What Is Toxic Masculinity And How Does It Affect The Men Around You?

While this in no way takes anything away from the struggles that women face every day in society, it’s not always acknowledged that men face their own struggles as well.

Even though they may have their male privilege, there’s no denying that gender stereotypes end up hurting everyone. They even affect the relationships men have with each other, and subsequently with women. Here’s how.

What Is It In A Nutshell

shirtless man stands outside covered in tattoos
Photo Credit: Norbert Buduczki / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Norbert Buduczki / Unsplash

Men feel pressured to follow certain traditional standards. They’re ideals of how “a man should act” and come from the same system that causes women to struggle.

Basically, it’s a way society expects how men should act, such as being “manly.” It’s not only harmful to men, but to everyone around them, too. We’ll get into how with some examples.

Men Don’t Cry

man shedding tear in front of tree
Photo Credit: Aiony Haust / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Aiony Haust / Unsplash

Men have emotions, but for some reason, we teach them from a young age to hold them in and bury them as if that’ll somehow make them go away. The truth is, men cry too, but they feel as though they have to do it behind closed doors.

As a consequence, most men don’t learn how to communicate properly and work through their feelings.

Men Shouldn’t Ask For Help

woman holds man's hands to comfort him
Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

There’s an expectation that every man should have the skills of a plumber, mechanic, breadwinner, and basically be able to figure out everything for himself.

You’ll find that many would rather get lost than simply ask for directions because the latter might show weakness.

Men Can’t Show Fear

little boy looking over bridge in fear
Photo Credit: Japheth Mast / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Japheth Mast / Unsplash

For some reason, we have to call a man in the house to kill a spider even though it should be completely okay for them to be freaked out by them too. Men are supposed to be the heads of their families, to be the victor and protector of their fragile women.

Yet these are outdated ideals. Our expectations just haven’t quite caught up with the times.

Taller Men Are More Attractive

man holds woman by the water in sunset
Photo Credit: Jonas Weckschmied / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Jonas Weckschmied / Unsplash

The standard for an attractive man is still a tall man with a strong build. Women still often avoid dating a man shorter than them because it “looks bad.”

We forget that this height difference was because men once needed to be the dominant ones. Shorter men are just as capable of basically everything taller men can provide in a relationship.

Men Are Driven By Sex

woman wrapping legs around man in bed
Photo Credit: Dainis Graveris / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Dainis Graveris / Unsplash

There’s this assumption that men are always only thinking of one thing, and that’s all they want from women.

This is unfair to the growing number of men who are actually seeking meaningful relationships without the pressure of their friends to have a high “body count” or being considered “too nice” when trying to be romantic. Plus, they then get a hard time when they’re the ones to say no to sex.

Heterosexual Men Have Limited “Fashionable” Choices

man browsing suits with cowboy hat
Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo / unsplash
Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo / unsplash

Often, when men try to experiment with clothing, especially colors and patterns, their sexuality is immediately questioned by those around them. Clothing stores and the fashion industry focus on catering to women while providing men with a little section in the back.

Consequently, women are judged more on their looks than pretty much anything else.

Men Have To Deny Themselves A Part Of Their Identity

man looks in shattered mirror at his reflection
Photo Credit: download a pic donate a buck / Pexels
Photo Credit: download a pic donate a buck / Pexels

The limitations that these ideals create force men to never face their baggage or actually dig in to find out who they are. All the necessary emotions that they would need to explore their identity and grow are pushed to the side.

Without exploring their fears, insecurities, and sadness, the only feelings they feel like they can hold onto are anger and resentment.

The Effects On Everyday Life

man in suit looks out the window
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

So far, we’ve given you general examples of toxic masculinity. You might have not noticed the ways that they end up coming into play in everyday situations.

Sometimes men act in ways that don’t necessarily make sense, or they just act aggressive, and we forget to think that their reaction is actually a result of years of conditioning.

It’s Not “Manly” To Need A Band-Aid

Photo Credit: Amin Moshrefi / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Amin Moshrefi / Unsplash

“I had a male roommate refuse to put a Band-Aid on his finger, which was dripping blood on my kitchen counter. His reasoning? ‘Because I’m not a little b****.’

“Like, excuse me, you’re creating a biohazard on my food preparation area.” —RegularWoahMan / Reddit

It’s “Unacceptable” To Lose To A Woman

couple walking through carnivall
Photo Credit: Tim Gouw / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Tim Gouw / Unsplash

“Went to Dave & Buster’s on a Tinder date. We played the basketball game together, I beat him by a LOT, he got so mad about it he decided the date was over.” —captainsaveabro / Reddit

This could’ve been the love of his life, but no, the idea of being weaker than her at a fake game of basketball was too damaging to his ego.

