The Misuse of Masculinity : Beyond the Terminology
There are very few words in today’s vernacular that have caused as much pain and confusion as the word masculinity.
Justin Baldoni, actor and author of Man Enough, along with thousands of historians, psychologists, and experts has explored this topic and deconstructed the response that society has when it hears the word ‘masculine’.
Growing up With the Weight of Masculinity
There are very few people in the world who grew up without the weight of gender-enforcing terms like femininity and masculinity weighing on them.
However, the term itself carries no weight.
According to NDI, “The term ‘masculinity’ refers to the roles, behaviors, and attributes that are considered appropriate for boys and men in a given society.” The National Democratic Institute describes the different attributes and definitions that masculinity has taken on throughout the years.
The word masculine is not toxic. Toxicity occurs when people bring out boxes and tell individuals that their gender, sexuality, soul, and self can only fit into one box, depending on whether they’re masculine or feminine.
What happens when people begin to realize they are more than these boxes?
The Binary Nature of Masculinity
In today’s beautiful society, most people know that masculinity and femininity alone do not make a man, woman, trans, or non-binary person.
When asked about the last time they didn’t feel ‘enough’ ALOK responds, “When you are a non-binary person in this country, at this time, there’s an imposter syndrome for being alive because people don’t think that we should exist…. I have to remind myself, not only am I enough, but the very system that has and weaponizes criteria that would rather disappear me, that’s not a system that I’ll ever let evaluate me again.”
This society wrongly places the mantle of masculinity on men’s shoulders and femininity on women’s, then neglects the non-binary and anyone who might not accept this gender-confirming and constraining system.
Certain masculine traits include leadership, strength, and courage, while feminine traits center around emotional intelligence, compassion, and care. But these traits are not binary. Healthy individuals ought to have a mixture of all these traits.
Children Versus Masculinity
For as long as Baldoni can remember, he was told what kind of a man he should be when he grew up. He thought that being ‘man enough’ meant rejecting the feminine.
In 2012, ‘Redefining Masculinity’ came out. The article explores the findings from Willaim Seymour, Ph.D., Wis. Ramel L. Smith, Ph.D., and Hector Torres, PsyD as they attempt to redefine American masculinity.
One of their findings was, “American society socializes boys and men to conform to a definition of masculinity that emphasizes toughness, stoicism, acquisitiveness, and self-reliance.”
When a society that has no business defining and empowering a term allows it to dictate what an entire gender should look and act like, the muddled result often comes out in the form of aggressive, emotionally stunted men who don’t understand who or what they are.
Torres explains that society’s current definition of masculinity is limited. To be a male is to be masculine, and not much else. Perhaps explanations and details are too feminine.
When men receive a script of actions and reactions, but no emotions and dialogue, they miss half the plot. Torres explains, “By having a limited scope of coping mechanisms, we go very quickly to explosion and aggression.”
Where Do We Go From Here?
In today’s culture, many people shudder to use the word ‘masculinity.’ It’s become a taboo word that often leads to thoughts of violence, constraintment, hostility, venom, and toxicity.
Although the word causes trauma, misidentification, and pain, it’s not the word’s fault. But there is a reason why so many brilliant minds have redefined and undefined it.
Baldoni explains that men do not need to stop being men, they need balance. He says, “The only way things will change is if we take a real honest look at the scripts passed down... from generation to generation and the roles that, as men, we choose to take on in our everyday lives.”
If being masculine is to be brave, be brave in your vulnerability. If masculinity is about being tough, then toughen up when others try to tell you you’re not enough of a ‘man’ when you’re being vulnerable and embracing the feminine side of yourself instead of shunning and shaming it.
In order to be a good person and a well-rounded individual, we would argue that you need to embrace both the masculine and the feminine sides of yourself. A real man knows it’s okay to cry, but also doesn’t need to resort to violence to express emotions. Knowing that blindly and strictly following society’s expectations of our behaviours is not healthy is the path towards not only being man enough but being human enough.