We use movies, shows, and books for not just entertainment, but we also learn behaviors from them. One avenue where media plays an especially vital role is in the portrayal of gender roles. Media helps people learn what is the expected way to behave, shaping the society then.
Conversely, media takes the cultural portrayal of gender roles as well. Suffice to say, they both enjoy a relationship of mutual benefit. Media, therefore, serves well to help people when used positively, but its impact can be just as dire when it furthers problematic notions, which then changes people’s subjectivities as well. One such issue is that of toxic masculinity.
What is toxic masculinity?
We have all seen movies in which the hero is handsome, yet aggressive. He is forceful towards the heroin, but that is okay, rather helpful. He is invincible, does not cry and is oh-so-butch. And you wonder, what’s wrong with that, which goes on to show the level of normalization of toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity entails being physically aggressive and strong. Men, under this school of thought, need to amass wealth and power. They need not show any emotions. Crying especially is off-limits. Having mental health problems that require treatment from a Psychologist in Lahore are a sign of a wuss. Real men just can’t cry.
This mindset is being propagated by not just the society, but especially the media, not understanding the harmful impact of such a mentality.
Harms of toxic masculinity
Toxic masculinity is extremely harmful to women. It serves to justify and even normalize problematic behavior. It takes away their rights from them, and they are then conditioned to demurely follow along with the men.
It is also just as bad for the men. They feel compelled to follow the norms dictated by toxic masculinity, even if they are not comfortable doing so. Not conforming then makes them less of a man, and not one likes to be emasculated.
Other problematic notions furthered by toxic masculinity on men themselves include:
Toxic masculinity entails that men be extremely fit, not withered by anything. For them, being rough and tough is super important. And in attempts to prove their manliness, they then neglect their bodies as well.
Rather than caring for it, they take it as a sign of pride that they are so strong that they can bear anything. Going to the doctor is not important, as real men do not feel or express pain.
Similarly, certain habits are thought to be signs of true masculinity, like drinking particular kind of liquor in generous amounts and smoking, that are otherwise harmful for the health.
Problematic habits and behaviors
Another issue with toxic masculinity is that it normalizes problematic habits like watching porn. Men think that it makes them more manly then. Similarly, their behavior is also not much better; from groping to catcalling, all are considered normal and something a real man must be doing.
They fail to account for the female agency and impose their behaviors on them.
Answer with aggression
A hallmark of toxic masculinity is showing aggression under all circumstance. They talk with their fists, no matter how banal the problem may be. Dialogue is not considered something acceptable to them
Mental health is a taboo
As per the principles of toxic masculinity, real men cannot feel emotions; that’s for the ‘girls.’ Consequently, they fail to address mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and stress.
Similarly, talking about feelings is also not something real men are allowed to do, due to which, they are simply unable to express their mental anguish.
Seeking help from the Psychologist in Islamabad is extremely unacceptable. And by following such unhealthy practices, toxic masculinity not only jeopardizes the life of women, but men as well. And unfortunately, it seems, media might just be perpetuating the problem.