29 votes

How do you distinguish between masculinity and toxic masculinity?

This has been a thread I’ve wanted to make for a while but I’ve hesitated to for fear of it going badly. Recent events, however, have made me think it’s a topic that’s we can’t really afford to ignore.

When people read the phrase “toxic masculinity”, some see a clear collection of bad behaviors or mindsets that exist independent of men as a whole, while some see an indictment of an entire gender or identity. I’ve talked to men who have admitted to not knowing how to be masculine without being “toxic”because they can’t see a clear line where one ends and the other begins.

Thus, I’m interested in exploring what specifically gets defined as “toxic masculinity” and how we distinguish it from neutral or positive masculinity.

Part of what has kept me from asking this is that I see in people here two different experiences that I fear might collide in bad ways. I know we have people here (myself included) who have been directly harmed by behaviors and mindsets that would fall under the umbrella of “toxic masculinity”. Likewise, I know we have people here who have been harmed by an over-application of the phrase — being seen or treated as “toxic” simply for being men and thus being denied the dignity of their own identity. Giving credence to one experience can feel like it overrides the other.

Even just the phrase itself is the kind of thing that often divides people into camps and causes conflict, and I’m hoping we can avoid that here. (Though, to be honest, Tildes always impresses me with how we handle difficult topics, so I’m not sure where my worry is coming from). My goal for this topic is for everyone to have the opportunity to speak openly to convey understood truths and lived experiences in ways that maintain dignity for everyone involved.

The guiding question is about distinguishing masculinity from toxic masculinity, but answers don’t have to be limited to that. I’m interested in hearing about people’s relationship with masculinity in general, both in people who identify with it and those who don’t.

38 comments

  1. [2]
    Nivlak
    Link
    I’ll keep it simple. Toxic masculinity tears others down while positive masculinity builds others up.

    I’ll keep it simple. Toxic masculinity tears others down while positive masculinity builds others up.

    19 votes
    1. vegai
      Link Parent
      Simple is good, but I don't know. Seems to me like there's a positive (or at least non-negative) form of masculinity that may be harmful to others, usually manifested when defending against...

      Simple is good, but I don't know. Seems to me like there's a positive (or at least non-negative) form of masculinity that may be harmful to others, usually manifested when defending against assault. But I don't know, perhaps there's nothing exclusively masculine about defending oneself and others.

      6 votes
  2. mrbig
    Link
    Masculinity: "I expect others to respect the way I choose to express my masculinity". Toxic masculinity: "I expect others to express their masculinity in the way I choose".

    Masculinity: "I expect others to respect the way I choose to express my masculinity".

    Toxic masculinity: "I expect others to express their masculinity in the way I choose".

    18 votes
  3. [2]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    There's an analogy I've pre-emptively created in my head, waiting to be used in an internet argument when someone says "What's toxic masculinity? How can masculinity be toxic?" I think I might use...

    There's an analogy I've pre-emptively created in my head, waiting to be used in an internet argument when someone says "What's toxic masculinity? How can masculinity be toxic?" I think I might use it here.

    Water is an essential substance for life. We would die without water. Everyone on the planet needs water.

    However, too much water can kill you. You can drown. You can be crushed under the weight of it. You can be broken by the force of a wave throwing you on the rocks. That would be "toxic water". It's not the water itself that's toxic: it's the amount of it, and how it behaves that can make it toxic.

    Similarly, everyone needs some masculinity in their life, but too much of it can harm you.

    So, to answer the question: toxic masculinity is that level of masculinity which results in harm to you or other people.

    What that means in practice, I don't know! :)

    16 votes
    1. arp242
      Link Parent
      Not a bad analogy overall, but what I'd like to add is that I think it's okay to have some personality aspects that harms you or even other people, to a reasonable degree anyway. Actually, I think...

      Not a bad analogy overall, but what I'd like to add is that I think it's okay to have some personality aspects that harms you or even other people, to a reasonable degree anyway. Actually, I think almost everyone has those.

      What bothers me in some of these discussions (among other things) is that sometimes men seem to be expected to be near-perfect, and be completely unobjectionable to every single woman on the planet. Perhaps the classic and much debated example of this is the concept of "manspreading".

      Note: there is a bit of a distinction between academic writing on these kind of topics and every-day colloquial usage. Academic writing tends to be more or less okay from what I've seen, especially the somewhat older stuff. Every-day colloquial usage: it's a lot more mixed. I usually take the every-day colloquial meaning, as that's what people are actually using.

      For example, I swear a lot, I tend to take the piss out of some things in ways that not everyone likes (e.g. a context-appropriate "it's because women are bad drivers" as a parody of said position), my general attitudes towards sex and how to talk about this (including jokes) are not be to everyone's liking, etc.

