Toxic Masculinity and Homophobia
“Be a man,” is a phrase I’ve become very used to hearing when confronted with a problem. “Deal with it like a man,” they say. I can say with 100% certainty that whipping my balls out in a moment of trouble has never made anything better. That’s because when people say “be a man,” they’re not referring to your physicality, but rather referring to a way of thinking that makes someone feel authentically male.
Well, how does someone make themselves feel authentically male? How does one perceive themselves as male? Men around the world have but one method: process of elimination. Men understand that they are different from women, they need to be in order to have a relationship with one. But as stated before, this goes far beyond physicality - it's about mentality. In terms of physicality, men see women in a dress and therefore are repulsed by the idea of wearing one themselves. They follow the same pattern with makeup and hairstyles. Men work to reinforce the parts of their body that make them distinctly male, placing value on muscled arms and legs, height, and abs. In terms of mentality, things get way more complex.
Men are pushed to be leaders at a young age. Be the best on the team, be the one others look up to, the one who takes what he wants. This image has been reflected over and over in media with characters like Han Solo, Superman, Micheal Corleone, Rocky, James Bond and John Wick. These are men whose women depend on them, fight their battles alone, and don’t open up emotionally. It's the whole Clint Eastwood mentality of being strong and silent, except in most cases, men who suffer from toxic masculinity only nail the first part. The thing is, when a male’s sense of identity is built around ideas of how a male should look and act, when they’re exposed to the idea of transgenderism, crossing dressing, drag, lesbians or gays, and anything else out of the ordinary, they feel threatened. Their ideas of identity are so fragile they can’t co-exist with those who think differently.
The men with toxic masculine mindsets feel the need to solidify their identity by filling their patriarchal roles. To prove they are strong leaders, they often join athletics and compete to outdo one another. This is not to say that all men who do sports do it for validation, but that this is a factor in why many sport-oriented men act in ways that reflect toxic masculinity. Another way to feel strong and like a leader is by dominating women. This is seen in how men catcall and prefer to dictate a relationship, or will refuse to let their women see other men. Because they view their women as weaker and understand that men, in order to feel superior, will take advantage of women whenever they can. What is rape if not men trying to prove something to themselves?
One of the largest ways toxic masculinity within the male community runs rampant is in homophobia. Again, if a man is defined by his strength over everyone else, how can he be with a man and be strong? Who is overpowering the other? And if a man is dressed like a woman, how can he be a man? If a man is soft and kind and doesn’t need to assert himself by being loud and powerful, what’s that all about? These questions get toxic men to look at themselves and question their own identity, which is closely tied to masculinity. If they realize that everything they value about themselves is unimportant, they lose a sense of direction and purpose. The older one gets, the harder it is to recognize toxic masculinity in oneself and start building an identity based on honesty to one’s needs and true desires. Toxic masculinity, while serving as the basis for keeping men in power over women sexually, economically, and politically, is also directly harmful to men who can’t express themselves outside the confines of what “being a man is.”
So to the men, tell your friends you love them. Talk about it when you’re upset and don’t value yourself less because you aren’t the tallest or strongest or be the most dominant. You’ll quickly find out who is and isn’t your friend, and have relationships built on honesty and happiness, not an inability to communicate and an image you keep up to protect your status as a man. Because being a man means absolutely nothing, it's being human that’s everything.