What is Toxic Masculinity?

Author: Abinaya Sri, Evergreen High School ‘24

What is toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is when men are taught at a young age to vanquish their emotions, conceal their distress, maintain an appearance of toughness, and use violence as a tool to have power and to be seen as tough and superior. Boys are taught during childhood to mask their feelings because it is seen as weak or fragile.

Where did toxic masculinity originate from?

The idea of “toxic masculinity” started in a movement called the mythopoetic men's movement in the period from the 1980s and 1990s. The mythopoetic movement is defined as a scattered up organization that was active in men’s work since the 1980s. The movement grew more popular by the second-wave feminist movement. The main intention of this protest was aviation to restore the “deep masculine” to men who had lost it in their more up-to-date “modern” lifestyles. According to definitions.net, “the activities these men do in this movement are rituals that take place during their gatherings. While in the public eye in the early 1990s, the movement carries on more quietly in The ManKind Project and independent psychological-spiritual practitioners. “

When you first read about it, it seems like a very helpful movement that caused no harm. However, when you dig a little deeper, it's far from what it appears to be. According to Erin Limes, in an article called “Why The ‘New Masculine’ Movement Is Just As Toxic As The Old One," he states that “According to these authors, in opposing the oppression of women and the violence of dominant masculinity, feminism has inadvertently created too much focus on the feminine in modern society.” Robert Bly asserts in his introduction to the book Iron John that “the male in the past twenty years has become more thoughtful, more gentle. But by this process, he has not become freer… The feminist movement caused men to notice what was called their feminine side and overemphasize it to please their newly-feminist wives and lovers. This has disrupted men’s lives and identities and rituals, and men are suffering for it.”

In short, these authors believe that women are making men notice their “feminine side” and because of that, their masculine side is diffusing. There are multiple places where toxic masculinity originates from and this is one of them.

What are the behaviors of toxic masculinity?

According to Adam Gallie and multiple sources, a major behavior of toxic masculinity is the presence of dominance — being engrossed in the thought of power to the point that it causes harm to others, such as in the form of verbal abuse, physical abuse, etc. Sexual aggression towards women is another behavior that indicates toxic masculinity. This aggression can include men making sexist jokes or comments towards women, committing sexual harassment, and enforcing misconceptions about rape. Other behaviors of toxic masculinity include risk-taking or being impassive, which means being expressionless or hiding emotion. Men are taught at a young age that following all of these behaviors makes them a “true man," while also being taught that if you are vulnerable and sensitive, you will be ridiculed.

What can we do to stop toxic masculinity?

To end this harmful cycle of toxic masculinity, we can teach our future generations that it is acceptable to show emotion. The media is one of the most influential factors of toxic masculinity, so talking about this topic and reinforcing the belief that we are wrong to have standards for masculinity works.


“The Top 10 Toxic Masculinity Behaviours: Aurora New Dawn.” Aurora, 15 May 2020, www.aurorand.org.uk/news/top-10-toxic-masculinity-behaviours.

10 Things Men Can Do To End Toxic Masculinity


“Mythopoetic Men's Movement.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythopoetic_men's_movement.

The Establishment. “Why The 'New Masculine' Movement Is Just As Toxic As The Old One.” Medium, The Establishment, 21 Aug. 2017, medium.com/the-establishment/meet-the-new-masculinity-same-as-the-old-masculinity-25dc5a65c7df.

Roberts, Soraya, and Soraya Roberts. “The Classroom Origins of Toxic Masculinity.” Longreads, 5 Feb. 2019, longreads.com/2019/01/25/origins-of-toxic-masculinity/.

Mechling, Elizabeth Walker, and Jay Mechling. “The Jung and the Restless: The Mythopoetic Men’s Movement.” Southern Communication Journal, vol. 59, no. 2, 1994, pp. 97–111. Crossref, DOI:10.1080/10417949409372929.

<https://www.definitions.net/definition/mythopoetic+men%27s+movement> [Accessed 27 June 2020].

Image from Mr. Men's Melbourne