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Time to banish toxic masculinity

Our annual report on children's well-being shows an increase in the number of boys worried about how they should look. Is toxic masculinity to blame? 

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what is toxic masculinity

Good looks get likes

Toxic masculinity has been around for centuries. It puts pressure on men to think they need to have a strong physique, hide their emotions, and act in an aggressively dominant way.

It’s seen in advertising, pop culture, and now toxic imagery is more accessible to young people through social media. Anyone can post anything and anyone can comment. Young men are constantly confronted by toxic male culture and images of what it is to 'be a man'.

toxic masculinity blog

Masculinity in the media

Love Island, the most watched programme on TV amongst 16-24-year-olds, has been criticised for openly promoting toxic masculinity. The men on the show are athletic, good-looking and competitive. The women are slim, beautiful and referred to as 'difficult' if they show signs of anger or annoyance.

The pressure they put on themselves for more popularity is higher than any older generation’s experience.

Toxic masculinity is not just harmful to boys. Conformity to toxic masculine behaviour such as dominance and aggression is harmful to our society as a whole. This desire for superiority challenges women's basic human rights and can be linked to the prevalence of harassment and sexual assaults.

toxic masculinity in the media

The best a man can be?

More needs to be done to address toxic masculinity in the media. We are moving away from the silent, window-washing Coca Cola hunks of the 90s but there's still a way to go.

And there are also steps that can be taken at an individual level. Parents and teachers need to prioritise dispelling these dated views of ‘hypermasculinity’.

Young boys need to be taught that communicating their feelings should not be frowned upon, treating women with respect is essential and the notion of a ‘perfect physique’ is not real.

boy blowing petals out of palm

being positive about gender

Andrew, a 21-year-old student, says ‘we can all do more to be more positive, inclusive and attainable in setting out what it means to be a young person moving into adulthood.' 

By dealing with toxic masculinity, we are challenging 'gender norms' that make young people feel bad about themselves. Growing up should be a time of exploration and expression. Not a time to fit into a predesigned gender-specific box. 

So rather than defining toxic masculinity, pointing out toxic male traits or discussing whether all masculinity is bad, let's banish it altogether. So children can grow up and be who they want to be, unfazed by outdated gender stereotypes. Time to banish toxic masculinity. 

you have to love yourself