At the forefront of the feminist movement is the demand for gender equality for women, however, feminism has become not just a movement aimed at giving women social and political autonomy but also it aims at providing support to men affected by social inequalities as well. Most would wonder why a man needs feminism considering the male gender has been the gender with the most privilege, especially in the African society. In this article, my aim is to address one of many important reasons why and that is, Toxic Masculinity.
Toxic Masculinity is simply an umbrella term for the behaviour that follows from various unsettling approaches to upbringing that are used on a male child.
A clear example of this is the demand that a boy disregards his emotions and replaces feelings that are considered soft with aggression and violence and the consequent disregard a man ends up having for anything he considers to be too emotional. To some, this is not problematic as they believe a man should have dominance over everything including his own feelings. However, this opinion is really flawed for according to psychology, a lack of proper engagement in the appropriate manner with one’s emotions is the number one contributing factor to why individuals develop issues with their mental health.
What people should be taught is not how to dominate their emotions by force but instead how to regulate it over time with practice and support from others.
Not only will this help protect an individual’s mental health but it will also improve their relationships with others. This is one thing feminism wants for men. Feminists, who by the way can be both men and women, demand that society frees the male gender from thinking they have no right to be emotional. We want this for their sake and for the sake of women and children because when aggression becomes the instinct, everyone else feels the effect first. Another problem that is a result of toxic masculinity is a feeling of entitlement. Most boys, especially the ones that grew up with sisters, will be aware of the differences in upbringing once they reached the age of 10. Most boys will remember getting away with doing no chores and spending their days playing or studying while the girls in the house spent their time in the kitchen. And if at all these boys had any chores it was to wash the car or clean their room/the place they played in. This being a stark difference to most girls who often found themselves cleaning practically the rest of the house and being one of those responsible for meals.
Additionally, in most family homes, even if the mom and dad went to work for more or less the same period of time and even if they both contribute to the family accounts, many boys will attest to the fact that when it came to taking care of them and cooking the meals, the mother was the sole individual responsible. Therefore, realizing this difference in their lifestyle as opposed to the lifestyle of the girls around them as well as realizing the difference in the lifestyle of women have in comparison to men will no doubt create in even the best of boy and men, a feeling of entitlement.
As far as most boys in these situations will be concerned, all they have to do is be a provider or co-provider and the woman in their lives will take care of everything else.
This entitlement is harmful because firstly, it puts pressure on men to be a provider especially in cases where the woman refuses to provide both economically and socially but instead would rather contribute to the family in the latter sense. In addition to the pressure, it puts the household at risk because if the man is the only person contributing significantly to the family accounts, in the event that he loses his job and cannot immediately find another, the family would find themselves in a dire situation. It also affects how the average boy/man will look at the average girl/woman. Most men end up expecting women to go to the heavens and back just because they have money to.
Most men wouldn’t want their women to work putting the family at the risk mentioned above and worse of all, in the most extreme cases most men would come to see women as their property if the men are the only ones providing money for food, shelter and school fees for the children. This entitlement and the consequent effects are what feminists want to be fixed. Feminism wants a society where men do not feel the economic pressures attached to manhood, feminists want to encourage a diversification of family income to prevent risks that come with the loss of a job and proponents of the movement ask that men and women share a more or less equal amount of social duties in the family.
Dismantling the umbrella of toxic masculinity is extremely important to feminists and it is important for reasons that can be attributed to both women and men.
Aggressive and violent behavior is a primary consequence of toxic masculinity and it happens because of the demand on boys to disregard emotions and feeling. Entitlement is a secondary consequence that is born from the realization that society treats men differently from women as well as the desire to maintain the advantage society has given men so long as they can create income for a family unit. These two things must be corrected because they do more harm than good for both men, women, and society in general.
Finally, there is one more consequence of toxic masculinity and it is a result that comes about from the combination of the first two effects. This consequence is Rape Culture.
Rape culture is any socially accepted idea or behavior that contributes to a culture that unwittingly does more to protect rapists than the victims of sexual assault.
These ideas or behaviors put the burden of proof regarding any kind of sexual assault on the victim and as a result, judgment on the rapist can only be passed if the victim fulfills all the conditions for them to actually be considered a victim worth caring about. Toxic masculinity creates and contributes to rape culture because of the entitlement it gives men. Men often do not only feel entitled to a woman who would do all that he likes so long as he has the money, but they also feel entitled to women’s bodies. Due to this fact, an average man often believes that if he has the right clothes, shoes, and car(s), any woman should want him.
As we all know, this is not always the case and some men who especially cannot process rejection or the sadness that follows, do as they were raised to and resolve to aggression and violence. While others who may not be aggressive per se but have a boatload of entitlement on their heads will resolve to harassing a woman or throwing more unwanted advances because they could not wrap their heads around why she would say no in the first place.
It also works the other way around. Young boys or even men have found themselves in positions where they were being sexually harassed or even raped and were unable to process what was happening to them till after. This is because according to the rules of toxic masculinity, boys and men have the ‘power’, so it’s unfathomable that they could even be taken advantage of in such an intimate way. Also, because sexual aggression is usually not always explicitly violent it is hard for one who knows violence and aggression one-dimensionally to grasp its variation when it is being done to them.
This is one of the biggest effects of toxic masculinity that causes feminists to demand that toxic masculinity is erased altogether. Younger men are often subject to abuse by their elders because they are unable to process the abuse, or discuss that they are being abused when they are able to process as much.
This poisons their mental health and makes life extremely difficult for them and it is our job in society to support everyone in any way we can and remove the things that do harm to our people.
African society can be very warm and African people have great potential for empathy, I encourage people to reach out to their male counterparts and help them feel safe enough to engage properly with their emotions and join the movement that aims to protect the equality of all genders from harmful privileges and unfair standards.