Toxic masculinity is a common aspect of today’s culture of instant gratification and social media. Video games, memes and internet culture alike share in its creation and popularity. The ideas perpetuated by toxic masculinity infiltrate real-world interactions just as much as social media.
Typically, toxic masculinity is present when men act a certain way among their friends to promote a more masculine version of themselves. With other like-minded individuals as an anchor, their behavior is validated and put on a pedestal of authority and becomes a blueprint for others to follow.
One of my most profound experiences with toxic masculinity came from my love for music. I consider myself a music aficionado, and I constantly diversify my listening experiences. I am also a performer, which enhances my appreciation for music beyond an average level.
I have seen that men typically do not listen to certain genres of music or enjoy being flexible with their music taste.
When I was 16 years old, I just started getting into musical artists like Steve Lacy, Sade Adu, Drake, Childish Gambino and other artists of the same genre. I found their music poetic and brilliantly produced, and I loved that they expressed honesty in their emotions and songwriting. As an extrovert, I’m naturally inclined to share music with others and I find the process to be insightful and help decipher who I can be truly myself around.
I’ve talked to and related with many people who agreed with my sentiments and appreciated that we enjoy the same type of music.
I’ve also met many people who said that they could not listen to these artists because they were “not interested in hearing a bunch of men moan and groan about their emotions for several hours.” They described it as soft, corny, uninteresting and disliked my passion for it. It was both incredibly childish to hear and enlightening to observe how these men regarded these music genres.
What was most alarming was that when they chose the more “masculine” approach, it led to a closed-off conversation. I felt as though I could no longer express myself to them and they felt like they had to continually put on a front in order to impress me.
Authenticity is the most honest expression of self and I have found that people who have this faux-hardcore belief system are the most damaged and repressed individuals. They fear closeness and communication, so they close themselves off with representation that only validates how they pretend to feel.
To me, these interactions are representative of the larger problem with promoting toxic masculinity: It reinforces the idea that image is more important than authenticity. When men who have been told they have to act a certain way for their entire lives are introduced to an environment where it is more beneficial to be themselves, they create emotional walls to keep their image intact. Additionally, men are less empathetic than women, so even within their own community there is a lack of emotional stability among one another.
To remove the toxicity present in toxic masculinity, there are two important messages that need to be sent to men who still think and act like this. The first belief that must be shattered is that a certain image of themselves is the only acceptable version. With this misconception gone, men will feel more inclined to be honest with their emotions and showcase a truer sense of self.
The second belief is the inclination to only enjoy certain things that aline with your worldview. Life and interaction goes hand in hand and trying new things will break the narrow mold that masculine activities have over society.
Gender in our society encompasses a spectrum and masculinity must be held to that same standard to create more honest and empathetic men who will nurture the next generation of children.