Men aren’t just women’s worst enemy. We’re our own too.
Toxic masculinity is creating an environment that is entirely unhelpful for the modern man. We’re officially our own worst enemy.
International Men’s Day is normally met with very little fanfare. It appears that, for the most part, celebrating this day, or highlighting issues using it, would be criminal in today’s mob justice world. And it is the celebrities and politicians who would be crucified for highlighting it that need to do just that the most.
The problems that exist for men are not greater than they are for women. And, for the most part, the oppression of women is by men directly, and thus the balance of power is still very much so in favour of men. But, despite this, the problems experienced by men are perhaps the most difficult to solve, because they go right into the heart of male culture and masculinity.
Many people will be aware of the principal issue: mental health. Some say that people already know about it, and thus that there is no need to promote awareness. The problem with this is that, although there is knowledge of the issue, it isn’t particularly detailed. Men don’t know when they are experiencing a mental health problem, so they’ll continue to bottle it up.
Severe mental health issues, though, which could lead to suicide, are perhaps the smallest part of the issue. The far bigger problem is that toxic masculinity stops perhaps the majority of men from ever properly expressing themselves, or being able to do as they feel.
Men are, more than ever before, feeling forced to conform to what is expected of them. The reason why I feel relatively certain when I write “the majority” is because people, including men, are all very different, and hence the fact that there is now a “default man” which the majority seem to personify appears very suspicious.
This isn’t particularly a new issue either. It seems normal to most people that there are social norms which are broadly agreed to for reasons we don’t quite understand, and this has existed for generations. But there is a new element, and it is that communities are now coordinated by social media, and social norms don’t just apply to one place, but rather whole countries and continents.
Some of these trends are good, to an extent. Posts about fitness and health, common with men, drive others to live more healthily and avoid health conditions. Increasingly so, social media is acting as a platform for men to open up about mental health too, but not nearly enough.
Even implicit in the fitness and health craze which has taken over much of the online world in recent years is the turbo-charged masculine competition which has inhibited men for too long. Of course, some competition is healthy, but when it gets to the point where some are leaving partners or using injections to make themselves look bigger, it’s gone too far.
I feel confident that, as more and more men become aware of this problem, we can move forward and use social media and modern technology to benefit us rather than drive people to their deaths. But, while International Men’s Day continues to be ignored, this can’t happen. While (some) women dismiss male concerns because of their own, this can’t happen.
Most crucially, while (some) men continue to dismiss all allusions to the negative aspects of masculinity, this can’t happen. We must be more introspective on our identity and our masculinity, and more self-critical.