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Let's Talk About: Toxic Masculinity

What Is Toxic Masculinity?

A set of attitudes and ways of behaving stereotypically associated with or expected of men, regarded as having a negative impact on men and on society as a whole. (Source: Oxford Languages)

Why is this an issue?

Toxic masculinity causes men to have unfair expectations for how they should act or what their personalities should be. This can lead to low self-esteem, low self-worth, and overall loss of identity.

Toxic Expectations of Men:

Showing emotion is a sign of weakness.

Example: Men should not cry.

Showing interest in similar things as women is wrong.

Example: Men/boys should not be interested in “girl-gendered” toys such as barbies, fashion, skin care, etc.

Having knowledge of certain things is expected.

Men should be expected to know about cars, carpentry, sports, etc.

How is Toxic Masculinity taught to us from a young age?

Gendered Colors

In the 19th century, blue was assigned to girls because it was seen as a dainty color. Pink was assigned to boys because it was seen as a stronger color. Girls were later "reassigned" pink because it was close to red because it's a romantic color, and women were seen as more emotional.

Stereotyped Gender Roles (displayed in movies, TV shows, and reinforced by social expectations)

Women "should be" a domesticated housewife"

Men "should be" a dutiful husband

Gendered Toys

Boys toys


Involve action and excitement

Girl toys


Emphasizing beauty


Gendered Careers

Careers Dominated by Women

Preschool/Kindergarten Teachers

Dental Hygienists/Assistants

Speech-Language Pathologists

Careers Dominated by Men


Software Developers

Construction Work

When does masculinity become TOXIC masculinity?

Masculinity itself is not a bad, toxic, or dangerous trait. These traits become dangerous when they create limitations or expectations of men/boys.

Limiting Expression

Not allowing boys and men to comfortably express emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear can result in overwhelm and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Expecting Dominance

Expecting men to achieve certain economic, political, and social expectations to achieve dominance and become the "alpha male" can result in abuse of power and in turn, become toxic.

What can we do to dispel the myths?

Do not use phrases such as “Boys will be boys”, “Boys shouldn’t cry”, etc.

Do not encourage men to treat women like objects. Respect does not equal weakness.

Understand, we have a long way to go. It has taken decades to build what we have characterized as "the ideal masculine behavior". It will take time to change this.


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