      I'm very careful with all of this online, because it's extremely easily misunderstood if you don't know me personally if you take away the 😄 you see in real life.

      Some of these things have been described as "toxic masculinity". Maybe they are, maybe they're not, but regardless I think they're actually fine personality traits, just as it's fine to not like them. It's what makes me ... me. Without them, I wouldn't know who I would be. Certainly not me.

      We all adjust our behaviour according to social context, expectations, and objections people may have: you behave different with your parents than you do with your friends, and you behave different with friends from your schooldays than with befriended co-workers. Toxic masculinity isn't just about "how you behave" though, it's often also about how you think and how you are.

      I don't think being stoic, dominant, or macho are necessarily bad either, even when they're fairly strongly present. Or rather, maybe they are bad at least in some contexts, but they can also be good in other context. Besides, it's fine to have some bad traits. No one is perfect, and we don't always need to strive for perfection.

      4 votes
  4. teaearlgraycold
    (edited )
    Link
    I've also struggled to answer this question after I posed it to myself a while ago. If a "masculine" trait is a trait belonging to male and male-ish people then I can't think of any traits that I...

    I've also struggled to answer this question after I posed it to myself a while ago. If a "masculine" trait is a trait belonging to male and male-ish people then I can't think of any traits that I would want to belong to them exclusively. It seems natural to me to say that being muscular is a masculine trait. But then is a lanky man not masculine? Is a buff woman masculine? Maybe it's not a masculine trait.

    Gender roles are something that I have always hated. I recoil any time I hear someone say "women are X", "men are supposed to be Y", etc. I wasn't raised by parents that acknowledged gender roles. One of the first presents my older brother ever asked for verbally was a doll. My parents didn't hesitate to make him happy even though our conservative neighbors worried it would "make him gay" (as the story goes my mom responded immediately with "We don't care if he's gay").

    Certainly a positive masculine trait should be one of the admirable things a person will naturally do. One of the most admirable things a person can do is to take good care of people they love. But is there a particular way a father should take care of his children that a mother can't or shouldn't? Is there a way a husband or boyfriend should care for a wife or girlfriend that isn't reciprocated?

    There's a lot of speculation that a lack of male identity is leading to the lashing out we see from men in America (incels, mass murders). I would hope that we don't need a gender identity to be happy. In fact if that is the problem then it's just the straw that broke the camel's back. I don't feel like I have a strong gender identity but it's not a lacking aspect of my self. I am my own person with redeemable traits that have nothing to with how society divides us up into pseudo-scientific groups.

    Even if all masculine traits are either phony or toxic, people out there are still using those traits as an identity. Why? What do they gain from it? If they were plucked from society then who would they be in isolation?

    12 votes
  5. [8]
    mat
    Link
    I think the question is a category mistake. There isn't a category "masculinity", not in any meaningful sense. Nothing I've ever heard people claim as 'masculine' wouldn't equally apply to...

    I think the question is a category mistake. There isn't a category "masculinity", not in any meaningful sense. Nothing I've ever heard people claim as 'masculine' wouldn't equally apply to feminine or non-binary identities as well (and vice-versa).

    I genuinely don't understand why people want to say "this is what being a man is" - or woman or whatever other box people want to make to try to put themselves or others in. Just do whatever it is makes you happy, as long as you're not hurting anyone else it doesn't matter and really, nobody else cares.

    I do think 'toxic masculinity' exists but then so does 'toxic femininity' and the answer to solving those isn't to try to define the non-toxic version, it's just to admit the non-toxic category doesn't really exist. When you have a toxic pollutant in the physical environment, you don't worry about defining the non-toxic version, you just get on with cleaning up the beach.

    11 votes
    1. [7]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      While I don't understand why people want to say that, either, I do have to live with the reality that there are a lot of people in our society who very much want to say it, and who can very much...

      I genuinely don't understand why people want to say "this is what being a man is" - or woman or whatever other box people want to make to try to put themselves or others in.

      While I don't understand why people want to say that, either, I do have to live with the reality that there are a lot of people in our society who very much want to say it, and who can very much make other people miserable in the process of defining and acting it out.

      Just do whatever it is makes you happy, as long as you're not hurting anyone else it doesn't matter and really, nobody else cares.

      If you truly believe this then you have lived a very privileged life. (I led a very privileged life and once believed it, too, for what it's worth.) I have had to deal with real physical violence (like being thrown against a car and taken punches) because some asshole didn't think my hair was "masculine enough." I hadn't ever talked to this individual, or interacted with them in any significant way, other than to pass them from time to time in my daily routine. I think that pretty much qualifies as toxic masculinity.

