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Murder by Toxic Masculinity

October 6, 2017

For some strange reason *coughRELIGION/PATRIARCHY/CAPITALISMcough* characteristics which define personalities have long since been assigned to specific genders, and any behaviour which is not perceived to be fitting to the gender a person presents results in them being discriminated against, abused and harassed.

Feminism has long fought against patriarchy but is butting its head against that same glass ceiling which suppresses women when trying to show how it affects men detrimentally, to the point of killing them through suicide and all people through violence.  Strong words, you may think, so let’s see what exactly does define ‘masculinity’ and what effect that has.

masculinity-word-association.Feministing

word cloud care of feministing.com

Men* are supposed to be strong and preferably tall, be imposing or at the very least have a physical presence, unemotional (definitely no crying!), independent, the wage-earner and provider for their (nuclear) family, responsible decision-makers, be courageous, sexually virile if not promiscuous (but only with cisgender women), aggressive, active, logical, rational and disciplined, and to be self-reliant leaders.

There is also nothing within this list which should specifically pertain to a gender and the enactment of those characteristics to the exclusion of and discrimination against those who do not comply to the masculine norm restricts the roles and lives men can live.

Don’t get me wrong, patriarchy benefits men far more than it inhibits them.  Intersectional privilege mean that white able-bodied straight-presenting educated and wealthy men benefit far more than any other class of men.  However, patriarchal enforcement of masculine characteristics is dangerous and deadly.

Men who do not act in the way they are supposed, by seeking a job in a caring profession for example, or by shying away from violence or being victims of domestic or street violence themselves, or by being attracted to same gender partners, or by suffering from mental health problems, or in any way not being the strong, tough, independent ‘real man’, will suffer.  Male suicide is reaching epidemic proportions; it is now one of the top three killers of men. Worldwide, in 2015 men made up two thirds of the suicide figures.  The World Health Organisation has reported that the highest risk group for suicide is young men between 25 and 44, and is the second leading cause of death for all people aged between 15 and 29.  In the UK, men killed themselves at three times the rate of women.  In the Republic of Ireland, the rate is five times higher.

As for violent acts committed against others, one need only look at the reports coming in daily on terrorist acts, acts of domestic violence, and street violence, to see that men commit such crimes at a far higher rate than women; the figures are disproportionate to any claim that gender has nothing to do with it.  We cannot expect men to express aggressive go-getting behaviours and then be shocked when they act out that aggression in negative ways.

Between 1974 and 2016 there were 2,360 suicide terrorist attacks throughout the world committed by men, murdering 21,707 people.  In the same time period there were 221 attacks by women, murdering 2,286 people.

That is only just less ten times the rate of terrorist attack by men than by women.

The discussion about the tragedy toxic masculinity is wreaking on society is becoming increasingly open, and there are places to which men can now go and seek help with mental health issues online** and in person, but still we teach our male-presenting children to conform to masculine ideals.  A new-born boy is complimented with being ‘big’, ‘strong’, ‘handsome’ and ‘clever’; his parent’s ‘little man’.  His parents will be told their son will many girl’s hearts when he gets older.  I recommend you have a wander around the gendered clothing and toy aisles in supermarkets and clothing stores to see how differently and restrictively the genders are treated (that gender may not be a binary fact of life is not even conceived of!).  By the time the child is ready for school, he will already be exhibiting the gendered characteristics that were not showing when a baby.  They will have been socialised into him and he will already in a gender box (albeit a far bigger one than his sister).

This boxing of the male gender is killing them and it is killing us.  Characteristics are simply that, characteristics.  That we have decided they belong to a penis or a vagina, to an XY or an XX chromosome, is utterly ridiculous and would be laughable if it wasn’t so damaging.

We need to stop assigning men and women specific characteristics according to gender.  Characteristics are simply ways of being a person, and we are all a bundle of different characteristics.  There is no such thing as a characteristic which is only exhibited by one gender; that simply does not exist.

Toxic masculinity needs to end; it’s killing us all.

* as defined by presenting in society as of the male sex and inclusive of cisgender and transgender identities.

** UK – https://www.thecalmzone.net/

http://tasc-uk.org/male-suicide/

https://ex.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health

USA – the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255

http://www.spsamerica.org/considering-suicide

Worldwide

Phone app – HOW TO HELP PEOPLE http://www.suicidepreventionapp.com/about

In many countries – http://www.befrienders.org/

gender-fluidity

There is no gender characteristic binary except that which we impose.

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