The term ‘toxic masculinity’ refers to the negative aspects of male culture that have in many ways come to define the culture as a whole. Examples of toxic masculine traits and behaviors include:
- Violence and aggression
- Sexual promiscuity
- Suppression of emotions
Within certain pockets of male culture, these ‘toxic’ traits are not seen as negative but rather are seen as virtuous. As a male, I frequently observe the existence of these traits in other males and even within myself. This creates some cognitive dissonance when I consider how much these traits conflict with my personal values. I occasionally find myself in seemingly irreconcilable feuds with other male friends regarding the necessity of abiding by toxic masculine values. For years, the fact that I often did not abide by these values made me question whether or not I deserved the title of “man” or even if I wanted it. I have since come to the realization that possession of these values are not truly what it means to be a man. I believe we need an updated notion of what defines masculinity. Maybe that new notion will include virtuous traits like integrity, responsibility, and commitment to justice. Maybe it will mean nothing at all as the concept of gender fades away. However, it cannot continue to force deeply problematic values down the throats of half of the population. I think it’s important that we begin to reconstruct contemporary masculinity with an updated system of values.