Lets Talk About Toxic Masculinity


For many years, the definition of how much of a man you are was dependent on how much physical and emotional toughness you had. Many of these traits have been taught through societal norms and have been passed down by generations and have left many young men being taught these unhealthy expectations for what being a man entails. The definition of this unhealthy behavior is called toxic masculinity and is a term that has been more widespread in the past few years and has divided many. This term is defined by aggressive forms of masculinity wherein men use dominance, violence, and control to assert their power and superiority. 

Toxic masculinity appears in many different forms; two of the most popular are a way of exhibiting violence and sexism toward women. 

Though it has become a hot topic, it has also become a controversial one which has led to quite a number of debates on whether the term is legitimate. One argument is that the term is nothing but a threat of manhood in its entity, while others argue that toxic masculinity is not an overreaction and is true and a threat to equality and safety for other genders.

When it comes to toxic masculinity I have seen and heard it all. I can’t recall the exact number of times I have heard people tell young boys to “man up” when they’re sad and justify abusive and inappropriate behavior with the phrase “boys will be boys” but I’ll ballpark it around 1,294.

One experience that sticks out to me is when I was at a summer program back when I was in high school and I had one of my first real experiences with toxic masculinity. Previous to this moment, it is something I experienced in low doses, like interaction with your in-laws. Many of those experiences were annoying young boys who wouldn’t stop bothering me while I studied, gawking at girls who wore crop tops or shorts and making sexual comments about women during lunchtime. 

However, when I was in Hunter College’s Liberty Partnership Program back in the summer of 2015, I spend the entire month in a half program dodging verbal and sexual abuse from a group of dumb young boys who were in the same program as me.

At first, I didn’t think anything significant of it, just another group of dumb boys who’ve probably never had a girlfriend in their life and thought they had a chance with me. However, as time went on I realized that it was more than just young boys taunting me, but the lack of help that the mentors of the programs failed to give to me when I needed it. 

I was rarely alone with any of them (as I practically hated them) so it wasn’t like I was most of this occurred behind closed doors. Most of it happened while the mentors were looking right at us. For nearly two months, I dealt with these boys making unwanted sexual advances to me, “playfully” pushing and joking at me as I walked alongside them and constantly looking over my shoulders while they followed close behind me. 

After a month of worrying, I knew that I had two choices. Quit the program or go to my mentors and tell them the already obvious things that were happening to me. Not wanting to leave the only friends I had that I had made in the program, I decided the second option was the best. What was their response? We have talked to them already, but don’t take any of it to heart…. Boys will be boys. It felt like a huge slap, especially when you consider that I was in the midst of puberty and a changing body. It was the first time I got any real guy attention and I didn’t want it to be like that.

The elimination of toxic masculinity is essential to gender equality and the safety of not only women but all sexes. For years, it is something that was not discussed or condoned. Bruising off abusive and sexually inappropriate behavior from men exhibiting these behaviors is one of the many things that is holding us back from living in a loving and caring world. While it might seem like a pipe dream, my hope is that I never have to come across another 15-year-old girl who is experiencing abusive behavior from young boys as I did.