Dictating What A Woman Can Wear

woman sits up in heels and holding orange
Photo Credit: Hanna Postova / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Hanna Postova / Unsplash

“On one first (and last) date, I was very aggressively told that I wasn’t to wear heels if I ever saw him again (he was short, I’m tall).” —BeeCDN / Reddit

While a man should never tell a woman what she can and can’t wear, it’s usually a projection of his own insecurity and need to maintain a certain appearance.

Getting Sunburned Instead Of Wearing Sunscreen

woman sits against man on the beach
Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash

“My S.O refuses to use sunscreen. Is skin cancer manly? Have to surprise smear it on his face like he’s a toddler.” —[deleted] / Reddit

Right on theme, another user shared: “I always find it so weird how it’s considered masculine to avoid taking care of your health. We only get one body. Why isn’t it just basic sense to maintain it?

“Wearing protective gear, avoiding head trauma, applying daily sunscreen, moisturizing skin, avoiding unhealthy foods, keeping things sanitized, doing things like yoga…” —Confetticandi / Reddit

Withholding Physical Affection And Pushing For Sex

man cuddling with woman in bed by hugging her from behind
Photo Credit: Claudia Van / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Claudia Van / Unsplash

“I had a bf who thought any form of non-sexual affection was ’emasculating,’ but would want to have sex any time he was sad.

“It was years after we broke up that I had a lightbulb moment and realized why he got so pushy about sex because it was the only affection he ever got.” —Miss_Cegenation / Reddit

Can’t Do Chores Because They’re A Woman’s Job

couple cooking at stove
Photo Credit: Saroush Karimi / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Saroush Karimi / Unsplash

“Bragging about pretending not to be able to iron do get the girlfriend to do it for him. He didn’t want her thinking her was unmanly and able to iron or get stuck with the girls’ tasks.” —Sorcha16 / Reddit

This is why so many relationships end up having unequal dynamics. The women are expected to do so much of the housework and clean up after their men, even if both parties work full-time jobs.

Carrying A Bag Is Too “Feminine”

man carrying breifcase
Photo Credit: Ben White / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Ben White / Unsplash

“My boyfriend’s brother keeps making fun of my boyfriend because he uses this leather messenger bag, specifically designed for men actually, and keeps telling my boyfriend that it’s a purse, implying it’s feminine (and even if it was, what’s wrong with that?).

“Like, what are men supposed to do if they don’t want to carry stuff in their pockets? What’s wrong with owning and using a bag?” —Valkyrja_ / Reddit

Massages Are A “Girl Thing”

woman getting massage with rocks
Photo Credit: Engin Akyurt / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Engin Akyurt / Unsplash

“As a massage therapist, I’m always shocked at how many men see getting a massage as a girl thing. One actually told me that if his friends found out, they’d take his ‘man card’ away.” —SourMelissa / Reddit

Massages tend to be either a part of a woman’s “spa day” or are sexualized to be more manly.

The Line Between Chivalry And Overstepping

man and woman stand in font of door and smile
Photo Credit: Caique Silva / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Caique Silva / Unsplash

“The ones who will run in front of you and push you out of the way to get to the door first or grab the door handle out of your hand if you try to hold the door open for them.” —tc88 / Reddit

It’s not a man’s place to take away her autonomy in the name of chivalry, but some men have a hard time recognizing that if they’re not told directly.

It’s “Embarrassing” To Be Sent To Buy Tampons

man at drug store in
Photo Credit: Fran Busch / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Fran Busch / Unsplash

“My father refuses to buy me pads. Like…the cashier knows you’re a man and don’t have a uterus…his logic baffles me.” —yourfavoritebeast / Reddit

It’s like they can’t talk about women’s “problems” because somehow that’ll magically infect them and they’ll start having them too?

The Solution According To John Legend

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend attend the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Photo Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

It seems like the best way to figure out how to deal with toxic masculinity is to take it from a man himself: “I think we’re all trying to figure it all out, especially when we’re teenagers, but I think the key is to listen and empathize with one another,” he said in an interview with Cosmo.

Maybe if enough people made men feel like they had a safe space to try and be vulnerable and explore themselves, we might all learn to understand each other and eventually get rid of some of these stereotypes.