Ellie’s Expression: Toxic masculinity affects men’s mental health

A comic book panel shows a young boy (Dan Garret, aka Blue Beetle) being told not to cry after his mother’s death. From page 3 of Blue Beetle #1. Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s get one thing straight: the term “toxic masculinity” doesn’t imply that men are evil, far from that. It simply means that the unfair expectations that society put on boys and men are toxic.

Just like society believes women should be submissive and dainty, men are often told to be tough, physically and emotionally. Now, being tough isn’t inherently a bad thing, but anything that is taken too far can become harmful. This pressure directly impacts the mental health of boys and men.

“Research suggests that socialization practices that teach boys from an early age to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own, yield adult men who are less willing to seek mental health treatment,” a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) stated.

Fewer men seek treatment, like therapy, to avoid looking weak, and as a result of this, studies show that they are “… Four times more likely than women to die of suicide worldwide,” the APA article said.

According to the APA, “Men (are) less likely to be diagnosed with internalizing disorders such as depression, in part because internalizing disorders do not conform to traditional gender role stereotypes about men’s emotionality.”

To many, it may seem that this idea of toxic masculinity is no longer as relevant as it was 10 years ago. More men are wearing makeup, painting their nails and dressing in clothes once deemed feminine.

Even the shaving brand, Gillette, recently put out a commercial that shows men correcting other men’s sexist behaviors. As a society we have made leaps and bounds, but we’re still far from where we need to be.

“I would agree with you that men are starting to become more aware of their emotions and fashion and all that stuff, but I definitely think, especially like you said, we see a lot of gender identity confusion,” AP Psychology teacher Jon Petter said.

“(Stereotypes) don’t allow them to be comfortable being a male and being emotional, which can obviously make you want to mask your identity. This going to create a conflict within yourself: self confidence issues, low self esteem. I see it all the time. Men think they have to be aggressive and athletic,” Petter said.

“The older generation, I think, still adheres to it, so if someone has a very toxic masculine father, that really puts a lot of pressure on them to embody those stereotypes, and they don’t, that is going to create attachment issues, emotional issues, depression, identity issues, perhaps sexual confusion. There are a lot of mental health issues that come up anytime you try to put any child into a box that they aren’t meant to be put in,” Petter said.

See Also: Students struggle with mental health

Eleanor Marshall – Opinion Columnist

This is Eleanor Marshall’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year. She has been recognized for her work by JournalismSTL, MJEAand MIPA.

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