Toxic masculinity is a term which refers to those traditional masculine norms which can prove harmful to men, women, and society overall. It’s not meant to imply that men, maleness, or masculinity itself are bad, but rather the sticking of to those attributes, such as dominance; self-reliance to the extent of not accepting help (or asking for it) even if it’s obvious the task is too difficult; and competition. It also takes in things such as the stigmatising and limitation of emotions that boys and men may freely express – suppressing emotions such as sadness, fear, and loneliness (among others), while giving an acceptability to anger.
Toxic masculinity sees its form in the expectations placed on men, economically (the traditional role of the man as “breadwinner”); political, and social (for example, if you don’t drink alcohol for “a good time” you might find be made to feel uncomfortable). These ideas are almost hardwired into western culture, with many men feeling they fall short if they don’t fit into the particular “alpha male” shaped box.
This has seen the rise of suicide and attempted suicide among men at a ridiculous rate. In 2018 Samaritans reported that deaths by suicide across the UK rose by a whopping 10.9%. Among those, men made up the majority – men are 3 times as likely to die by suicide as women. In the Republic of Ireland, men are 4 times as likely. Toxic masculinity doesn’t just affect mental health either: it can have a physical affect as well, with for instance, studies of anorexia and bulimia indicating that in North America there are probably more males with bulimia than females with anorexia.
Additionally toxic masculinity can limit psychological development in men, which in turn can also affect their mental and physical health.
Reporting in 2019. The American Psychological Association (APA) said,
“Conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behaviour, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental health and physical health.”
Toxic masculinity has seen men neglect serious health issues too, with many dying from illnesses which if caught early are treatable. There’s a lot to be said for caring for your own well being.
All the ideals of toxic masculinity are entirely manufactured, and continue to be perpetuated in the media, advertising, sport, and entertainment, with statements about how “real men” should behave, or look, or how they should feel. Yet real life isn’t like that at all, and thankfully, some men are standing up and saying what they believe.
Irish singer songwriters Jedward took to Twitter last night to express their thoughts about toxic masculinity. The twins have long been subject to abuse for their appearance and positive outlook on life, and feel the time has come to put a stop to it.
Stop Toxic Masculinity
Express and Talk about your Emotions! We all have Freedom of Expression.
Look after your Mental Health and be YOU! pic.twitter.com/UerBGpXyKP
— JEDWARD (@planetjedward) August 3, 2020
The tweet sparked a lot of discussion on Twitter, with many adding their support, and thanking them for speaking out:
#mentalhealthmonday We need to do our bit to encourage a culture where it's ok for everyone to be open and honest about their mental health. #CALM #MensHealth #ItsOkayToNotBeOkay https://t.co/z5v5lAGKEL
— Hannah Fox (@HannahFox_YW) August 3, 2020
Jedward have long said it’s okay to think outside the box – one favourite phrase has been the Dr Seuss quote, “Why try to fit in when you’re born to stand out”. It’s made them a role model for many, as they encourage people to think for themselves, to feel comfortable in their own skins, to know that there’s not just one way of doing or being. Jedward express it best in their own words, which they tweeted in response to those who replied to their tweet:
We have experienced it our whole life growing up and to this day and things need to change and people’s outlook on life.
We are making a stand for people that don’t have a positive voice in their lives and are surrounded with negative masculine standards and pressure to be one way.
We are all learning and in this together! There is way too much judgment put on young people growing up and it caves their potential of expressing themselves.
Kings and Queens we are all royalty in our own way don’t need to be part of a family or society that is higher or lower cause we are all equal.
You all have encouraged us for years and give us the support and acceptance that help us move forward.
We all together get the word out there! Who knows what’s happening someone could be having the worst thoughts and have just been taken out of a dark place! Together we all did that.
We see so many incredible people on our timeline always and u creative souls inspire us.
The Darkest of days have surrounded us all but we keep on moving forward because we know how great things can be and living is a reward in itself.
Once again, Jedward lead the charge. Let’s join them and see what change we can enact in this world.
The video for Jedward’s latest single, ‘Taste The Heat’ is out now on JedwardVEVO through Universal. You can download the video on Apple Music.
Read all our other Jedward articles here.