What is the difference between toxic masculinity and simply being a man? Unfortunately, these two are often being debated and severely confused as concepts. That is the problem in and of itself in a nutshell: for many people, the idea of being a masculine man and toxic masculinity are synonyms.
Although this topic continues to be hotly debated and there have been many takes on this issue, I was taken aback when I read the “APA Guidelines for Psychological Practices with Boys and Men” published in August 2018 by the American Psychological Association. To suffice, the 31-paged report alluded that “traditional masculinity ideology” – which is competitiveness, assertiveness, stoicism – or simply “toxic masculinity” – is damaging. Here, I couldn’t help but notice how these concepts are fused into one idea: if males choose to be assertive, stoic, and competitive, they risk being blamed for masculine toxicity.
In my wholehearted opinion, these guidelines are wrong.
Males should not abide by these guidelines; despite the habitual credibility of a medical association such as the APA. If these traits are taken to the extreme such as aggression, disrespect, or violating rights, it is when and only when that we can speak about toxicity, hence toxic masculinity.
As a student at Bellarmine College Preparatory, an all-boys school, it hits home when people say that I have this “miasma of toxic masculinity” because I believe that a man should be the protector or protector, the “head honcho” of the family. But, let us reexamine and draw the bold line between traditional masculinity and toxic masculinity. Traditional masculinity, now, doesn’t restrict gender roles as it did a century ago. In a society of ever-evolving morals and ever-transforming rules, the meaning of traditional masculinity has been blurred for many. Still, in recent times, it has been redefined to be significantly less stringent of the principles that the man is the provider and that the man must be muscular to protect his family. As previously mentioned above, toxic masculinity is when the traits of masculinity are taken to the far end of the spectrum of masculinity. Nevertheless, I still believe that it is a man’s inherent duty to protect women and his family, whether he is the family provider or not.
Virtually, in all circumstances, stoically managing your emotions is obligatory to have control over situations. Zeno of Citium, the founder of the philosophy of stoicism, once said, “Man conquers the world by conquering himself.” Of course, he didn’t mean to conquer the world literally, but to conquer and succeed in one’s sphere of interest. Of course, he didn’t mean to conquer the world literally, but to conquer and succeed in one’s sphere of interest. Essentially, the quote strikes at the focal core of stoicism: to be triumphant in whatever it may be – be it medicine, business, et cetera – one must learn to master his emotions; in other words, himself. Assertiveness allows you to convey your point whilst being positive – and without being aggressive or vulnerable. Additionally, being assertive will surely drive your competitive psyche and raise your chances of success. That is why our society has advanced; because our leaders were and are gurus of communicating their unorthodox ideas; yet, they were convincing people because of their assertive yet persuasive tongue.
If this world of success is uncomfortable to some because it involves competition, let’s imagine what life would be without competition. Let’s venture into the realm of flowers, sunshine, and rainbows. Let’s imagine a fantastical world where everyone agrees with each other. Imagine a wondrous world where everyone is treated equally, and no competition exists. It would certainly be nice if this world existed. However, judging by today’s social environment, we are most definitely not living this reality.
It is a given that life is tough. Free opportunities and good things don’t just appear right at your doorstep. Actual work and effort need to be inputted to produce a favorable result.
If you display your emotions, it is easy for others to take advantage of you. Likewise, if you are “too stoic,” people will look upon you as a cold person; thus, no one will want to collaborate with you.
A competitive spirit will open unlocked doors that house additional opportunities. If you lack a competitive psyche, you will lose in many aspects of success. This includes but is not limited to: getting a job, negotiating a house on sale, and even finding a romantic soulmate. Similar to competitiveness, assertiveness is a compartment of competitiveness. To be competitive, you must obtain the communication skill of assertiveness to relay your message without being regarded as arrogant, cocky, and forceful.
One can look at these truths and conclude that the call to action is to: be competitive, assertive, and stoic.
However, it is more complicated than that. It is imperative not to go overdrive and bring these traits to an extreme extent. There needs to be a balance. If you become too competitive, your sense of separating good fun and sheer competition becomes impaired. You can be led so far down the competitive road that nothing is fun anymore, so much so that a simple loss would squash your motivation.
If you become too assertive, you’re inevitably going to reach the point where your tone ceases to be positive yet stern; instead, it would become forceful. Thus, people will stop collaborating with you. Your tone and how you deliver that tone paints the working environment which umbrellas you and your colleagues. So keep up that harsh tone, and people working adjacent to you are going to ask, what’s the point?
Last but not least, if you become too stoic, people will, again, stop collaborating with you. People don’t follow and cooperate with a cold, unemotional leader. Instead, people follow a convincing leader who leads with pathos – and whose rhetoric game is strong.
To all the males and even females out there – you must know how to balance. You must analyze each situation and recognize when it is time to retreat. To become successful and respected, be demanding, not dictatorial, be decisive, not bullish, be open-minded, and not arrogant.
An external factor to consider for success is not listening to what the crowd says – for example, the media. Instead, do your research, gather data, and formulate your own opinion.
Educate yourself as this is the only way to finally disengage and bring clarity into the so well-confused, until now, the concept of gender roles, toxic masculinity, and simply enjoying a good old competition.
This article is written by: Christopher Trinh, a freshman at Bellarmine College Prep.