Toxic Masculinity

Both masculinity and femininity are constructed before pregnancy and continue after birth.


Both masculinity and femininity are constructed before pregnancy and continue after birth. But how does toxic masculinity develop? Let’s start at the beginning. When the doctor determines the sex of the baby, it tells us if it will be a child or will be a girl. Not only is the existence of transgender people generally overlooked, but there is also a clear dichotomy in which the person will be involved, both on the social level and beyond it.

The baby is a boy or a girl. Therefore, it will have more masculine or more feminine characteristics. With this, your clothes, your behaviors, your spaces and your toys will be determined. This is as much about the sex that the babies present as the education they receive in childhood.

It will be this education and the influences to which they are subjected throughout their life, by which, in general, the adherence of women and men to one category or another occurs. However, not all men have the same attitudes and behaviors defined as masculine, nor do all women lack this type of traits. The same goes for female behaviors.

Thus, in the same way as femininity, we can say that masculinity is a social construction. According to the authors Hardy and Jiménez (2001), the acceptance or rejection of masculinity as a rule that prevails in a society has an important impact on the quality of life of men and women.

What is the difference between sex and gender?

Sex is defined as the organic condition that distinguishes females from males according to their reproductive organ. Thus, according to the authors, people are born with a biological sex and this ends up determining how they will be treated socially by the parents, the family and the community to which they belong, in order to become men and women with socially accepted attributes.

This process varies from one society to another and also according to the historical time in which these people are inserted. On the other hand, gender can be defined as a dynamic category. It is constructed socially and is based on biological sexual differences in the binary genre. However, this category, as dynamic as it is, is modified.

What is masculinity?

According to the dictionary, masculinity is the set of physical, psychic or moral characteristics that are considered proper of the male or of the masculine, in opposition to the feminine. In addition, Barbosa (1998) affirms that masculinity has been sexualized and treated as a synonym of virility. Thus, the sexualization of the word masculinity and its symbolic representations are associated with the phallus and with the behaviors resulting from possessing it and giving evidence of its functioning.

Masculinity would revolve around a key element: power. Being a man means having and exercising power. The power associated with masculinity requires some characteristics: win, command, achieve high goals. Be a “tough guy”, in short.

The construction of masculinity
This is how masculinity is built. To the extent that society characterizes the male as a hard person, who rejects affections, mainly with people of the same sex, it is easy to understand that the adolescent, who already has someone who would like to express feelings of tenderness, begins to have doubts about his masculinity. It is understood that the more demanding the attributes of the male in a society, the more difficult it will be to identify oneself as such.

According to Figueroa (1998) in this type of people who have conflicts with their masculinity, there will almost always also be conflicts and tensions in the face of bisexuality. The male would unconsciously renounce this alternative opting for heterosexuality, on which masculinity is built.

The patriarchal culture teaches men that they do not have to control their sexual impulses. They are, in some way, obliged not to lose opportunities and believe that they should always, or almost always, be sexually satisfied. This is what masculinity is based on. Or rather, masculinities: according to Dr. Benno de Keijzer, one can not speak of a single masculinity, only one way of being a man.

Toxic masculinity

Thus, the term toxic masculinity refers to those aspects of masculinity that are socially destructive. These are misogyny, homophobia, greed and violent domination; and those aspects that are accepted and valued culturally (Kupers, 2001).

The unfortunate masculine tendencies associated with masculinity toxic include extreme competition and greed. The insensitivity or lack of consideration of the experiences and feelings of others, the strong need to dominate and control others, the fear of dependence, the willingness to resort to violence, and the stigmatization and subjugation of women, gays, trans and men who exhibit feminine characteristics.

We know that there is a loving man. The man who is in contact with his “feminine” attributes. There is also the father dedicated to his children. These are non-toxic aspects of masculinities.

For all that, doctors, like Keijzer, highlight concepts such as male risk factor. This doctor considers man as a risk factor in three fields:

  • Risk to women, boys and girls.
  • Towards other men.
  • Risk to yourself

Toxic masculinity is dangerous. Thus, it seems clear the need to establish new models of system in which men, by the fact of being, are not a danger. Keijzer’s doctor points out the need to design and invent spaces where men can step out of the reproduction of an alienated masculinity to revise or discuss it. Ending toxic masculinity is a necessity.