      When you have a toxic pollutant in the physical environment, you don't worry about defining the non-toxic version, you just get on with cleaning up the beach.

      When you find out the thing you've been cleaning your floor with or powering your society with is toxic, you do look for a non-toxic replacement. If we don't find a replacement for toxic masculinity then it will continue to exist. I don't think you can clean it up without replacing it with something better.

      11 votes
      1. [3]
        mat
        Link Parent
        Mate I grew up in a tiny provincial market town in the 80s and 90s, wearing long dyed hair, makeup and often non-gender-conforming clothes. I didn't fit in to most of the boxes that people draw...

        If you truly believe this then you have lived a very privileged life. (I led a very privileged life and once believed it, too, for what it's worth.) I have had to deal with real physical violence (like being thrown against a car and taken punches) because some asshole didn't think my hair was "masculine enough."

        Mate I grew up in a tiny provincial market town in the 80s and 90s, wearing long dyed hair, makeup and often non-gender-conforming clothes. I didn't fit in to most of the boxes that people draw for what "men" should be. I worked in the only gay bar for 20 miles. So I've seen plenty of that kind of crap - from simple abuse to outright violence. But still I maintain that nobody else really cares, they're not actually interested in me and what I'm doing, they're just angry or sad or feeling left out or scared or something and it's finding it's way out in ways that happen to impact me. It's still nothing really to do with me, I was just an easy target.

        If we don't find a replacement for toxic masculinity then it will continue to exist.

        I don't think that follows. Can't we just get rid of it, and along with it the whole nonsense idea that doing X is masculine but doing Y is feminine? Which is still part of the problem, even if X and Y are positive things it's still perpetuating the idea that certain behaviours are gendered. We didn't find a replacement for sexism and are making some progress getting rid of that. Some. Bad example, possibly. But nobody is arguing we need to replace sexism with something else. Other than "not being sexist", of course. But the absence of a thing is not a thing in itself.

        Also, regardless of what we think should be done, the kids seem to be just getting it done by themselves without too much thought or worry. The prevailing attitude among my teenage friends is "who fucking cares, the planet is on fire and you're worried about whether a dude should wear lipstick?" (admittedly I don't have a LOT of teenage friends, but still). I suspect this is largely a "wait for the old people to die off and take their outdated attitudes with them" problem.

        Sad, angry people will always exist and they'll always pick on something. If we take down every structure they're sad and angry about they'll still be sad and angry. That's a fundamental issue which needs addressing in a different way to dismantling ideas of gendered behaviour.

        8 votes
        1. [2]
          joplin
          Link Parent
          Fair enough. It sounds like we had some similar experiences growing up. Sorry for jumping to conclusions, but I’m baffled by your response and wouldn’t have guessed someone with your background...

          Mate I grew up in a tiny provincial market town in the 80s and 90s, wearing long dyed hair, makeup and often non-gender-conforming clothes. I didn't fit in to most of the boxes that people draw for what "men" should be.

          Fair enough. It sounds like we had some similar experiences growing up. Sorry for jumping to conclusions, but I’m baffled by your response and wouldn’t have guessed someone with your background would feel that way.

          We didn't find a replacement for sexism and are making some progress getting rid of that.

          We did find a replacement for it. It’s called equality. But if that’s how you’re looking at this, then maybe we’re saying the same thing?

          Sad, angry people will always exist and they'll always pick on something. If we take down every structure they're sad and angry about they'll still be sad and angry. That's a fundamental issue which needs addressing in a different way to dismantling ideas of gendered behaviour.

          Well I think that sad angry people act out in a particular way because they’re taught that’s the way to handle it or they’re given no other coping skills. We can replace it by teaching children how to understand their feelings, communicate them, and ask for help so when they grow into sad angry adults, they have better outlets. So that’s what I’m saying we’d replace toxic masculinity with. I think our society (at least here in the US) strongly encourages boys in particular to become sad angry men who lash out instead of understanding themselves and asking for help. It sounds to me like you see something similar, but don’t think it deserves the same name. That’s fine. Call it what you want.

          3 votes
          1. mat
            Link Parent
            I would argue that equality is merely the absence of sexism. Equality doesn't require action (if you're starting from zero, which admittedly we are not), it is a non-thing. But broadly speaking...

            We did find a replacement for it. It’s called equality. But if that’s how you’re looking at this, then maybe we’re saying the same thing?

            I would argue that equality is merely the absence of sexism. Equality doesn't require action (if you're starting from zero, which admittedly we are not), it is a non-thing. But broadly speaking yes, I think we are saying the same thing - albeit from slightly different angles.

