- What does toxic masculinity mean?
- Is it gender specific or can women express toxic masculinity too?
Toxic masculinity refers to a set of traits and behaviours;
- feeling self-entitled
- know everything
Toxic masculinity wants the centre stage
Toxic masculinity feels itself to be profoundly entitled. It is a destructive force that divides opinions and promotes splits in families, communities and nations. It destroys the human dimension that is psyche. Instead of consensus, of learning and working together, toxic masculinity spreads division.
If you live in a family or home in which you have been dominated by toxic masculinity you will suffer. Your spirit, creativity and freedom will be held back. Sometimes the only option is to protect your authentic creative self until such time as it is safe to bring it out into the world.
Toxic masculinity is an ideology which confirms dominance to be based on:
- competition between sexes
- on limiting the potential for co-operative, sympathetic feeling between men and women, parents and children
Toxic masculinity only sees value in itself
Lives are bent out of shape when they are forced to conform to this destructive dominant power.
Essentially toxic masculinity is a bully
It is easy to say you should just push the bully aside and assert yourself, but it is seldom so simple. Bullies and bad leaders tend to pick on weaker people, people who aren’t able to fight back. As a consequence, your potential and creativity tend to wilt under the pressure of the dominant power that is toxic masculinity. In the office toxic masculinity wrecks creative collaboration, it dominates talented but less self-promoting team members.
Feminists argue for an alternative view of these gender-based politics.
The #metoo movement may have been criticized because of people who have jumped onto the bandwagon and blurred the sense of what constitutes assault. There is a backlash against the #metoo movement. But he #metoo movement is still a good thing. It means men have to think twice.
In some ways it feels like the world is now a more enlightened and balanced place. Then you witness the assault on a woman’s testimony. You see a president mock the same woman at a convention and it is hard to think any progress is being made.
It is a reminder that if we are complacent the balance is quickly taken away. It is a reminder that there is always the potential that the bully will come again, spreading division, dominating conversations and homes. Putting more flexible and liberal people down.
Toxic masculinity; the personal agenda is the only agenda
This is a version of masculinity that does not look for balance or to impose any restraint or self-checking mechanism, instead the emphasis is on maintaining forward momentum. There is no sense of consequence or discretion. Toxic masculinity promises everything with no consequence for what can be delivered or given. This is a way of getting your agenda of self-interest through without any kind of reality checking.
When we think of toxic masculinity we think of politicians who voice their opinions and pursue their goals without consideration for any kind of modesty or restraint. Men who are exude entitlement. Boris Johnson claiming he can deliver anything he chooses.
As a consequence, because so much is promised that people are hungry for, people get caught up in the hot air. Any sense of balance is lost.
It is like a toxic version of parenting where the child is promised endless treats, with no commitment that they will get them, no sense of the consequences. It is unethical.
Toxic masculinity is based upon a lack of sense checking, a lack of a superego to keep the more wilful and self-interested side of the personality in check. Toxic masculinity is desire without restraint.
It is a throwback to a world in which men think they can have what they want, when they want it. A time in which men were assured of their place at the top. It is a descent into an unbalanced world.
Toxic masculinity is an ancient theme
These themes of toxic masculinity can be seen throughout history. In Homer’s Iliad where the invading Greek army are caught up in Agamemnon and Achilles toxic and hubristic feuds.
Women can express toxic masculinity too
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth pleads to the spirits of the underworld:
Come you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts! Unsex me here.
And fill me from the crown to the toe top full
Of direst cruelty…(Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 5)
Lady Macbeth wants to be free of her femininity so she can pursue ambition and have King Duncan murdered. Lady Macbeth gets her way, but it costs her her sanity. Perhaps one of the morals of the story is that toxic masculinity can drive you crazy.
What is masculinity?
Robert Webb’s autobiography How Not to Be a Boy questions what masculinity means. Webb’s book questions the unemotional, undeveloped men (starting with himself) who struggle to find their place within a more gender balanced world. You can be masculine without being toxic. There are alternatives to toxic masculinity, fathers who stay at home and share the childminding and the chores. Couples who share the work / life balance and manage to create more gender balanced families.
Psychotherapy, toxic masculinity and the unconscious
Man or woman, the unconscious may fit more with our feminine side. Toxic masculinity may be limited to a particular narrow type of consciousness.
If our masculine sides represents a conscious reaching for power and control, then our feminine side is more the domain of the unconscious, of spontaneity and creativity. The feminine is where our ideas are born and emerge from into the world. Being able to bring the spontaneous creative impulse into the world is one thing, once there we have to work to enable them to develop constructively.
I have twenty years experience of helping people regain their confidence and self-belief so that they can break free from the bullying world of toxic masculinity and find more satisfying ways of expressing their creativity, and enjoying more satisfying relationships.