What Makes A "Real" Man? Quotes About Toxic Masculinity
Updated March 16, 2020
Reviewer Laura Angers
A quick perusal of a magazine reveals one distinct view of men: creatures with rippling muscles, eyes for women, and a strong interest in being outdoors. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, the view of men often presented by the mainstream media is one that has been pigeonholed almost entirely to encompass traits that are traditionally associated with males, such as aggression, stoicism, anger, and recklessness. When these traits are not only recognized but also encouraged and enforced, toxic masculinity results.
What Is Toxic Masculinity?
The term "toxic masculinity" was developed to describe the prevalence of unhealthy male stereotypes, and the effects those stereotypes have on the general public-including men. Toxic Masculinity typically refers to the stereotype of men as hyper-masculine, aggressive, largely emotionless creatures, who do not cry, do not show fear or weakness, and are only permitted to feel and express anger and jealousy. While, on paper, this sounds like a truly heinous combination of traits, most marketing campaigns and media representations of men demonstrate how common and expected hyper-masculine traits truly are.
Body type is also often factored into toxic masculinity. Men are expected to be large, strong, and prone to endurance. Anything less is derided as being too feminine, or not man enough, and men are socially punished until they conform to standard ideals. While some men might be able to escape these pressures, men generally stumble and give in to the pressures of "being a man," suppressing their emotions, ignoring their emotional and mental needs, and living lives dramatically at odds with their own beliefs, desires, and hopes.
Does A "Real" Man Exist?
In a word: no. Men exist on a truly massive spectrum, including all sizes and backgrounds, with a host of different ideas, beliefs, and hobbies. In a healthy society, men are free to exist without the stigma of carefully constructed and mercilessly enforced gender rules: men are free to dress up or down, indulge in all manner of hobbies, express themselves freely, and operate according to their values, rather than the values determined by societal gender roles.
The notion of a "real" man is largely fictitious; while men might have certain hormonal and biological tendencies, these tendencies are minute compared to the weight given them by the societal framework that created them.
Quotes About Toxic Masculinity
Toxic Masculinity has experienced some time in the limelight as of late, but much of what the term means, stands for, and encompasses is still misunderstood. Although it sounds as though it is a negative thing, the identification of toxic masculinity has been positive: identifying the issue allows men and women both to stop, observe their ideas and behaviors, and question some of their previously-held beliefs that contribute to the problem.
Understanding toxic masculinity is important, as it is an issue that affects everyone, regardless of gender. Understanding what it means is also important to discourage the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes in yourselves, your children, your friends, or even your parents, and allows you to begin working through some of the reasons those beliefs might be in place. In the remainder of this piece, toxic masculinity quotes are categorized by type, to elucidate further and inform.
"Men's rights activists tend to make a series of valid observations from which they proceed to a single, 180-degree-wrong conclusion. They are correct to point out that, worldwide, suicide is the most common form of death for men under fifty. It's also true that men are more likely than women to have serious problems with alcohol, that men die younger, that the prison population is 95 percent male, and that the lack of support for our returning frontline soldiers is a national disgrace. So far, so regrettably true.
They are incorrect, however, to lay any of this at the door of 'feminism,' a term which they use almost interchangeably with 'women.' […]
No, sir. No, lads. No, Daddy. That won't help us, and it won't help anyone else. Men in trouble are often in trouble precisely because they are trying to Get a Grip and Act Like a Man. We are at risk of suicide because the alternative is to ask for help, something we have been repeatedly told is unmanly. We are in prison because the traditional breadwinning expectation of manhood can't be met, or the pressure to conform is too great, or the option of violence has been frowned upon but implicitly sanctioned since we were children."
From Robert Webb's "How Not To Be A Boy."
As Robert Webb suggested, toxic masculinity is not merely a nuisance, or a frustrating problem to tackle: it is literally killing men, who are falling prey to its assumptions, are not reaching out for help when they are sinking into depression, are not calling out for help when they cannot provide for themselves or their families, and are not crying out for help when hatred, bitterness, and fear are eroding their wills to live. Toxic masculinity is far more than a buzzword in a trendy topic: it is a psychological term that identifies a very real, very frightening aspect of malehood today.
Brené Brown, in her book "Daring Greatly," said this of toxic masculinity: "When looking at the attributes associated with masculinity in the US, the same researchers identified the following: winning, emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy at work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality, and pursuit of status."
Toxic masculinity has seen opinions on both sides of the fence. Some believe it is a nonsense term, created to hold men down and assert women's position as better human beings, and those who believe that it does not do enough to create an upheaval of gender as a construct and that more still needs to be broken down between genders. In either case, though, there is some misunderstanding of the term. The term is not used to decry men as a whole; instead, it was coined to refer to a very specific set of attributes that are not determined by sex, as some would suggest, but that is societally constructed, enforced, and encouraged. Identifying these traits is important, as they cannot be thoroughly broken down and eradicated without an investigation into what they are, where they come from, and what types of the danger they impose on human beings as a whole.
Those who do not believe that toxic masculinity does enough to tear down gender barriers would do well to remember that change starts small and slow, and the presence of toxic masculinity as a concept on the radar of the public conscious is a huge victory for the degradation of outdated and inaccurate preconceptions about gender and gender roles.
In "The Hero's Heart," Melia Keeton-Digby identifies one important aspect of looking to the future, and away from toxic masculinity. She says, "As mothers raising sons, we have the power to change the trajectory of not only our own sons' lives but also of the culture at large." So, too, does the self-proclaimed "Polarity Expert," S.J. Gold, who said, "In nature, Yin (feminine) and Yang (masculine) are balanced and equal. Just as in nature, if society values one over the other, it weakens both and creates an unnatural state, where harmony is lost, and turbulence is created."
Although a single parent raising their son differently will not dramatically and wholly reshape a society, an entire generation of fathers and mothers raising males who believe in their ability to be fully-fleshed-out humans, with complex emotions, rich inner lives, and diverse likes and expectations can do a lot to overthrow an unhealthy societal construct, and this is the aim of both quotes: to demonstrate measurable change regarding toxic masculinity, and make life a far safer and more hospitable experience for the human race at large.
Real Men And Toxic Masculinity
Toxic masculinity is a term used to describe a set of traits that are typically ascribed to men, without any real biological basis. These traits are rooted in unhealthy, unrealistic behaviors and expectations, all of which have the potential to severely damage men, and increase the rates of depression, suicide, substance abuse, and workaholism among the male population.
While awareness of toxic masculinity is important, it is not enough to recognize what constitutes a toxic view of masculinity. Instead, armed with the knowledge of toxic masculinity, men and women can take concentrated actions to begin rebutting the cultural narrative of what constitutes a "real" man, in favor of a more genuine, wide-ranging, and complex notion of what being a male entails, without the weight of unrealistic and unfounded demands.
One of the first steps in escaping the binds of toxic masculinity can be in seeking professional help. Professional help can assist in identifying and unraveling any childhood trauma, pain, or conditioning that enforced gender roles and habits, and can help you recover from your self-imposed pressures and ideas. Whether you identify as male or female, you have likely been exposed to and affected by gender stereotypes that have harmed both you and others, leading to the adoption of toxic masculinity as the normal, expected example of male behavior.