            2 votes
      2. [3]
        Seven
        Link Parent
        I'm a little confused by this comment. Are you saying that it's privilege to suggest that people should live and present in a way that feels authentic to them? Should GNC people hide their...

        If you truly believe this then you have lived a very privileged life.

        I'm a little confused by this comment. Are you saying that it's privilege to suggest that people should live and present in a way that feels authentic to them? Should GNC people hide their identities because some people exist who will commit violence towards them? What are you suggesting here?

        1. [2]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          I'm not @joplin, but the meaning of that comment was clear to me. Most people who are outside the norm have experienced discrimination or harassment or worse. If you're gay, or transgender, or a...

          I'm not @joplin, but the meaning of that comment was clear to me.

          Most people who are outside the norm have experienced discrimination or harassment or worse. If you're gay, or transgender, or a minority ethnicity, or a minority religion, or even if you're a woman - then you've probably experienced bad treatment in your life at the hands of someone who didn't like you for who you are.

          Saying "just do whatever it is makes you happy, as long as you're not hurting anyone else it doesn't matter and really, nobody else cares" is a bit idealistic. This implies that the person saying it hasn't actually experienced bad treatment at the hands of someone else just for who they are.

          Because us outsiders know that people DO care who we are and what we do. For example, I would love to live my life doing whatever makes me happy without hurting anyone else - but other people still care about how I live my life. There are many people who care that I am gay, to the point of wanting to interfere with my life. I've been bashed and victimised just because I'm gay. People have made laws to restrict how I live my life just because I'm gay. So I, as an outsider, know that I can't live my life doing what makes me happy with nobody else caring. That's not how the world works.

          People who think the world actually works according to the "live and let live" precept have had the privilege of people leaving them alone. The rest of us know that "live and let live" is nice in theory, but isn't happening in practice.

          That doesn't mean we should hide ourselves. It does mean that we need to be ready for some people to care about who we are, and not accept us for who we are, and seek to actively interfere in our lives because of who we are.

          10 votes
          1. joplin
            Link Parent
            Yes, that's exactly what I meant. Thank you for the cogent explanation. My apologies if what I said was confusing @Seven.

            Yes, that's exactly what I meant. Thank you for the cogent explanation. My apologies if what I said was confusing @Seven.

            5 votes
  6. [2]
    reifyresonance
    Link
    Most of the comments so far seem extraordinarily vague. Here's a few definitions I agree with....

    Most of the comments so far seem extraordinarily vague. Here's a few definitions I agree with.

    Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits – which can range fromemotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual – are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.

    https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-difference-between-toxic-masculinity-and-being-a-man-dg/

    [TM] is associated with emotional detachment, hyper-competitiveness and used as a shorthand to describe traits linked to domination and power.

    The modifier “toxic” is used to highlight the fact that these traits carry some potentially significant and detrimental outcomes that affect mental health and the relationships at family and societal levels.

    Men have to bear the responsibility of being the sole breadwinner of their family

    Men must be independent and strong regardless of hardships they go through

    Men should express masculinity by being aggressive, sexually experienced, and demanding.

    https://projectgreenribbon.org/toxic-masculinity-isnt-masculinity-toxic/

    Toxic masculinity is a cultural script of acceptable behaviour for men. Harmful effects of toxic masculinity arise when men internalise stereotypes associated with masculinity that are inconsistent with their inner experience, desires and understanding.

    This [hegemonic] masculinity contains a script of manhood that is governed by a rigorous set of unattainable standards including that men should be stoic, physically tough, competitive, successful, able to provide for others and sexually adept. A further problem with this dominant form of masculinity is that it reflects a white, heterosexual, middle class standard (Connell, 1987), thus being restrictive in relation to cultural background, sexuality and class.

    It is toxic because the standards of manhood that it prescribes are unattainable; the idea of manhood has been described as an ‘elusive ideal’ (Vandello & Cohen, 2008, p. 653). It is toxic because hegemonic masculinity itself is a cultural and structural ordering of the masculine/feminine binary that reinforces and ‘institutionalises men’s dominance over women’ and men’s dominance over each other (Connell, 1987, p. 185-186; cited in Bird, 1996). In relying on the masculine/feminine binary, hegemonic masculinity ignores and invisibilises those falling outside the binary. This maintains stigma around gender fluidity, gender non-conformity, bisexuality and people who are transgender or intersex.

    https://www.sydneyfeminists.org/toxic-masculinity

    9 votes
    1. Ember
      Link Parent
      Similar to these definitions, I found Lindsay Ellis's description useful, especially considering the wide appeal of discussing in context of a Marvel movie: https://youtu.be/8VulkN5OLEM?t=590

