Our Boys are Broken

Society restricts men to a 2-dimensional box which strictly regulates how they can exist in the world. This toxic masculinity destroys men from the moment they are exposed to it and it needs to be addressed early on.


by Lily Hart, Web Editor

Many feminists focus on the issue of toxic masculinity through the lens of sexual harassment and misogyny. These are absolutely effects of this phenomenon and a rampant issue but what we don’t talk enough about is the effect it has men themselves. I’m convinced toxic masculinity needs to be debunked not only because it will solve many resulting issues, but because it’s disastrous for men’s mental health.

Gillette’s “We believe: The Best Men Can Be” ad addressed this in the age of the #MeToo movement. The razor company’s stance caused controversy as they questioned the state of our society where we excuse men’s problematic behavior. For example, they showed a powerful scene of a father breaking up a fight between a group of boys as his son watched it all unfold.

Many responded to the video in outrage and took offense to it, claiming that the company assumed misogyny was a problem among their customers. How could men be opposed to holding each other to a higher standard? The fact that it was controversial only highlights the point they were trying to make.

Men who conform to society’s idea of a strong man are not under fire. Society is under fire for restricting men into this stereotype as the only “real” way to exist in this world as a man. We clearly see that it’s a problem to limit women to dependent, gentle creatures, so why can’t we see how problematic it is to force this idea of manhood on men? Toxic masculinity is destroying boys from the moment they’re exposed to it.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2017, men died by suicide 3.54 times as often as women. Our boys are broken. They are internalizing toxic standards for how they should live, and because of those standards have no way of dealing with real powerful emotions.

Several men in my own life struggle with depression, anxiety or stress disorders. Only one has been able to seek help and open up a dialogue with others about it. This is a problem. Often, mental illnesses require help to overcome but we are telling boys that it shows weakness to talk about it, let alone act on it. Weakness is not synonymous with vulnerability. Invalidating feelings only intensifies the issue and leads to shocking disparities in suicide statistics compared to other demographics.

Combating toxic masculinity early is key to overcoming this compounding issue. Without early intervention, commonplace interpersonal violence is excused by the phrase, “boys will be boys,” and is slowly internalized by young boys. This often manifests later as misogynistic, predatory men who think that this is normal. Naturally, this would cause mental health issues that eat away at them.

It is even less noticed how this affects men in the LGBTQ+ community. If straight, cis men have trouble fitting into society’s box, then trans and gay men have an even harder time, feeling illegimitized from the beginning because they are seen as more feminine. According to an Australian study from 2018, 47 percent of surveyed men believed society told them that gay men are not “real men.” This can be attributed back to the hypermasculinized ideas in relation to superiority over women.

The idea that men aren’t allowed to cry, or express how they really feel is incredibly harmful and unsustainable. We all know that this is unhealthy and can result in anxiety and/or depression, as well as substance abuse according to Time Magazine. And yet, we’re willing to take the risk to uphold traditional ideas of manhood.

The first step in addressing toxic masculinity is to unpack the mental effects. This requires tackling the stigma around open mental health discussions. Once we realize the ramifications of forcing men into this 2-dimensional box we can begin to break down the walls they’re enclosed in.

It takes strength to overcome social pressure but this is my honest plea to men to find it in themselves to be confident enough in their own identity to break out of society’s confines and find a safe and healthy place where they can be their happiest and truest self. Showing emotion and vulnerability doesn’t make you less of a man, it makes you more human.