Toxic Masculinity

I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “toxic masculinity” now in 2019, but what does it mean and why are there differing opinions on it? In this post, I’ll be sharing my views on the term, my experience with it and a poem I’ve written to help people’s awareness and challenge their expectations of men.

So, what is toxic masculinity? To me, this term has been coined to summarise the toxicity of the teaching and upbringing of men throughout the 20th and 21st century (and long before) that has led to our male-dominated, sexist and violent society that we currently live in. The concept of a man that has been outlined throughout the education system that dictates how he must act, react, feel, what he can display and what he can like. This consists of things such as; Men can only show emotion if it is joy or anger, not sadness. Boys should play with military or wrestling toys, not dolls. Boys cannot wear dresses. Blue for boys and pink for girls. “Boys will be boys” as an excuse for fighting. All of these things and so much more have been so thoroughly reinforced in us all throughout our education and lives.

Now, this isn’t to say we are not making great steps towards addressing this. In the last 2 to 3 years there has been a tonne of campaigning, awareness raising and calling out by celebrities and social media stars. From Robert Webb’s: How Not to be a Boy, to the infamous “Is this the best a man can get?” ad campaign ran by Gillette, Terry Crew’s speeches and countless other authors writing pieces on the same issues (Grayson Perry’s The Descent of Man, Jack Urwin’s Man Up etc.) Whilst these are amazing reads and great to see on the shelves and in the media, I feel they are not hitting the audiences they need to, and when they do, they are met with great hostility (Gillette ad anyone?) I just think we all need to adopt the same approach we should be taking against sexism, racism and classism; speaking up, shutting it down, re-educating and offering love. Unfortunately, we cannot simply change the education system and send a bunch of 25-60 year old males back to school. Modern day problems, call for modern day solutions. I urge anyone reading this to encourage the men in your life to open up and share their feelings, to not be ashamed or embarrassed of how they feel, what they want or what they like.

Whilst my upbringing was very free with my own expression, being able to wear what I like, experiment with clothing, make-up and choose my own toys/games etc, it doesn’t mean us men haven’t been exposed to the hatred of other men within society who have their masculinity so deeply ingrained that they feel the compulsion to bully, hurt and oppress the freedom some men are so bravely able to display. It’s such a shame to see men hurting themselves and taking their own lives due them feeling inadequate, not enough of a man, too feminine or not feeling that they can express themselves.

So to every man out there, I have a written this poem to let you know to never hide away, proudly display who you are, open up to loved ones. We are all here to support and love one another, regardless of who that person is, their wants/needs/likes and their preferences.

A man is not a man…

A man is not a man unless he can

Carry the weight of the world on his shoulders

A man is not a man unless he can

Hold in every emotion he feels

A man is not a man unless he can

Support his whole family and friendship network

A man is not a man unless he can

Show no desire to dress in women’s clothing

A man is not a man unless he can

Show his need for a heterosexual relationship

A man is not a man unless he can

Play sport well and enjoy the adrenaline

A man is not a man unless he can

Show no emotion except anger and confusion

A man is not a man unless he can

Hit men but God forbid a woman


A man is who he wants to be

A man can dress how he likes

A man can enjoy hobbies he chooses

A man can be sexually attracted to anyone

A man can love himself wholly

A man is not defined by a concept

A man is who he wants to be

5 Replies to “Toxic Masculinity”

  1. Well said! I studied “gender conditioning” (amongst other things) back in the early 80’s and I got a lot from it… (even challenged the trainer a few times!) (Probably still got all that stuff in a box somewhere.) My children had an all encompassing, gender neutral upbringing in terms of where they went, what they did, what they wore, bought, had…. and turned out like chalk and cheese except for the fact that they both are caring and kind souls who can talk about feelings, emotions and expression. Well done for highlighting “mental health” care and concerns in your blog and poem.


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