What with the current momentum from the #MeToo movement, women the world over have been publicly listing many of the seemingly small but consistent ways in which patriarchal societies control and harass them. Terms like ‘mansplaining’ or ‘manspreading’ seek to highlight how women are not allowed to speak their minds without censure and aren’t encouraged to be comfortable in the public sphere. While these words seek to shine a light on issues women face, there are antifeminists that feel that they instead mock and attack the very concept of masculinity. One of these popular (and infamous) terms has been ‘Toxic Masculinity’.

Toxic Masculinity includes harmful characteristics such as dominance, self-reliance and high levels of competitiveness. Characteristics that have become synonymous with what it means to be a man. What, however, defines a man beyond being a human male: a bipedal primate mammal with male reproductive organs? To this day, however, in some dictionaries you will find addendums or further definitions that include words like valour, strength, fortitude etc. This is in and of itself adding fuel to the inferno.

Discussion on how the patriarchy has warped masculinity is often mistaken for being an attack on men. It is not, however, intended thus. The term ‘Toxic Masculinity’ and discussion regarding it seek to emphasize the damaging effects of societal conformity to the traditional masculine ideal. Often antifeminists will wrongly accuse feminism of disregarding the cost of the patriarchy that men also bear. This includes the soaring levels of suicide amongst men, societal pressures, financial expectations etc. In fact, some people even attribute these issues to feminism instead of seeing them for what they are – consequences of the patriarchy. By impeding feminists, one is actively advocating for men and women both to continue suffering.

Toxic masculinity is dangerous and is a major weapon in the patriarchy’s arsenal against human progress and change, and all genders suffer its consequences

Toxic Masculinity perpetuates an archaic and dangerous definition of what a man is and it continues to affect how men interact with each other, how involved they are in the upbringing of their children, how they treat women in their lives, how they come to terms with their own emotions and sexuality etc. By forcing men to conform to a toxic ideal, we are furthering the aims of the patriarchy and damaging society at every level. Violent men unable to come to terms with their own emotions is only one iteration of Toxic Masculinity in the real world. It is at fault for a host of societal ills including the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence. Curbing it would be a giant step towards a better future for men and women across the board.

“Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the “alpha male”) and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.” (Wikipedia)

Toxic masculinity is as a result defined by society’s loyalty to the traditional male ideal which includes gender roles that restrict certain kinds of emotions for both boys and men to express and societal expectations that force men to seek to be dominating (an “alpha male”) thus limiting their emotional range primarily to that of expressions of anger.

According to an Australian surveyhttps://jss.org.au/what-we-do/the-mens-project/the-man-box/of young men, those who conform to traditional definitions of masculinity are much more likely to do harm unto others as well as a lot more likely to suffer harm themselves. The survey was commissioned as part of the ‘Men’s Project’, which seeks to help boys and men live considerate, accountable and fulfilling lives.

There are antifeminists who believe that this concept is ludicrous and that man was intended to be dominant and aggressive and that by attempting to curb his ‘natural instincts’, you are stifling him and forcing him to adhere to a ‘new definition’ of what it means to be a man. Seen as a suspicious attempt by misandrists (they’re not real feminists, you see) to thwart the natural order, there is much debate on the matter on social media.

There is too much data, however, to suggest the opposite. Prince Harry famously spoke of how he had bottled up his emotions after his mother had died and how in doing that he had negatively affected his life. He urged people to address their emotional and mental stability. Findings from a study (https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-00238-005) showed that ’emotional dysregulation does mediate the association between restrictive emotionality and aggression’. Primarily, this connection seems to exist due to a refusal to accept and tolerate emotional experiences as a whole.

There are entire schools of thought that feel that medication and vaccines are dangerous and unnatural, there are people who believe that modernity as a whole is evil and cameras can capture your soul. If there is one certainty about existence, it is that progress and change are both very much a part of nature.

Toxic masculinity is dangerous and is a major weapon in the patriarchy’s arsenal against human progress and change, and all genders suffer its consequences.

It is important reiterate that the term ‘Toxic Masculinity’ refers not to men or male attributes but to the enforcement of traditional cultural masculine norms which have been found to be harmful to men, women and society as a whole. Discussing this is not an effort to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to give emphasis to the detrimental effects of conventionality towards cultural masculine ideals.

While the women’s rights movement may seem like an unending bombardment of criticism against men, I would like to remind our readers that for one, antifeminists have been complaining exactly thus about women’s rights since time immemorial, and two, while yes men must put in the effort to consider their actions and privilege, feminism is not focused on men – it’s focused on society and systems.

The writer is a British writer, poet and businesswoman based in Karachi and London