      Similar to these definitions, I found Lindsay Ellis's description useful, especially considering the wide appeal of discussing in context of a Marvel movie: https://youtu.be/8VulkN5OLEM?t=590

      Men feeling the need to prove their perceived masculinity through unhealthy means—harmful to others, but, just as often, harmful to themselves. These toxic elements are attached to attributes we as a culture tend to attach to masculinity, including but not limited to: anger, being the strongest, pwnage, eschewing emotional attachment. Toxic masculinity eschews attributes associated with femininity; things like emotional vulnerability, crying, giving a shit about other people, and flowers.

      I say "associated with" because obviously everyone has these things in them. Women get angry and men like flowers. So the fact that little boys are taught from a very young age that they're not allowed to cry or expressing emotion is unmanly—that is a part of toxic masculinity.

      3 votes
  7. [6]
    Kuromantis
    Link
    IMO, Toxic masculinity is when traditional masculinity is used as a justification, motivation or reason for forgiving or encouraging some toxic behavior. Masculinity is... I'm not sure honestly. I...

    How do you distinguish between masculinity and toxic masculinity?

    IMO, Toxic masculinity is when traditional masculinity is used as a justification, motivation or reason for forgiving or encouraging some toxic behavior.

    Masculinity is... I'm not sure honestly. I couldn't name something positive that men should do and women shouldn't. Menslib occasionally talks about the idea of multiple masculinities and one YouTuber that popped up in menslib IIRC once said that positive masculinity is a set of positive things that men can do, even if women can and should do them too, and when asked about post-genderism, he said he didn't mind the idea and just felt it wasn't practical right now because some people care about their masculinity.

    I think it is quite clear that, beyond a set of culturally enforced stereotypes (AKA gender roles), masculinity and femininity aren't much beyond some hard biological differences and consequnces of them.

    I’m hearing about people’s relationship with masculinity in general, both in people who identify with it and those who don’t.

    I personally feel like this concerning my "masculinity":

    the main reason I identify as male gender-wise is because I'm male bodied, and because I do a handful of things I believe fit some stereotypes for male people like spending most of my time online, lacking meaningful social relationships and occasionally circlejerking about that, and most of those things are limited to a pretty specific type of guy, and none of those things are actually inherent to men.

    6 votes
    1. [3]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. ICN
        Link Parent
        Personally, I'm not a fan of this line of thought. It slips far too easily into a prescriptivist mindset of assigning genetic reasons to something that could very well be entirely cultural, even...

        Despite this, the way in which these traits tend to balance across the male/female population of pretty much every nation and every culture indicates that there are a set of traits that men gravitate towards more frequently than women and that the combination of these traits could be identified using a catch all term such as "masculine".

        Personally, I'm not a fan of this line of thought. It slips far too easily into a prescriptivist mindset of assigning genetic reasons to something that could very well be entirely cultural, even on a worldwide level. It's impossible to escape the impacts colonialism and imperialism have had on the world. Part of that is a deliberate, systemic effort by people who were racist and misogynistic to stamp out different cultures and impose their own values in their place. With roots this deep, things that are constructed can feel innate. A lighter example of this are numbers. I have difficulty imagining a life without numbers; if they didn't exist, it seems like they'd be developed almost immediately. But anumeric societies have existed and exist today.

        As for "positive" traits men have that women don't tend to: Men seem to have a desire to push boundaries, explore, build more, invent better, excel in whatever particular field.

        I don't buy this at all. When, in just the last hundred years or so, have women had the opportunities and resources needed to excel? Was it when they weren't allowed in universities? When they were kicked out of the jobs they'd stepped up to do in WWII? While deep cultural forces kept them in the home? But that was all in the past. #MeToo started years ago at this point after all, things much be better by now. If you want to get an idea of how awful things can be for women in male-dominated spaces, take a look at the unfolding Activision Blizzard scandal. The truth of the matter is that women have to push boundaries and excel to gain access to the spaces men are allowed by default, much less going beyond that.

        5 votes
      2. Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        Agreed. One of the most interesting books I've read that explores the balance of power between genders in a fictional setting is The Power. The way it's written is also really interesting. From...

        Women can be aggressive, they can be defenders, they can be competitive and they can be (excessively/over) courageous. Men can also be emotionally intouch, intuitive, passive, empathetic and nurturing.

        Agreed. One of the most interesting books I've read that explores the balance of power between genders in a fictional setting is The Power. The way it's written is also really interesting.

