Men Just Want to Be Strong

Toxic masculinity is our defense mechanism.

Traffic. Nothing quite upsets me the same way. Every day I face the same 30-minute slog on the way to the gym.

It’s always a challenging way to kick off the regular hangout with some of my favorite people. I have to try to hide my traffic temper for ten minutes or so as it wears off — always interesting given my typical mood at that point.

One strategy I like to employ is to joke about “taking it like a man”. By that I mean pretending I’m bulletproof and that any issue has no effect on me. You know, drop a 100-kilo weighted barbell on your toe while lifting? Take it like a man and do another set!

So I ran through my traffic jokes in my head just to imagine what I’d say, until I caught myself. “Oh, wait,” I thought, “is this toxic masculinity?”

I’d been doing it for ages.

Unhealthy Male Ideals

I don’t know the consensus on the definition of toxic masculinity, but in my book it means unhealthy habits or actions that are supposedly justified under the guise of being masculine. Suppression of emotion, senseless aggression, and objectification of the opposite sex are commonly placed under the umbrella, but I never thought my subtle daily actions would be in the same category.

My micro version of toxic masculinity flew under the radar because I genuinely assumed it was just part of my personality.

But that’s what all the rapists say, isn’t it?

I learned to joke about suppressing my angst over simple life problems, because normally I’m very vocal about my other feelings. But in this case, I was conditioned to believe showing weakness isn’t “manly”. So if you feel weak, the only solution is to suppress your feelings of weakness.

And when you think about it from a male perspective, toxic masculine traits leak into life in all kinds of creative ways.

“Girls will be girls” is one of my personal favorite examples of this. This is obviously a play on the infamous “boys will be boys”, a phrase used as justification even for serious sexual transgressions of men. The female version essentially communicates a dismissal of “girl stuff”, such as deep emotional sensitivity.

Because, you know, god forbid we men have feelings.

Tracing the Cause

Why are men like this?

I’ll tell you why: Insecurity.

Can’t understand the nuances of your platonic, professional relationship with a female coworker? She’s practically sending you a romantic invite because she wears that short skirt in the office, so just take your shot!

Feeling chronically lonely and can’t understand why? Real men tough it out, so suck it up and move on!

Toxic masculinity gained its popularity mainly because it gives us a playbook of answers when we don’t understand something.

These are all real thoughts and conversations that real people have. Such toxic traits are fueled by insecurity, which usually gets triggered by misunderstanding.

We’re so insecure that we feel the need to feign strength when it’s not there. That’s how we get by, most of the time. That’s what an unhealthy image of the ideal male does to us. We genuinely believe we must live up to an impossible, irrational standard.

So, how do we fix this? You’ll notice the article is running out, so I suppose you’ve figured out that I don’t have a proper answer for you, this time. (Don’t like that? Suck it up.) All I know is that making an active effort to listen really helped me.

Oh, and assume you’re always wrong, just as the ladies say. It’ll make it way easier to learn something new that way.

Trading bot engineer, songwriter, sponsor of artists. <mika@myika.co>

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