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  • Writer's pictureThales Guidote

Self-Esteem and Toxic Masculinity

First of all, discussing toxic masculinity on the internet, even the mere mention of this term, needs a CERTAIN demographic to dismiss any argument as 'feminist whining', so here's a simple description of what is meant by the term: According to sociologist Michael Flood, “[The term] is often used to refer to the narrow norms, traditions and stereotypes related to 'being manly' that shape the lives of boys and men. These norms include expectations that they should be active, aggressive, tough, daring and dominant.”¹

With this clearly established, the question arises: how does this idea relate to self-esteem?

The most exemplary evidence is simply that this set of behaviors and worldviews negatively affect not only the rest of the population but also the perpetrators (straight and cis males). A very common case is that of a man who has been instructed throughout his life to pursue these ideals: being autonomous, taking risks, being sexually active, being dominant in the workplace. This individual has most likely internalized these lessons and moved on with his life, until at some point, when he was supposed to be rewarded for his masculinity, he is forced to face reality. Their self-sufficiency is, every day, less valued in an economic environment that values ​​'interdependence and interconnectivity'. The exaggerated expression of their sexuality, in the vast majority of cases in a sexist and inappropriate way, is questioned by a society that cares more and more about the condition of women.

At this point, two reactions can happen. He can swear revenge on the 'feminized' and 'left-wing militant' world, living in a way that expresses all his 'masculinity', as if this were an affront to the forces that try to destroy him. Another, and more sensible, reaction is to question what he was told.² The first, concluding that the world wants his extinction, lives every moment on the defensive, always paranoid, appealing more to those already restricted ideals, making them reduced to the point of becoming mantras.

Obviously, acting this way brings harm to everything and everyone around him, but also to himself. This is an emotionally unstable person and, because of his convictions, he would NEVER admit it. He needs to follow very strict aesthetic standards; not show too much emotions because it's a 'queer thing', etc. What if he fails again? In reality, what led him to reach this point was not being able to achieve goals, even if they are imaginary and imposed by external forces, he doesn't think so, for him they are true.

Emotionally speaking, what becomes of that person? Using the word self-esteem seems like an understatement. Their entire value comes down to following three or four parameters. Comparing the two examples given above is fundamentally a distinction between being aware of your flaws and denying them completely (in which case they become virtues). The second person goes through a much more personal process that depends exclusively on them.

With that come the familiar pressures to everyone who has ever questioned their truths: "Have I always been wrong?" "how can I change?" “how to deal with being ashamed of yourself?”. Instead of a conclusion, I'll use this space at the end of the text to point out a few things that I think are important: no, toxic masculinity doesn't affect the straight cis man more than other groups. I found it important to write about this perspective because, many times, 'example 1' people find themselves “victimized” by progressive voices, even if they are wrong, it is important to understand their point of view; yes, these examples are hyperbolic for didactic purposes, no ‘example 1’ person is as simple as the one described by me, but this is an Instagram post not an academic thesis.

I want to leave here, too, some subjects that I did not mention, but that are important in the discussion: the 'incel' culture; the insurgency of reactionary policies related to masculinity, such as the “Men's Rights Activists”. ¹ is taken from the text “Toxic masculinity: A primer and commentary” ² Y. Joel Wong, in Peter Hess' article for the publication ‘Popular Science.

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