It’s our culture that’s the problem, not our gender expression
By Jessica Berget, Opinions Editor
When people talk about masculinity, the conversation usually revolves around how harmful it is to society. Although I do think it is important to discuss how harmful forced gender roles can be, we need to clarify that not all aspects of masculinity are negative—it’s our society’s oppressive version of masculinity that is.
First of all, I’m generally not a fan of the concept of masculine or feminine traits because anyone can have these traits, regardless of gender. Although being aggressive and competitive is seen as a male cliché in society, women often also possess these traits. Being sensitive and nurturing is stereotypically equated with women, but there are many men with these qualities. This dichotomy also fails to account for people who don’t fit into these falsely tidy gender categories. These characteristics depend on personality more so than they do on gender.
To me, this negates the entire concept of toxic masculinity because women can have traits that society sees as typically “masculine,” yet they are not considered to be negative. The construct of masculinity becomes toxic when these traits are forced upon people in the form of strictly defined gender roles.
The problem of toxic masculinity is not solely on men; rather, it’s our culture. It’s important to acknowledge how our society reinforces these roles, even though many of us try to counteract these perceptions. As much as we try to remind men that it’s okay to show emotion and to be sensitive nowadays, there are still many people who are not conscious of these roles and perpetuate these rigid gender stereotypes, whether they mean to or not. Since gender studies is a relatively new topic (sexologist John Money made the distinction between sex and gender in 1955), it’s a part of our culture that society is still in the process of adjusting to.
Toxic masculinity is being blamed for much of society’s hardships nowadays—and men end up getting the flak for it. It also seems to me that men are constantly being blamed for the very existence of this harmful gender expression, as if they made it this way by their own design. In an article by Vice, the author brings up this very point. School shootings, climate change, bullying, and racism have all been said to be the results of toxic masculinity—and as an extension, the results of men themselves. However, I think our whole culture is to blame for the harmfulness of these gender roles because we have all perpetuated these roles at one point or another. Blaming toxic masculinity solely on men is hypocritical. There may be some men who fit in the toxic box but there are also many who don’t, so it makes no sense to blame an entire gender on a few bad eggs.
Some people tend to think that all aspects of masculinity are toxic, but that’s certainly not the case. It’s only when these gender roles are so rigid that they become extreme. It’s because our culture has perpetuated these roles for so long that they have become narrow and repressive.