By Riley Martin
Graphic By Makenna Carey
This month we embark on Women’s History Month, where typically dismissed accomplishments of women and principles of feminism are celebrated. A topic of discussion related to the ideas of feminism includes the idea of toxic masculinity. The Journal of School of Psychology uses the following definition for toxic masculinity: “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence.” (Medical News Today). According to Medical News Today, the societal concept of “manliness” is based on the following: strength, self-sufficiency, dominance, sexual virility and lack of emotion.
A prominent side effect of toxic masculinity is the idea that boys do not believe they are allowed to express how they feel due to fear of the well-known phrase, ‘just man up’. This inevitably has led to a stigma regarding mental health among boys. A 2015 study by the Psychology of Men and Masculinity found that “men who bought into traditional notions of masculinity held more of a negative attitude about seeking mental health services compared to those with more flexible gender attitudes.” (VeryWellMind). Las Lomas is no exception to this unfortunate circumstance as sophomore Meenakshi Srinivasan has noticed first hand, “Most men I have been around don’t know a healthy way to express their feelings. This is probably because they were taught that showing emotions makes you weak and feminine.”
By unlearning this idea of traditional masculinity it will give male students the space to grow from “boys into men who don’t have the ability to express emotions or have empathy for others,” said senior Tyler Gaitan. Junior Arav Mistry agrees that misconceptualized masculinity leads to an environment that enables men to have “more acceptance and compassion for others.” However, Mistry acknowledges the idea of masculinity would need to change before this “acceptance and compassion” can be reached. Regardless of how traditionally “masculine” a male is, senior Tyler Winland believes, “If a guy is a good guy, he treats people with respect, he works hard, treats his family well, does things for his community, takes care of himself and others, that person should be given the same opportunities” as the more traditional “masculine” men.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports, “More than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions can cause damage that echoes inwardly and outwardly.” The extreme consequences of stereotyped, conditioned views of men are in full effect. Those effects, in extreme cases, are portrayed by the staggeringly high men’s suicide rate in the United States. In 2017, a statistic from Statista regarding suicide rates by gender discovered that while female suicide rates were 6.1 per 100,000 resident population in the United States, male suicide rates were a startling 22.4.
In August of 2020, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sent out a survey regarding mental health and suicide prevention. The results indicated that 93% of those who responded believed that suicide can be prevented. Society holds the power to make its contribution to preventative care for men and eliminate the psychologically harmful idea of traditional “masculinity”. Society could attempt to do so by adopting a view similar to junior Eliza Loventhal’s: “Men who don’t have the stereotypically look or interests of other men shouldn’t be viewed, by themselves or society as any less of a man.”