During the last couple of months, masculinity has come under fire in headlines such as USA Today’s “Are boys ‘broken’? Another mass shooting renews debate on toxic masculinity.”
The issue of toxic masculinity is prevalent and it’s the perfect time to examine this issue.
On the March 25 broadcast of the Today Show, reporter Stephanie Ruhle held a discussion with five high school students about growing up as young men in America. The common sentiment amongst the students was “hide the pain, and don’t express your emotions.”
This response from the group was in reaction to Ruhle’s statement that crying is normal, despite the fact that young men have grown up watching movies like “Saving Private Ryan,” “Batman Begins” and the “Star Wars” franchise where you rarely, if ever, see a man crying.
In these movies, if a man is seen crying, it’s in very narrow scope, such as at the loss of a very close loved one. Otherwise, films like these showcase that men are required to show bravery at all times.
As a guy, it’s hard to deny that dealing with emotions is somewhat difficult.
Despite this, the issue of healthy masculinity versus toxic masculinity has been brought to the forefront of several issues, including the #MeToo movement.
On March 9, The Guardian published an article by Richard Godwin entitled “Men after #MeToo: ‘There’s a narrative that masculinity is fundamentally toxic.”
This article highlights Goodwin’s experiences at a men’s collective called “Rebel Wisdom,” which works to allow men to be vulnerable and speak their truth in a group setting, an act of rebellion according to the article.
Godwin said the experience opened his eyes to the fact that the discussion surrounding healthy vs. unhealthy masculinity is “mostly exciting, necessary and liberating.” He also realized that men need to work on being vulnerable, in an emotional and psychological sense.
A quote from psychotherapist Nick Duffell in the article states that “men are very unskilled when it comes to relationships and dealing with their emotions. We need to train them to be better at vulnerability.”
A prime example of masculinity leading to a lack of vulnerability with a significant other was in the 1997 movie “Good Will Hunting.” In the movie, Skylar asks Will to move to California with her. Instead of owning up to his fear of Skylar leaving him, and his love for her, Will yells that he doesn’t love her in order to push her away.
This very much goes along with Duffell’s sentiment on doing a better job of teaching young men to be vulnerable.
As Duffell pointed out in the article, young men need to be taught that showcasing vulnerability and emotions isn’t a bad thing. Rather, young men need to be taught how to cope with their feelings instead of hiding them.
A starting point for discovering healthy masculinity would be with events like last week’s ICARE screening of “The Mask You Live In.” By participating in events like this, it’s easy for both men and women to check their expectations of masculinity, and understand why these expectations need to change.