Masculinity and Toxic Masculinity
Masculinity can be quite hard to define. Perhaps it can be more effective to make sense of in terms of societal stereotypes. One organization created a simple graphic showing the most common stereotypes among feminine and masculine characteristics (see chart). It should be carefully noted here that these stereotypes of masculinity can be shifted or altered with changes in the time or placement of a culture. Meaning, as one author put it, “There’s no one set thing that is manhood. What’s masculine in Teheran is different than what’s masculine in Toronto.” As with most societal changes, tension is created when stereotypes are challenged or replaced. That being said, some academics claim that the masculine stereotype has come under more increased challenges during the 21st century than ever before. This rediscovery or redefining of what it means to be masculine has shaped politics, cultures, and countercultures alike. One writer said that while “...this new masculine ideal is an unalloyed improvement on all the earlier masculine ideals...it has sparked a bad-boy protest movement and counterculture.” This same author is among others who view this counterculture to be increasing based on toxic masculinity, which is a term describing when masculine traits are taken to a dangerous extreme. A National Review article described it this way, “Bro culture at its best is privileged; at its worst, it’s predatory...the answer to feminism is and always has been manhood properly defined. It is not – and never will be – the toxic masculinity of the arrogant.” A study done by a renowned psychologist in 2005 showed evidence that toxic masculinity is predatory and a “socially regressive” quality that instills unhealthy dominance in men. Not only this, but another study found that men who claimed masculine traits on a toxic scale specifically targeted women with significantly higher rates of extreme violence. Simply put, the rising counterculture of toxic masculinity has real, and dangerous, consequences for women.
Both allegations of rape and the recently released inappropriate video of a male Labor staffer can be explained in terms of toxic masculinity. The allegations show the dangerous and predatory toll that stereotypically masculine traits, such as dominance, can have on women when they are practiced on a toxic level. Additionally, the video shows the privileged attitude and lack-of-sensitivity that toxic masculinity allows a man (or group of men) to feel. One leader with the March4Justice explained the ramifications that toxic masculinity can have, “But the frightening thing is that these are the role models that our children, young men, and women, are being influenced by.” Explained another way, a stereotype is considered a stereotype because of its perceptional power within society. That is why when any stereotype that encourages increased violence exists, such as toxic masculinity, it must be addressed quickly so that it doesn’t perpetuate for coming generations. For this reason, the situation in Australia was compounded with a potentially dangerous consequences: not only were traits of toxic masculinity shown on a national scale, but they were also shown to have existed for decades within the government. This creates risks not only to those immediately involved in the scandals but also to the Australian government and its future reputation.