by Diondra Clements
Have you ever been outside in sweats and a baggy t-shirt and had a man call you and harass you from a car? Growing up as a little boy, were you told to man up because men don’t cry? Or, my favorite, have you ever been at a gas station simply pumping gas and have a man make uncomfortable comments at you?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these, then congratulations, you’ve experienced toxic masculinity. There have been a few definitions of “toxic masculinity” since the phrase was coined back in the 1980s and 1990s during the rise of the Mythopoetic men’s movement. According to Advocate Magazine, this movement was in response to the second-wave of feminism where men rediscovered their deep masculinity.
There is technically not an academic definition of the phrase, but the current definition of toxic masculinity is described as a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. Another way to describe toxic masculinity is the socially-constructed attitude of male gender roles that restrict allowable emotions for men to express and the expectation of men to be dominant.
Recently, it’s a phrase that has started to pop up often, from the rise of the #MeToo movement, women’s movement marches and even with President Donald Trump and his antics toward women.
An example is when you have a little boy teasing or hitting a girl and the little girl is told, “Oh, he’s just doing those things because he likes you.” It isn’t until they get older when it becomes domestic violence and he’s telling the girl, “I only hit you because I love you. When I hurt you, it hurts me.”
Now I understand a scenario like that is an extreme case, even though it happens all the time. I’ve personally seen it happen too many times, not to me, but adults I’ve been around. I can say, as a woman, I have witnessed those scenarios way more times than I can count.
As a female who works at The Home Depot, I have had customers ask me a question and before I can even answer, I have a male customer answer for me, as if I don’t know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, when a male customer asks me a question, they counter my response by telling me what they should do instead as I answer.
We’re not even going to touch on the topic of having men, mostly much older, hit on you at work and make unwanted comments so they can then get offended when you’re not flattered by their compliments. Trust me, I’ve once had a customer “jokingly” say to me, “Come on, you’re coming with me. Don’t worry, no one will know.”
Unfortunately, they know it’s a part of your job to be nice to the customer because “the customer is always right.”
It typically starts at an early age when boys are told things like “little boys don’t cry,” “pink is for girls,” “only girls play with dolls” and things of that sort. It’s almost assumed the minute a boy starts showing such signs, someone must rush to “correct” them.
When boys don’t act as masculine as they’re expected, they are generally ridiculed, which can range from whispers to being called names or labeled as gay. Again, it is believing the false idea that being “manly” is the right way, and having feminine qualities is a terrible thing.
Even a few days ago, I read an article about four men attacking a gay couple after the Pride parade in Miami all because they were holding hands. It’s come to the point that even if you wear certain things, that can take away from your “manhood.”
I’m not saying I expect to see men wear skirts and crop tops, though if that’s what you are into, go for it. However, simple things like wearing pink is frowned upon. Also, if you’re a guy and you enjoy facials, fruity drinks or even pay too much attention to fashion, forget it, you’re no longer labeled as a “real man.”
Which brings up the question: what even is a real man? Why do we have to label it? Can we all just agree to stop letting guys get away with things all because “boys will be boys.” Women hate gender stereotypes, such as being considered fragile, weak and domestic housewives. So, can we also stop putting labels on men that they’re supposed to be strong, dominant and emotionless?