Column: There is a solution to toxic masculinity

In order to change toxic masculinity we must understand what it is.

Rachel Schnelle is freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life for The Maneater.

Toxic masculinity at MU is most pertinent during fraternal drinking games and sporting events. Seeing toxic masculinity happen at these events made me realize how pertinent the topic is. While this is an important issue, the true definition of toxic masculinity has become skewed. If we want to change the way this topic is seen, there needs to be a clarification on what toxic masculinity is.

Toxic masculinity, by definition, is the salient feature of masculinity with the use of violent practices, like physical violence. While these two words are often used together, not all masculinity can be toxic.

At a young age, some boys are taught that in order to be masculine you have to be tough, mean and never show fear or sadness. This can snowball into high school and college, where men think that they have to prove their masculinity.

This can include a wide variety of actions. From more public actions, such as cat-calling, to minor things like refusing to watch “chick-flicks” with their girlfriends entirely because it’s not categorical of men. Most guys prefer to watch the movie “Captain America” over “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” I’ve had men say to me that they wouldn’t do something remotely effeminate because “they’re a dude.”

While being masculine and manly is perfectly fine, it can become problematic. Some men can feel trapped as to how they should express their emotion. If men feel afraid to hug their best friend, show some form of physical emotion or deal with conflict without violence, then it can become toxic.

From 1982 to 2018, there have been a total of 104 mass shootings in America. Of that statistic, a shocking 100 were committed by men, whereas three were committed by women and only one was committed by both men and women.

Looking at this statistic someone might think: why is there such a disparity between men and women who commit mass shootings?

Some of the deadliest shootings have been committed by men that felt the need to prove their masculinity and were often made fun of for their so-called femininity.

One example of this is the Sante Fe high school shooting of last year. On May 19, 2018 Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire on a total of 10 people, killing nine. While Pagourtzis shot the victims with a .38 revolver, authorities also found explosive devices such as pipe bombs and pressure cookers near the school. The suspect later admitted to sparing the people he liked because he wanted his story told.

Research and society have proven that when masculinity becomes toxic it can have potentially lethal effects. Teaching boys that masculinity often correlates with violence can leave the less masculine boys feeling trapped and lost. The words toxic masculinity have become skewed and have become a form of an insult to men. Not all masculinity is toxic and not all masculinity is problematic.

We as a society need to start talking about toxic masculinity by acknowledging that there is more than one way to be secure in yourself. We also need to teach boys at a young age that they have the freedom to express their gender in any way that they want. If we want to reduce the act of toxic masculinity we need to teach men that in order to be manly, they need to be kind, respectful and nonviolent.

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