        From the Wikipedia overview:

        The Power is a book within a book: a manuscript of an imagined history of the tumultuous era during which women across the world developed and shared the power to emit electricity from their hands. The manuscript is submitted by Neil Adam Armon to another author named Naomi, approximately five thousand years after the power emerges and revolution reassembles the world into a matriarchy. This historical fiction chronicles the experiences of Allie, Roxy, Margot, Jocelyn, and Tunde, as they navigate their rapidly changing world.

        3 votes
    2. [3]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      How would you describe the gap between your social relationships and meaningful ones?

      lacking meaningful social relationships

      How would you describe the gap between your social relationships and meaningful ones?

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        Kuromantis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I think I hedged my statement too much, I don't have social relationships at all. I've only a had a few in my life as a whole, and I don't think I would call any of them friendship, more so...

        I think I hedged my statement too much, I don't have social relationships at all. I've only a had a few in my life as a whole, and I don't think I would call any of them friendship, more so "aquaintance-ship", as described by this comment.

        2 votes
        1. teaearlgraycold
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Sorry to hear that dude. I don’t want you to think I’m gloating, but that isn’t a curse of the male condition. I don’t have that problem and my friends don’t, so it is solvable.

          Sorry to hear that dude. I don’t want you to think I’m gloating, but that isn’t a curse of the male condition. I don’t have that problem and my friends don’t, so it is solvable.

          5 votes
  8. NoblePath
    Link
    Toxic masculinity is any behavior or attitude that elevates itself (or denigrates another) because of its supposed masculinity (or lack thereof). An obvious example is to call someone a “bitch”,...

    Toxic masculinity is any behavior or attitude that elevates itself (or denigrates another) because of its supposed masculinity (or lack thereof).

    An obvious example is to call someone a “bitch”, “faggot”, or “baby” because they won’t join in a risky activity.

    To state what others have said a little bit differently, masculinity can be performed in the service of others, where it will also often embody feminine traits: Taking personal risks for others’ benefit (self-sacrifice), acting against popular opinion (fortitude), using strength or position to protect others (compassion/nurture/sharing).

    6 votes
  9. Adys
    Link
    Very interesting question with lots of different answers already. The lack of a consistent definition for what toxic masculinity is, is kind of a missing layer IMO. And the added inconsistent...

    Very interesting question with lots of different answers already.

    The lack of a consistent definition for what toxic masculinity is, is kind of a missing layer IMO. And the added inconsistent definition of masculinity as a whole.

    To me, masculinity is defined as primarily aesthetic, as @lie put it. I have clear ideas (as most people do) of which of my traits are masculine and which are more feminine, and i can choose to highlight according to what I want to project.

    So how do I define toxic masculinity? There I'm very aligned with @Kuromantis: to me it's when masculinity is used as a vehicle for toxic behavior.

    5 votes
  10. Happy_Shredder
    Link
    I recently read "the will to change: men, masculinity, and love", which I have mixed feelings about, but uses the phrase "patriarchal masculinity" which I like. I think it's important to highlight...

    I recently read "the will to change: men, masculinity, and love", which I have mixed feelings about, but uses the phrase "patriarchal masculinity" which I like. I think it's important to highlight how patriarchy hurts men and women and queer and straight and society.

    Unfortunately the author doesn't give a formal definition, but we know that patriarchy is something to do with (binary) gender domination, so patriarchal masculinity is the only acceptable expression of the dominant gender under patriarchy.

    Concepts/characteristics involved:

    • the only valid emotion is anger, men are rewarding for suppressing feelings
    • demanding respect, not talking about problems, dominating women/weak men
    • violence as a general solution
    • sexual domination, eroticising the nonsexual, females as both the enemy and object of desire, sense of sexual scarcity, sexual conquest as identity
    • hatred and fear of femininity
    • maleness as performance
    • maleness as pursuit of power
    • identity through idealised aloneness and disconnection
    5 votes
  11. joplin
    Link
    I understand your hesitation, but I appreciate you bringing it up. Here’s how I’ve experienced things. (And yes, I’m guilty of having done some of these things myself at various times in my life....

    I understand your hesitation, but I appreciate you bringing it up. Here’s how I’ve experienced things. (And yes, I’m guilty of having done some of these things myself at various times in my life. I’m sure we all are. I’m not proud of it.)

    Toxic masculinity, in my experience, is about lording power over others. It’s certainly possible for non-male individuals to lord their power over others, but I see that happen orders of magnitude less frequently than I see it happen in males. The other aspect of it is that it often involves violence, whether physical, verbal, or psychological. This takes many forms but is most often seen as bullying others.

