Sexploration Season 2 Episode 5:Toxic Masculinity

Published On: December 21, 2022 02:30 PM NPT By: Samiksha Shrestha

When it comes to masculinity, society is sending a message that men are acculturated into certain ways of behaving, which can later be toxic for them with unsettling emotions. But the constraint on male behavior that society puts on one male should be bold, should repress emotions, should be dominating, tough, and competitive is simply false. This type of character portrayal of men reinforces harmful stereotypes. In this concern, Episode 5 of Sexploration is all about the discussion on 'Toxic Masculinity', its effects, role of media and social institutions with Satish Karn, President of Yuwa(organization), and Manish Maharjan, Executive Member of Yuwa. 

In general, “Masculinity” refers to the roles, behaviors, and attributes perceived as appropriate for boys/men in society. In short, masculinity refers to society’s expectations of males. It originates from the Latin word 'masculine' which means 'worthy of a male'. When saying the word Masculinity, the thing that comes to one's head is a muscular strong man but it is not actually the case. We often tend to forget that it is a social construct and is defined socially, and historically rather than being biologically driven.

Toxic masculinity occurs when cultural pressures condition men to behave in traditional, stereotypical masculine ways. Conforming to this type of behavior entails suppressing their feelings, avoiding distress, being “tough,” and using violence or aggression to portray their power and superiority. Toxic masculinity only allows space for men to behave according to masculine ideals, leaving little to no space for femininity, emotions, or help. "It's important to understand that masculinity is not inherently bad or toxic but depends upon how it is taught, how one perceives it, how people behave, and how it is enforced on somebody," said Satish Karn.

Toxic masculinity is a learned behavior, passed down from generation to generation as well as taught within social groups learned through social interactions from early childhood into adolescence and adulthood. During adolescence, young boys develop masculine traits and behaviors, which are taught through their families, peer groups, schools, and other social institutions. In addition, boys unconsciously develop socially prescribed rules during adolescence, which are referred to as gender roles. These developed gender roles dictate how boys should behave, which emotions they should experience, and how they should express their emotions. Sharing his personal experience, Karn said, "From infant age, boys are discouraged from playing with dolls as it is associated as feminine, while at the same time the elderly ask their daughters to do household chores and don't allow sons to do so."It reveals that parents are equally responsible for this kind of upbringing. 

Masculinity becomes toxic in the stances when a boy in school doesn't act in traditionally masculine ways, he is bullied by the boys in his class for being 'too feminine', and when a boy cries, his father tells him to 'toughen up' or 'men don't cry', a man is restricted from wearing the dress he likes, when a man is afraid to be emotionally vulnerable with his partner for fear of seeming 'weak' when a man who is struggling with his mental health doesn't want to see a therapist because he should 'man up' or 'power through it'. To be seen as girly or exhibiting feminine traits diminishes status for men. These labels continue to reinforce harmful stereotypes, including the notion that 'real men' are self-sufficient, aggressive, and uncaring. Their identities are defined by their competitiveness and how much they earn. "In society, there are many males who think that I should not marry a woman who earns more than me to show his superiority and to fulfill their ego," said Manish Maharjan. 

Patriarchy has divided gender roles in such a way that both women and men have to be victims. On one hand, it is bad for women as it shapes sexist and patriarchal behaviors, including abusive or violent treatment of women. On the other hand, it harms men's mental and physical health. "Due to discrimination, and social exclusion a man has to face if he doesn't fit inside that predetermined box of what it means to be masculine he would suffer from mental distress which would cause blood pressure and heart disease. It is also the cause of suicides in males," said Maharjan.

Again, there are plenty of men and masculine-identifying people who don’t display traits of toxic masculinity. Still, these folks might be impacted by those who do display those traits in the form of social exclusion. The individuals who belong to the LGBTQ community have to face much more discrimination and exclusion due to the idea of Masculinity. They fear that they will be judged. If anybody is not man enough or they act feminine, they get attacked by society,they cannot express themselves, and will have trust issues. 

Media, movies, and religion also play a great role in advocating toxic Masculinity. The media shows masculinity as a power and form of dominance over femininity. In many ways, the film glorifies toxic masculinity. These kinds of films justify this toxic idea by conveying that women are weak. The story evolves in such a way that women are saved by a male protagonist from a male Similarly, in religious books, violent masculinity is shown. A man is oppressive and exacerbates social conflict. This, it is important to combating toxic masculinity which can help men improve their mental health while also creating safer spaces for women and non-binary individuals. One should talk about it, speak up and society should challenge their own assumptions about how people should behave in society.

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