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  • Writer's pictureEsther Teidou Ogriki

Toxic Masculinity, Gender Stereotypes, and Their Effects on Society

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

In all honesty, I would say that society is the heart of all problems; including this constant ongoing banter between men and women. Although the problem cannot be traced to an exact beginning, it is easy to say that these societal disputes emerged through the constant need to validate gender stereotypes.


According to the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, gender stereotypes can be described as an overarching assumption or preconception about the traits or qualities that men and women should or should not share and the tasks or roles that men and women should carry out.


Both men and women are limited to the boxes built by society and it can mostly be attributed to the consequence of religious and cultural beliefs. For instance; men are considered weak or feminine when they behave contrary to the roles assigned to their gender while women are considered masculine in the same manner. Gender roles has been a thing and we often hear statements like "Boys will be boys". As stated earlier, this has brought rise to major disputes between men and women in the 21st century. One of the major driving forces of these disputes would be toxic masculinity.


Stereotypical attitudes or actions that are frequently assumed to be exhibited by men are referred to as toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity differs from healthy masculinity and sets unjustified criteria for what it means to be a ‘true man’, based on outmoded ideas and old gender norms. It can also be described as an attitude or a set of societal rules stereotypically associated with manliness.


Just because it involves the words toxic, does not necessarily mean that men are toxic or bad; it simply points out the bad attributes that associate themselves with what it means to be a man or become a man. The movement tells men that they are the heads or leaders of society, dismissing the roles women play; completely limiting and fighting to shut them down.


Some of the attitudes that necessitate toxic masculinity include;

  • A desire for power:

Men are encouraged to exert their authority and power via toxic masculinity. This frequently occurs in domestic partnerships and is often observed in African households where cultural beliefs are more innate than morals. Men are considered the head of the family, hence, everything, including the wife’s gains, belongs to them.


Although the narrative is changing due to women gaining education; the majority of females still suffer from this traditional and cultural mindset. There was a recent story that sparked Tiktok and Twitter where a man, a husband, was hungry and he decided to ask his wife, who was hand-washing his clothes, for food. He killed his wife because she didn't immediately heed his commands for food. Some men supported him saying that it was hunger, and some stated that it was the devil working through him, but whatever reason it may be, he burnt his wife because she was doing something else instead of preparing his food. There was no reason for this.


But this begs the question, why didn’t the devil lead him to the kitchen to make his own meal?


  • Promiscuity:

In contrast to women who have several partners, toxic masculinity applauds males for doing so. Women are often called names such as “slut” or “prostitute” for having relations with multiple men but men are congratulated for it as it expresses their masculinity. This is because society expects women to be innocent, naive, and 'pure' which proves femininity, while the number of women men sleep with determines how manly they are.


  • Refusing to assist with housework:

There are roles that have been assigned to both genders; this means that there are certain ways we are expected to act based on our gender (as I stated earlier while explaining gender stereotypes) and this goes as far as how we’re expected to act, speak, dress, and conduct ourselves.


Traditionally, women are perceived as caretakers, hence, jobs such as nurses, midwives, and teaching amongst others are considered feminine, while occupations that require manpower and thinking such as engineering, doctors, and lawyers are considered masculine.



  • Stoicism:

The notion that expressing emotion is weak and feminine is a fundamental component of toxic masculinity. Males are expected to be both physically and mentally resilient. On the other hand, females that express a certain type of emotion in their workplace are viewed as weak which limits them from accessing higher positions in the workplace. In addition to that, women that are not emotional and are more ‘cutthroat’ when it comes to business, are seen as unattainable and unable to have families. The media portrays such female characters as masculine and oftentimes, those characters end up alone.


  • Violence:

Men are encouraged by toxic masculinity to use aggression and violence to establish their control and masculinity. The “man box” described by Mark Greene explains hegemonic masculinity. In agreement with my earlier explanation, the man box is used as a metaphor to view the limiting nature of the construct. Hence, it is a structure that boys are expected to fit into from an earlier age. The ‘man box’ phenomenon is considered as the emergence of toxic masculinity. According to the study, American males think that men should use violence to gain respect if necessary, which can also lead to gender-based violence (GBV), where the man uses power to exert power over his wife (Equimundo, 2022).


Although toxic masculinity stems from social norms and biases, the roots can also be drawn from the structures of society such as;


  • The Media:

The media portrays males in a certain way, especially as characters that are aggressive, violent, etc, in ways to feed society while using the technique of the ‘male gaze’. The male gaze is basically what men think a woman wants or finds attractive in a man and what they find attractive in a woman. The male gaze is tailored to fit into societal ideologies of what a man and a woman should be. An example of the male gaze would be the number of characters played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and an example of the female gaze is the newest iteration of Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey. The media gives both men and women an idea of what they should be and how they should look and act.


  • Family:

The family is the first form of socialization for a child. Whatever the child is taught in the family he inherently carries it out to society.


  • Education:

There must have been a point in your lives where the teacher comes into the classroom and requests tables and chairs and looks for “four strong boys” while the girls clean the board or run to the teacher’s office to retrieve something or some other errand.


You’re probably thinking ‘but men are biologically stronger than women’, I get that, however, with these few requests from the teacher, they are already structuring the children’s minds to conform to these stereotypical roles.


  • Friends and social groups:

For the sake of not being biased, I would say that both men and women have felt the need to fit in or belong to a group. For the fear of not being accepted or being alone, people find themselves adjusting to the lifestyle of the friends they so desperately want to belong to. Hence, if those friends express toxic masculinity, they would feel pressured to join in.


Toxic Masculinity does more harm than good in society; no one wins. It encourages men to avoid being vulnerable, disregard their own traumas, and act on misogynistic attitudes, which adds to persistent problems like mental health stigma, rape culture, and violence.


Although toxic masculinity isn't the sole factor contributing to these problems, this harms both males and females in such a way that while females feel rejected and unappreciated, the men suffer from mental health issues, loneliness, and anxiety which more often than not leads to early deaths due to fear of looking weak and vulnerable and fear of losing respect from women and their peers. Toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes has negative effects on relationships, romantic and platonic relationships.

DO MORE

Although toxic masculinity is deeply ingrained into society, we as youth can play our part in reducing the costs and effects through:

  1. Social Media: I recommend social media because that’s where people are half the time. We can use our platforms to preach positive messages as well as educate ourselves on the effects of toxic masculinity.

  2. It is important to surround ourselves with people, and friends, that encourage us to be ourselves without judgment and call out those that try to limit us and put us and others in stereotypical positions

  3. Educate Yourself: Like it or not, we all have biases. To learn more about how you can tackle gender stereotypes and in turn pass on your knowledge. Check out our read-more prompts below to learn more!

READ MORE PROMPTS

Aggression, emotional repression, isolation, and shame are traits associated with toxic masculinity, but as they are learned, they can also be unlearned.


WRITTEN BY Esther Teidou Ogriki.

Ogriki Esther Teidou is a reader, writer, artist, and a young feminist who is very passionate about equality and seeks to explore ways, especially through art, to emphasize on the strength of women and a healthy partnership between men and women in order to make positive changes in society. When she's not worrying about the backward mindset of Nigerian society, she spends her time watching Kdramas and enjoying the company of her friends and family.


You can catch her on LinkedIn, and Instagram: @_esther.og and @littleblackartist

EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.

'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development professional passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs.

Want to connect with Zulu?

Follow her on Twitter, and Instagram, or connect with her on Linkedin!

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