Everyone should read this powerful thread on toxic masculinity

Man with head in hands
James Aitchison

With a short series of tweets, one particularly astute Twitter user has laid bare the destructive effects of toxic masculinity.

The writer, who goes by the username @absurdistwords was responding to 15-year-old Twitter celebrity Brent Conner. Conner had tweeted the following:

In response, @absurdistwords expanded on the issue and laid out his thoughts on the nature of toxic masculinity. The thread, which is worth reading in its entirety, offers up one of the most elegant definitions of the issue and highlights the ways in which toxic masculinity damages society as a whole.

Men without emotional tools

In particular, he points out the way in which constrictive gender roles feminises certain universal human emotions and experiences. We live in a culture where toxic masculinity makes men unable to express emotions beyond anger for fear of being seen as weak and feminine. As a result, we instil in young boys the idea that certain emotional responses are somehow not acceptable for men to express. By doing this, we deny them the ability to ask for help when they’re in pain:

This affects men and women

The writer is also careful to not minimise the female victims of toxic masculinity and patriarchal structures. Neither does he advocate for the de-feminising of emotions. Instead, he argues that men need to access and accept the full range of emotions and experiences. We should support men who suffer as a result of impossible gender expectations while at the same time strive for gender equality:

An incubator for hate

The thread perfectly sums up the negative effects toxic masculinity and patriarchy have on the emotional health of men and women. It also issues a dire warning on how men silenced by these self-destructive tendencies can be easily prayed upon by men-rights activists (MRAs):

The Red Pill and other MRA groups twist the real consequences of toxic masculinity into a worldview that perpetuates existing misogyny. Instead of questioning the validity of traditional gender roles, MRAs further entrench them. These groups elevate men who embrace the more destructive characteristics of perceived masculinity. Meanwhile, less aggressive men are shoved to the bottom of the social hierarchy. Women, in particular, and those who do not fit into idealised gender roles are treated with contempt or outright hatred.

These movements, and toxic masculinity in general, are fuelling the rise in far-right extremism as well as violent mass-murders and shootings.

This, as one respondent to the original poster put it, is the dehumanising effect of toxic masculinity:

It’s not too late

In response to @absurdistwords’ thread some expressed their amazement at the writer’s ability to perfectly sum up the issue:

Others drew parallels with their own experiences dealing with destructive masculinity:

Toxic masculinity is detrimental to women and it also negatively affects the mental health of men – in certain cases, it can have deadly consequences. Roughly three-quarters of suicide victims in the UK are male and there’s strong evidence to suggest that toxic masculinity is a primary driver of this behaviour. In order to break this cycle, we need to strive for a more diverse concept of masculinity.

Get Involved!

– If you’re dealing with a mental health crisis, you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 for free, 24 hours a day.

Support @absurdistwords’ Patreon.

– Support these progressive men’s health organizations like CALM, Grassroots Suicide Prevention, SurvivorsUK, Great Men, Working with Men, The Good Men Project, and the Mankind Project.

Featured image via Gerd Altmann/Wikimedia

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James Aitchison