Hi AJ, thanks for reading and responding. I appreciate your thoughts, though I think you have maybe mistunderstood what I was trying to communicate. Or maybe I wasn’t explaining it very well.
In no way did I mean to communicate that the needs, fears, and problems of men need to be shoved into a box and blamed on them. That example as you gave it is actually a perfect example of how well toxic masculinity works in our society, because it oppresses men and makes them feel they have nowhere to turn.
To be clear, I don’t think masculinity in and of itself is toxic — I believe that America’s very narrow perception of what constitutes masculinity (or what doesn’t constitute ‘masculinity’) is the toxic part, which is what I was referring to in this piece. American society has a very shallow definition in general of what’s acceptable for men — how to look, behave, walk, talk, dress, play, interact, and so on. There’s no room for error. If you don’t fall into line, you risk “emasculation,” i.e., being called names equating you to a woman that are meant to degrade, such as ‘p*ssy,’ or other names meant to shame you, like ‘faggot.’ You risk harassment, bullying, and even violence for not living up to the American ‘standard’ of what constitutes ‘masculinity.’ That’s what is toxic.
Toxic masculinity isn’t a trope — it’s actually a living, breathing monster that our society has created. I’m the mom of three: a young adult male, a female teen, and a transgender 12 y/o, who was assigned male at birth, but has always — since the age of 2.5 — behaved, dressed in, played, talked, walked, lived and breathed femininity. My oldest is a very manly-man kind of guy. My daughter, in the middle, is a typical teen girl. My youngest has never been a boy, but never fully been a girl, either. Where do those people fit in? They don’t. We’re living through middle school right now with our youngest, and whereas my husband and I worried over our older two making good grades and such, our only hope for our trans kid, our youngest, is that this child just makes it out of middle school alive and well.
Toxic masculinity is thing that’s responsible for driving gay people (men, especially), and transgender women (meaning assigned male at birth) into hiding in the closet, or committing suicide.
I’m very much an advocate for, and proponent of men seeking therapy, counseling, or whatever is useful to them or helps them, to address any and all of their needs, fears, and problems. I majored in Psychology; my belief is that *everyone* could at least benefit, even just a little, from a good therapist. (I know there are some bad ones out there, but there are some really great ones, too.) My husband lived for nearly 33 years under a cloud of toxic masculinity — the part in our society that told him he was ‘weak’ for having fears, showing emotion, or expressing his feelings. He sought counseling and therapy of hiw own accord, which I think takes a really strong man to do, and he is a million times happier, more successful, more loving & compassionate, and every other good thing because of seeking that help.
Men should never be shamed for being unique individuals who don’t conform to the stereotype. Personally, I think men who don’t conform to the stereotypical “jock” trope are way more interesting, better lifemates and partners, better friends, and better lovers. And it’s just sad to me that, because our society expects all ‘masculine’ men to be a certain way, men have to essentially get to a literal breaking point before they’ll even consider seeking help to sort this stuff out. It’s society’s fault for creating a culture that panders to that toxic brand of masculinity, for making men think this is what all women want, etc. I’m not saying it’s men’s fault at all. Society as a whole created toxic masculinity.
Also, you said it would be worth examining what ‘emasculation’ is. A while back I wrote a piece on that. You can find it here, if you’re interested.