    The attitude that you always need to be tough and that showing any weakness makes you “less of a man” — that you should be “alpha”. The attitude that you get to decide for others what is right and wrong or good and bad. (And it’s often stated in black and white terms — “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us!”)

    I think that non-toxic or positive masculinity can emphasize some similar things without the violence and degradation of others. For example, toxic masculinity is ignoring pain and telling someone in pain to “Walk it off!” Or “Nut up!” Recognizing others’ pain and acknowledging it seems like a better path to me. I think there can be times when you have to tell someone, “I realize you’re in pain, but it’s going to be best for you to work through the pain to get through this, and we’re all here to help you with that.” (Of course that only applies in some situations. There are many where the pain is a sign of something really wrong and ignoring it or working through it is a terrible idea. Recognizing the difference is key!)

    The entire ethos of ignoring or hiding any pain and weakness, no matter how small, while also attempting to move focus away from your attempts at doing that, often by demeaning or hurting others is what I consider toxic masculinity. There’s nothing inherently male in it, it’s just that our society accepts and even encourages such behavior in men and often chastises women for it.

    There are other smaller things that are related, like making everything a competition. Again, it can be a positive thing if it helps you to grow and improve, but when it comes at the expense of others it becomes toxic.

    4 votes
  12. [2]
    lie
    Link
    I personally think the idea of masculinity and femininity itself is pretty pernicious. There obviously are traditionally masculine traits like strength, courage, independence , leadership but...

    I personally think the idea of masculinity and femininity itself is pretty pernicious. There obviously are traditionally masculine traits like strength, courage, independence , leadership but those traits being tied to genders are pretty harmful to everyone.
    For me, non-toxic masculinity is almost a matter of aesthetics more than anything else. The toxic parts of masculinity are its expectations about men being required to perform in certain ways, the guilt and shame they are made to feel if they do not perform in certain ways.
    I feel like this topic is pretty hard to discuss and I don't think there is going to be a clear answer to this question.

    4 votes
    1. Staross
      Link Parent
      I would say that "non-toxic masculinity" is just being a masculinity anti-realist, i.e. holding the position that masculinity isn't a relevant or useful concept. Personally I never think in those...

      I would say that "non-toxic masculinity" is just being a masculinity anti-realist, i.e. holding the position that masculinity isn't a relevant or useful concept.

      Personally I never think in those terms and I don't feel worse for it.

      3 votes
  13. Omnicrola
    Link
    There's been several comments in here wrestling with the question in a zero-sum kind of way, which I think might be why society at large is having a hard time with the concept of masculinity. If...

    There's been several comments in here wrestling with the question in a zero-sum kind of way, which I think might be why society at large is having a hard time with the concept of masculinity. If we choose as a society to define a behavior as masculine, and someone identifying as female exhibits that behavior, that doesn't invalidate it or take it away from everyone else.

    I think positive masculinity is whatever we choose it to be, as long as it has a positive effect on people. If it is tearing down yourself or others, then it's toxic. Just straight up toxic. The amendment of toxic masculinity is just a way to indicate that males in general exhibit the behavior more often. Females can absolutely exhibit the same behavior, and it would be equally as toxic.

    I really like @Kuromantis definition:

    IMO, Toxic masculinity is when traditional masculinity is used as a justification, motivation or reason for forgiving or encouraging some toxic behavior.

    Pretty much anytime someone says (to me or others) something like "You have to behave this way because that's how a real man behaves" my immediate reaction has become "fuck off". Even if the behavior itself is ostensibly positive or neutral, if the justification or motivation for doing it is simply because "that's what men do" then that is at best insufficient and at worst toxic.

    4 votes
  14. Akir
    Link
    I don’t think that anyone has managed to get the nuance of these terms, so I figured that I would give it a try. Masculinity is a set of traits that are generally social in nature which are...

    I don’t think that anyone has managed to get the nuance of these terms, so I figured that I would give it a try.

    Masculinity is a set of traits that are generally social in nature which are generally positive in nature. Helping to provide for others, being independent, being emotionally stable, being collected in times of trouble or panic, being strong, etc.

    Toxic masculinity is when those ideas are either taken to extremes or otherwise perverted to the extent that they hurt people. It’s good to be strong if you use that strength to help people, but it’s bad if you use it to hurt others. It’s good to be dependable, but not if it’s to the extent that one can’t ask for help when one needs it.

    Though to be honest, I kind of prefer the idea of a post-masculinity society.

    3 votes
  15. [3]
    Bullmaestro
    Link
    I have a complicated view on masculinity. From my understanding, it's when masculinity is used as a justification or glorification of bad behaviour that it becomes toxic. Things like... unwanted...

