There has been a lot of talk about toxic masculinity, misogyny and radicalisation of men and boys in the media lately, but what does it all mean?
You might have noticed a recent increase in the use of phrases such as “toxic masculinity”, “misogyny” and “radicalisation” on social media, TV, and in newspapers and magazines. Men and young males are very much in the media spotlight at the moment due to growing concerns around these issues, but what exactly does each phrase mean? Let’s look at each of them in turn and break this down…
Since early childhood, many males are taught that boys should be tough and that they should never show weakness or cry when they’re hurt or upset. There is a societal idea of what boys and men should be and how they should act, and this can be extremely damaging to men’s mental health, and often to others.
Boys who are taught to ‘man up’ and just ‘get on with things’ grow up to be men who bottle things up inside and find it difficult to communicate or to ask for help when they’re struggling. This can cause an individual to spiral into depression, anxiety and/or stress, which can often lead them to turn to drugs or alcohol. Tragically, some will feel unable to cope, unable to reach out, and will lose their lives to suicide. CALM, a mental health charity, reports that 75% of all UK suicides are male.
Toxic masculinity isn’t just dangerous for the individual – it can also be dangerous to others, especially women. Because toxic masculinity encourages extreme ‘masculine’ traits such as dominance and aggression, it can also breed extremely negative behaviours such as physical and sexual abuse and violence.
That’s why it’s so important to change the narrative around men’s mental health and to drop these harmful stereotypes of a what a man ‘should’ be. We need to normalise men speaking up about their mental health and promote positive language and behaviours from an early age to make sure young boys grow up knowing that men have feelings too and that it’s OK to cry.
Misogyny is the name given to a dislike, contempt or hatred of women, usually, but not always, by men. Toxic masculinity can breed misogyny, as we have just learned. Misogyny can be subtle or obvious and can vary in scale – it can range from sexist behaviours, words and actions to aggression and violence towards women. Misogynistic males tend to consider themselves superior to women and will often degrade them, either with words or physical action or abuse. Some signs of misogynistic behaviour include:
- Harassing or catcalling women
- Believing in strong gender roles – e.g., a women’s place is in the home
- Disregarding or ignoring women’s voices and ideas
- Favouring men at the expense of women
- Blaming women for almost everything
- Punishing women who speak up against sexism and misogyny
- Putting women down in public
- Demanding or withholding sex with an aim to control a woman
Misogyny fuels harmful attitudes and dangerous, sometimes deadly, violence towards women. By learning to identify misogynistic behaviours, we can help to keep ourselves, and others, safe. If you, or someone you know, is a victim of misogynistic abuse, please reach out for help and always report it to the police if you are fearful for your safety – misogyny can be reported as a hate crime.
When we talk about radicalisation in relation to toxic masculinity and misogyny, we’re talking about the increase in people with extremist masculine views who are targeting young men, usually online. Some influencers and content creators are actively promoting the ethos of toxic masculinity and radicalising young men into adopting misogynistic views. They promote the views that men are superior to women and that aggression and violence are integral parts of being an ‘alpha male’. These harmful attitudes feed and strengthen toxic masculinity across the world and can lead many young men towards violent extremism.
COMBATTING TOXIC MASCULINITY
There is no one solution to the problem of toxic masculinity but we can all do our bit to help stop harmful stereotypes and stigmas. Men have feelings too, and we can all speak out against messaging and behaviours that reinforce the ‘man up’ mentality. Together, we can work to promote healthy messages about the importance of men talking about mental health to make it easier for them to seek help when they need it.
If you’d like to learn more about men’s mental health, click here.