Boys don’t cry: The problematic nature of toxic masculinity

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By Alexandrianna De La Cerda

That’s so gay!” a teen shouted to his friend who was discussing what product he felt was best for his skin. The word “gay” is often used as an insult to boys and men when they do anything out of the manly ordinary. Many guys tend to use this phrase when they feel their masculinity has been lost or threatened. In a survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, 83% of teachers most frequently hear the word “gay” being used as a insult by students.
But what is that triggers the insult? Wearing certain colors like pink or purple, having a proper hygiene routine, certain body language, and other behaviors that deviate from the masculine norm can make males seem like less of a man. Homophobia is also often a result of the expectations of masculinity that are projected on males in a society which expects nothing less than the stereotype of a man.
The stereotype that men are providers for the family, strong and masculine, stoic, and everything in between, is still present to this day. This puts pressure on men and boys and restricts what they can and cannot do, which has caused backlash on the way men act and react today.
This continued stereotype has caused masculinity to become fragile because men are afraid of being seen as effeminate or gay in the eyes of society.
The stigma has become so strong that men may fail to keep both their physical and mental states healthy for fear of being seen as womanly. Programs such as mantherapy.org have even been developed to convince men that it’s okay to take care of themselves.
Masculinity to men is so sensitive that certain self-care products have to add a “for men” on their products to make it seem less feminine to care for one’s body. From “man-sized” Kleenex tissues to loofahs being called “detailer shower tools,” there are scores of products that are now gendered to convince men that hygiene can be manly too.
But what has caused males to be so afraid to break the stereotype of men as uncaring in order to take care of themselves?
Some men tend to repress their true emotions thus leading to frustration, depression, aggression, etc. Studies show that men take their own lives at a rate nearly four times higher than women and are far less likely to seek help when feeling depressed, according to The Lancet Psychiatry. Therefore, by suppressing their supposed femininity, men are often more susceptible to the emotion they fear showing.
“My male clients desperately want to connect with friends, lovers, and family in a very real way. But often they have no model of what that looks like and how to do it,” psychologist and author Sile Walsh said.
The manly stigma has become an unhealthy set of rules that should be overcome in order to allow both men and women to live any way they please. If not, men will continue to live lives limited by unfair societal norms. It is time to fight double standards for both men and women together. Feminine and masculine are just words, words that should not define health and hygiene.

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