“Toxic masculinity” and man box culture impact everything by implying or insisting that there is one “right” way to be a man.

Ideas of masculinity can be restrictive and place a lot of pressure on men. If men don’t fulfil this certain portrait of manliness, they can face social exclusion. Even positive expectations can put men in a box or can even come packaged up with damaging behaviours.

Even though such behaviours are destructive to the self and society, the reinforcement of masculinity is especially addictive and infectious.

In the workplace, men who ask for help or show emotions like sadness through crying are thought to be less competent than a woman doing the same thing. At a higher level, these damaging ideas manifest themselves through masculinity contest culture.

Researchers credit four norms of masculinity that underpin this culture:

  • No weakness (no mistakes, doubts or sensitive emotions)
  • Strength (endurance, e.g. hours worked – and even physical fitness)
  • Work first (no personal interferences)
  • Competition (between masculine “winners” and non-masculine “losers”)

While masculinity isn’t a fixed or finite concept, the Venn diagram below is useful to show where “toxic masculinity” comes in.

“A diagram of toxic masculinity” by u/Melancholism on Reddit

“Toxic masculinity” can look like this:

  1. 😥 Hiding sensitivity and raw emotions like fear, insecurity and grief.
  2. 💪 Competing to be as macho and brawny as possible ⁠— sometimes to the point of extreme risk-taking or violence ⁠— and chasing or endorsing the ‘alpha male’ concept.
  3. ☠️ Being reckless with own life, education and health.
  4. 😕 Feeling obligated to take charge ⁠— even if not comfortable doing so.
  5. 🤬 Using aggression to intimidate others or defend oneself.
  6. 🏆 Seeing sex as an ultimate achievement that should be attained as quickly and as often as possible and weaponised as a symbol of status (eg, through boasting).
  7. 🙅‍♀️ The idea that if a woman ⁠— such as a partner or a colleague — makes decisions for a man or provides for him, then he is lesser somehow or “whipped”.
  8. 🚫🏳️‍🌈 Being homophobic.
  9. 🙍‍♂️ Denying selves enjoyment of “feminine” activities or interests ⁠— even reading books!

❇️ Remember! Not every gender issue affects every member of the gender in question equally. Conversations like this don’t take away from the positives of manhood, they broaden them.

So, if some of the following doesn’t apply to you or the males in your life, think carefully about who it may apply to and how your actions can make masculinity better for everyone.

To answer that question, take a look at the effect in numbers:

🚷 80% of suicides are committed by men and suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.

👨‍👨‍👦 In 2013, attempted suicides included 0.4% of all heterosexual men and 3% of all gay men.

🙎‍♂️ Only 24% of men that feel high levels of stress discuss it with family or friends.

😫 33% of men feel suicidal due to high levels of stress.

👊🏼 Men are 24% more likely to victims of violent crime compared with women. (However, women are twice as likely to fall victim to sexual violence.).

🇺🇸 Men in the US are four times more likely to be murdered than women.

🇬🇧 In the UK, 1 in 3 victims of domestic abuse are male but this isn’t represented in the media or men seeking formal help according to charity ManKind.

🔫 110 out of the 114 US mass shooters between 1982 and 2018 were men.

☹️ 1/3 of men feel regular loneliness and 1 in 8 men say they have no close friends.

👦🏻 Boys are three times more likely than girls to be permanently excluded from school.

📉 More boys achieve ‘below standard’ for reading and writing between ages 5 to 11.

❗️84% of the UK’s homeless population are men.

The bottom line?

Masculinity affects many social structures including the workplace. It creates expectations and norms — even if those norms don’t accurately reflect the people within each space.

While the expectations of masculinity might not affect everyone, the behavior and ideas it promotes are widespread across the world. When you take a look at its impact, it’s clear to see that the expectations toxic masculinity promotes are harmful to men and society as a whole.

💬 Speak your mind

How are you creating an inclusive and equitable environment at your workplace? We’re are always keen to hear your stories! Drop your comments, feedback, or whatever else you’d like to share with us here.

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