages such behaviour, where advances towards girls are seen positively, no matter how sickening or how close to rape it might be. In fact, boys who defend girls in this position are seen as weak, as emasculated, and most definitely not as a man.

In one incident, a sophomore, who defended a girl from the sexist jokes that were being made against her by a senior, was ostracised soon after. “It’s almost as if he spent all his social currency” trying to get them to stop making sexist jokes.” In other words, being a gentleman equates one with the bottom of the social hierarchy which, I sincerely hope, is an opinion soon malleable.

Such stigma around being a gentleman disadvantages the female population greatly, yet, unbeknownst to the boys, it actually, in turn, idolises the female. It illustrates the woman as a prize to be won by the men’s masculinity. It objectifies us. In WW1, after the females had proven that the economy did not need to rely solely on men but that it could work just as smoothly with women in charge, males still did not embrace gender equality. Instead, it continued to strictly practice sexism in the workplace; and while it tolerated women being in the workforce, these women were often allocated the inferior positions. The toxic idea of logic and lack of emotional nature was a prerequisite for leadership that society believed only men could fulfil. The emotional weight of this role is influential as today, males persist in this kind of thinking.

As Ms. Orenstein stated in her article with The Atlantic, “Girlfriends, mothers, and in some cases sisters were the most common confidants of the boys I met…Among other things, that dependence can leave men unable to identify or express their own emotions, and ill-equipped to form caring, lasting adult relationships.”

Even though women may be exploited as objects, they are still the ones with whom boys feel they can let down their guards. Unlike the flawed masculinity of men, the role of females being a helper as described in the Bible closely follows what is practiced today. When the father does not offer sympathy, the mother remains. When the brother resists caring for the sister, the mother remains. The mother is the quintessential representation of the female; and while young men may be lost and taught not to cry, their mother’s shoulder is still somewhere on which they lean. It ultimately displays a single truth: no matter how ravaged a boy may be between dignity and relationship with others, dependence on the Female cannot be ignored.

Should Man follow the image presented to them in the Bible — that is, the image of God — I am absolutely certain that this distressed, toxic belief and value system would not exist today. Colossians 2:8 is a wonderful verse on which we can set our basis, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” The philosophy and empty deceit refer to the toxic masculinity that has been sculpted by man; it should be an unanimously accepted demand that no man continues to fall for mistaken beliefs and values. Education is our last remaining option to detoxify masculinity. Only a sustained, collective effort by fathers, mothers, coaches, and teachers is able to properly educate the young men. To teach them that it is okay to cry; that there are other ways to self-inoculate against insults other than “No homo”; that a gentleman deserves to rank at the top of the hierarchy; that women are to be respected and exactly how to do it; and most importantly, that “toughness and tenderness can coexist in one human.”

I write about books, culture, and current affairs under an international youth lens. Feel free to read more of my work Zera T.on Medium.

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Third Cultured Youth Writer. My writing sheds an international student’s lens on books, culture, and current affairs.

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Zera T.

Zera T.

Third Cultured Youth Writer. My writing sheds an international student’s lens on books, culture, and current affairs.

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