In today’s society, it seems that men are becoming more and more displaced in regards to how we’re seen as contributing members of society due to the boom of strong, independent females as well as causes such as Planned Parenthood, the Feminist movement and such others. Now, do not misconstrue what I am trying to say here…I am not saying that these programs aren’t important because they in fact are and we do need them to give people involved in them a voice to be heard. What I am saying is and the premise for this article is the question, “Just how useful and indispensable are men in 2022?”
For centuries, men have been viewed as the cornerstone figures for strength, leadership, courage and a multitude of many other things in our world’s history. In recent years, it seems though as if the sexes’ responsibilities have flipped giving women more visibility in society (again, which is awesome:)). Men have now taken a step back it seems to allow women to bask in the limelight of being vocal in our government, policy-making and being bread-winners for their families. Such a shift in priorities for men and women have made some men probably feel a little ‘left out’. Masculinity as well as femininity keeps getting rewritten with now expectations that exceed old ways of the past definitions of what is considered ‘manly’ and ‘womanly’. Men have taken somewhat of a backseat as I said in today’s society to women feeling more empowered by being more independent and living for themselves.
Since the term ‘toxic masculinity’ came on the social horizon, many men have has to re-assess if their own rules of what makes them a man healthy or not. The question here is “Is masculinity really toxic?” In my personal opinion, no, it’s not and here’s why. American society has set standards for men and women as what’s considered appropriate and not appropriate ways for us to act in public and among others. If we sway just a little bit to the left or right, people begin to question the behavior as good or bad. Do men have toxic traits about them that dampen how others view our entire sex? Sure we do but so do women. If we want to be fair in saying masculinity is toxic then we have to say that femininity is toxic as well and therefore, the entire human race is toxic. On an existential level, that statement is true. We all contribute to the demise of our own genders by acting out negatively, promoting ‘bad’ or ‘unaccepted’ views of behavior and it’s mostly because one group has termed the behavior wrong.
Sadly, there’s a double standard among the male gender that says that we can’t cry, show emotion or exhibit the tiniest bit of compassion towards people outwardly because if we do, we’re considered weak and in American society, that’s a no-no. Talking about our feelings? Never. We’ve created a picture of the perfect man in America that looks like the Hulk, is super well-endowed, conservative in his views and takes no nonsense from anyone. What this really portrays to people, I can sum up in one word: Insecurity.
Men young and old do not ever want to be told their insecure because it hinges on our worst fears about ourselves and our abilities to be the providers, protectors, great lovers and studs. As I said above, these ‘toxic’ behaviors are ingrained in us as little boys or we hold onto to these myths into adulthood. Although these behaviors do not kill us as a toxic substance would, these behaviors to darken the veil over a long list of over-compensating behaviors for males.
So, how do we diminish and extinguish this philosophy of toxicity among men? The first thing that I think we should extinguish these false expectations about how men should act and what is deemed acceptable behavior for men. We should also say in terms of sexuality, all types of alternative sexuality shouldn’t preclude anyone with a Y chromosome from being considered male, this is just absurd and laced with internalized homophobia. People also have to consider the fact that testosterone makes us do and act certain ways that aren’t always acceptable by the world at large. Fighting, arguing, etc. are just some of the ways that testosterone impacts our daily existence as men and although, we should not be engaging in these behaviors, we need to recognize as a whole society that these are a big part of the male experience.
I love being a dude, I love the feelings and responsibilities that come along with being a man. Do I love my penis? You better believe it, lol. There is a lot more however that defines my existence as part of the male gender though. We’re partly in this life to experience ourselves and our bodies for what they were designed for: life. Denying certain aspects of being male because they’re toxic isn’t fair because some people have decided that those behaviors go against their own expectations as to what a man is. That’s as bad as me saying a woman shouldn’t lift weights because it makes her too masculine looking. In the end of this somewhat childish debate, it all comes down to the individual really. Do they subscribe to traditional ways of being a man or do they go against the grain to the more modern approach of being male? Either way you look at it, us guys have a lot to consider in 2023 about how we move forward from here in the masculinity debate.
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John J. Schessler, Jr. is a Pittsburgh-Based Exercise Therapist, Personal Trainer, LGBTQIA Men’s Life Coach and host of the podcast, “ManAlive!”, available of Apple Podcasts. He is an advocate of mental health and suicide awareness for men and is an avid contributor for the Human Rights Campaign. If you would like to email me directly, please send all inquiries to: email@example.com
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