Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Editorial Contest 2024: Toxic masculinity – Reform or conform?

The Lansing Journal has partnered with the freshman class at Unity Christian Academy for three consecutive years to host a student editorial contest. Each freshman student wrote an editorial about something they care about, and submitted it to The Lansing Journal. Publisher Melanie Jongsma and Managing Editor Josh Bootsma read the editorials and picked five winners based on criteria including: making a claim, persuasion and analysis, evidence, local impact, and language and voice. This is the fourth editorial to be published this year, and the final winner will be published tomorrow. Earlier winners are linked below.

toxic masculinity
Josiah Overstreet. (Photo provided by Unity Christian Academy)
By Josiah Overstreet

Toxic masculinity is hurting more people than anyone can begin to imagine. The often overstated norms of what society says masculinity should look like, sound like, and act like can stigmatize boys and men who don’t operate within that predetermined space. I can vividly recall moments throughout my time in elementary school when I experienced or witnessed toxic masculinity: Constantly being told I wasn’t man enough. Strong enough. Brave enough. And just for showing emotion, or not sharing the rough personality of the other boys.

The idea of masculinity that criticizes men who stray from masculine norms needs to be dispelled, because it will always bring more harm than good. The reason I’m writing this essay is to expand the narrow view that some may have regarding what healthy masculinity is, could be, or should be.

Ignoring “norms”

Not conforming to masculine norms shouldn’t be a penalty against your masculinity.

The American Psychological Association summarized recent research on this topic in this way: “Traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful. Men socialized in this way are less likely to engage in healthy behaviors.”

Traditional masculinity portrays a stale view of what masculinity is and could be. It feeds on the idea that men need to be strong constantly. Show no emotion, but be aggressive. Be dominant and mentally unhealthy.

People tend to stray from these norms, and they’re penalized. These penalties could be being bullied, harassed, called gay, or being viewed as less of a man.

In the media we see examples of toxic masculinity coming to fruition through characters like Nate Jacobs from Euphoria and even Ken from the Barbie movie. They have traits of emotion repression and the need for control.

A study by Islam Borinca, Vincenzo Iacoviello & Giulia Valsecchi stated, “Masculinity has been depicted as precarious — that is, something hard to win and simple to lose.”

This restates that your masculinity can be easily stripped from you in the eyes of others, just by simply being outside of masculine norms.

The mental health effects of toxic masculinity

Toxic masculinity plays a huge role in the mental health of men today.

Feeling that you need to conform to the unrealistic standards that toxic masculinity pushes is known to cause depression.

Another effect that many don’t know is alexithymia. Alexithymia is defined as “lacking words for emotions,” and it’s more common among men than women, says Dr. Loren Soeiro in a 2022 article published in Psychology Today. Alexithymia is due to a point that toxic masculinity pushes, which is that men should not show emotion.

Also, men are less likely to reach out for help when struggling with mental health. An experiment done by The Journal of Men’s Studies shows that men are less likely to reach out for help because they see it as emasculating. If men are less likely to reach out for help just because they don’t want to seem like less of a man, they may slip into unhealthy behaviors like self harm, alcoholism, or something permanent like suicide.

Fighting toxic masculinity starts with you

Toxic masculinity is usually pushed during early childhood. In an article in Health Central, Henry A. Montero states “Even as children, young boys who express feelings are compared to girls in a negative context. Common responses to young males who become emotional include: Boys don’t cry! Man up! Don’t be such a baby! Don’t cry like a girl! Be a man — get over it! You throw like a girl!”

Getting rid of these common phrases and educating the male youth would be a huge step in the right direction.

It’s up to us to stop the cycle of toxic masculinity. I’ve had multiple encounters with toxic masculinity all throughout my life. And I know most men or boys have encountered toxic masculinity as well. Don’t let the cycle of bullying, harassment, and hatred continue.

Other 2024 editorial winners

The Lansing Journal
The Lansing Journal
The Lansing Journal publishes news releases from state, county, and local officials who provide information that impacts local community life. The particular contributor of each post is indicated in the byline.