    I have a complicated view on masculinity.

    From my understanding, it's when masculinity is used as a justification or glorification of bad behaviour that it becomes toxic. Things like... unwanted advances, cat-calling, voyeurism, sexual assault, sexual harassment, racism, domestic abuse, etc.

    I once learned the hard way during HS to stop pursuing a crush after she already rejected me, because I foolishly thought I could change her mind, I think part of why I did what I did was having ASD and not understanding social cues properly. This ended up killing several friendships and drove two girls I once considered relatively good friends to bully me for about half a year. There were also several other girls that jokingly made advances on me just to tease me and would laugh in my face if I took them seriously, hence my distrust.

    So during adulthood that made me timid towards women and I think that is why others have generally had a lack of interest towards me. Some moments left me questioning whether I should be more "masculine" or "alpha", but at the same time I don't want to misread the situation.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Another part of it could be that persistence in pursuing a woman is not only glorified in movies, but it almost always succeeds. Some of the "romantic" behaviour that the male characters conduct...

      I foolishly thought I could change her mind, I think part of why I did what I did was having ASD and not understanding social cues properly.

      Another part of it could be that persistence in pursuing a woman is not only glorified in movies, but it almost always succeeds. Some of the "romantic" behaviour that the male characters conduct in romantic comedies would be considered stalking in real life - but the female character ends up breaking down and falling for her suitor. We've been conditioned to believe that all it takes to "win" a woman (like she's a prize to be given away?) is persistence and a big romantic gesture.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. Bullmaestro
          Link Parent
          There was a Swedish lady I used to know who met her now husband on a dating site, who had pursued her and pestered her with messages for about a month. It was definitely something that made me...

          There was a Swedish lady I used to know who met her now husband on a dating site, who had pursued her and pestered her with messages for about a month.

          It was definitely something that made me scratch my head.

          3 votes
  16. skybrian
    Link
    I’m not sure I have any interests that are inherently gendered. (Or at least, they shouldn’t be.) I grew up as a nerdy kid and considered some stuff to be “macho bullshit” and ignored it the best...

    I’m not sure I have any interests that are inherently gendered. (Or at least, they shouldn’t be.) I grew up as a nerdy kid and considered some stuff to be “macho bullshit” and ignored it the best I could.

    2 votes
  17. [4]
    bkimmel
    Link
    I see a lot of struggling to identify what "masculinity" really is or what it means. I think that's because it is just hard to understand, especially through the lens of modernity/civilization,...

    I see a lot of struggling to identify what "masculinity" really is or what it means. I think that's because it is just hard to understand, especially through the lens of modernity/civilization, but here's a short thought experiment I'd propose to maybe help define the boundaries of the idea;

    Suppose you had two tribal groups, in some "hunter/gatherer state of nature" with all the risks and realities that entails but with the precise details abstracted away for the sake of argument. Both groups have 10 people; Tribe M has 8 men and 2 women. Tribe F has 8 women and 2 men. So, at least on a group level, Tribe M is more "masculine". Assuming the "goal" of each group in the experiment is to have the highest chance of survival across, say 5 successive generations, what would the optimal set of behaviors/culture for each tribe look like? Remember, the only goal is to maximize "chance of survival and number of offspring in generation 5".

    How would the two tribes behave differently to maximize their chances of survival to gen 5?
    What sort of cultural mores/behaviors would they adopt?
    How might those things be inherited or passed on to successive generations?
    How would the two groups interact with each other if they did?

    I don't really have answers to these things, just wondering.

    1 vote
    1. [3]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Biologically, Tribe F has more chance of gaining a lead in survival - not because of any masculine or feminine social traits, but because 8 women can have more babies than 2 women, and 2 men are...

      Biologically, Tribe F has more chance of gaining a lead in survival - not because of any masculine or feminine social traits, but because 8 women can have more babies than 2 women, and 2 men are perfectly capable of impregnating 4 women each.

      That would derail your social experiment to see if survival was influenced by masculinity or femininity.

      4 votes
      1. bkimmel
        Link Parent
        Right: that's exactly what I'm asking about, though. How would they behave differently based on that factor? Things like Tribe M would likely adopt high-risk/high-reward behavior for the men in...

        Right: that's exactly what I'm asking about, though. How would they behave differently based on that factor? Things like Tribe M would likely adopt high-risk/high-reward behavior for the men in the group because it really doesn't matter as much if 3 or 4 of the men die.

        3 votes
      2. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. bkimmel
          Link Parent
          Probably. If they had that option, it would likely be the optimal strategy.

          Probably. If they had that option, it would likely be the optimal strategy.

          1 vote