Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Toxic Masculinity // FEMINISM FOR GUYS?!

Hello lovely people,

This is something I have been eager to talk about for a while. This is something that affects all genders but if you are a self-identifying male, or know someone who is, I urge you to read on...

The word feminism often brings with it many negative connotations, particularly for men. So to start I'm gonna do some quick-fire myth-busting:

- Feminists believe that all men are evil - NOPE
- Feminists believe women are superior to men - NADA
- Feminism only benefits women - WRONG
- Only women can be feminists - INCORRECT
- Feminism is not needed in modern society - HELL NO

Cool. Now we've cleared that up, let's move on to a little something called Toxic Masculinity (I'm giving it caps because it's so damn important). Toxic Masculinity is the sum of the socially constructed attitudes and behaviours expected of the male gender such as; violence, sexual aggression, dominance and being unemotional.

The phrases 'boys don't cry' and 'man up' are prime examples of toxic masculinity at work. Men are encouraged to be emotionally absent and show no weakness (or even vulnerability). This makes it increasingly difficult for men to reach out and get help which can have devastating effects. Research by the HSE shows that men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women (cited in the Irish Times).

At the heart of Toxic Masculinity in the rejection of the feminine; don't behave like a woman, don't behave like a gay man (and other patriarchal B.S.). Toxic Masculinity is inherently misogynistic and homophobic. 'Gay' and 'pussy' are used as insults and activities such as dressing up, wearing make-up, showing empathy/affection, liking romantic books/movies are labelled 'effeminate'.

A paradigm of Toxic Masculinity happens to be the President of the United States (*takes deep breaths*). And he is definitely not alone. Trump's complete objectification of women and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is ultimately a cultural issue. There is a glitch in our global culture: men have been placed on a pedestal, meaning that they are often in positions of power and not often held accountable for their actions.

Why is this a problem?

Toxic masculinity is a self-destructive paradox; created by the patriarchy to keep men in power, it is quite literally destroying men at the same time. It is a cultural straight-jacket that stops men from being their best selves (as well as stopping everyone else thriving too).

So where does feminism come into this?

Well, I'm glad you asked. 

Feminism is about gender equality. Intersectional Feminism also covers issues such as homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia and racism. While feminism may appear to be a female only movement, it's not. The nature of feminism means that we focus on the oppressed and more often than not it is women, trans people, fat people and people of colour who are being oppressed. Not straight, white men. However, toxic masculinity is a prime example of how men are being oppressed by the patriarchy and is therefore a feminist issue. Also, just because you're a man doesn't mean you can't support women's empowerment (which will ultimately lead to a more balanced, fairer society).

So how do I use feminism to eradicate toxic masculinity?

- Support women, trans people, gay people, fat people and disabled people by treating them with respect and raising awareness for the issues they face.
- Don't use sexist/homophobic/transphobic language
- Don't body shame (all genders)
- Don't slut-shame women
- Be there for a friend who's struggling with their mental health
- Don't be afraid to be vulnerable or ask for help
- Start conversations about taboo subjects amongst your friends and family to help break down stigma

Here is a extract from Grayson Perry's 'The Descent of Man' (which I would highly recommend) where he describes an alternative masculine manifesto (to replace outdated, toxic views):

 "Men's Rights: 

the right to be vulnerable
the right to be weak
the right to be wrong
the right to be intuitive
the right not to know
the right to be uncertain
the right to be flexible
the right not to be ashamed of any of these "

picture creds: kendrahadley.com

Finally, a disclaimer: there is a clear difference between masculinity (possession of the traits traditionally associated with men) and Toxic Masculinity (patriarchal attitudes that are detrimental to men's health and the WORLD). I am talking about Toxic Masculinity in this post. Discussion over.

Related articles/Further reading:

Toxic Masculinity and gun crime

Guardian interview

Men taking classes to unlearn toxic masculinity

Masculinity, Suicide and Feminism

I hope you have enjoyed this post. If you have any suggestions for fighting the patriarchy (that I haven't included here) be sure to let me know!

Make sure you follow me on bloglovin and like the Facebook page to keep up to date.

Until the next time,

Niamh xx

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