Be a man: A dissection of toxic masculinity


Henry Hofferth, Visual Editor

When I see men act overly macho, interrupt others, over-explain things and disrespect women, all I can do is feel bad for them. They are likely struggling with their self-esteem and self image so they overcompensate by lashing out. Men like this can change; they just need to recognize how their actions affect others.

Boys in America grow up learning that emotions are for weak men; strong men, on the other hand, push down their emotions and “suck it up.” This results in a society that fosters toxic behavior, the phrase “boys will be boys” often used as an excuse for men’s behavior. Toxic masculinity can be hard to recognize despite its abundance. Making attitudes and actions even more harmful for everyone, including the men suffering from them.

Toxic masculinity is harmful for men, and it may account for higher incarceration rates, overdose rates, and suicide rates compared to women. According to the American Psychological Association men commit 90% of homicides, they are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter. Men often internalize their problems instead of facing them, not seeking help only contributes to their toxic behavior and mental health issues.

Though toxic masculinity can be on a smaller scale, it can still be destructive. For example, when boys in class make loud jokes, bother others and generally disrupt, they do so in a desperate attempt to make themselves the center of attention. This behavior is not inherently evil or hateful, it comes from a place of frustration. Frustration can develop at home, socially, academically or a multitude of other reasons. This is suppressed and it only becomes worse because they have been told their whole life to “be a man.”

Sadly, women are often hurt by the toxic behavior of men. It can range from men catcalling to sexual assult, this behavior needs to stop. I can never understand what it feels like to be a woman, but  what I can do is be an ally, inform myself and stop other men from being toxic.

Many often hear of toxic masculinity and immediately get defensive saying things like “What, so are all men evil?” and “What’s wrong with being manly?” This immediate response is understandable for men that don’t understand what it really means to be a man. They have a skewed perspective from societal indoctrination and misguided parenting. I  admit to having toxic behaviors, like being a bad listener. But I recognize it and I make a concerted effort to improve it, I encourage all men to do the same.

Toxic behaviors of men will not be solved by women alone; it can only be solved if men recognize their shortcomings. Fathers need to teach their sons what it really means to be a man: respecting women, being emotionally available, standing up for those in need and admitting their mistakes and learning from them. The definition for “manly” needs to change.