Toxic masculinity has been around or centuries, but since the #metoo movement occurred it has brought this to the forefront…finally.

But there can be misconceptions of what is and what isn’t toxic – it can be downright confusing! What I mean by this is we shouldn’t be lumping everything “masculine” into a bucket and say, “It’s all toxic.” Because that certainly isn’t true.

So what is masculinity?

Being masculine goes back to when people were foragers. Back then men went hunting while women took care of the children. Men were stronger, bigger, more muscular and made to handle the wild. They had strength, toughness, aggression, and courage in order to protect their tribe.

Back then it is what is meant to be a man. But things are different now…

Greg Beyer says, “Masculinity is what it means to be a man — which I think is not such a simple thing.”

Agreed – it’s not simple, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Masculinity has shifted. It’s changed and morphed into something completely different. We are not foraging for food anymore, and gender roles are changing within families. Nowadays, women are taking the more dominant stance on work while men are staying home. So what has masculinity become?

Let’s start with the basic definition. Masculinity is the quality of manliness. This includes habits and traits that society considers to be appropriate for a man.

Ah, there is it – “What society considers to be appropriate for a man”. There’s the gray area. So, is our society considering all that is masculine to be toxic? Maybe.

And here’s where our society needs to dig a little deeper…

In my opinion, masculine men can still have strength, vigor, assertiveness, and toughness…but what makes them non-toxic is that they embrace their tenderness, they can be emotional, they cry, and can have a sense of vulnerability! I know many females that own these traits as well and that doesn’t make them toxic!

Here are a few role-models that embrace the meaning of masculinity, sans the toxic:

The Rock

Photo Credit: Dailymail.co.uk

The Rock is very open about his personal life and talks about his struggles with depression. He’s as manly as a guy can get and isn’t afraid to share it!

He said,“The revelation [is] for us to be okay in embracing [depression]. Especially us as guys, as men. There’s just a DNA, there’s a wiring in us and a constitution that oftentimes doesn’t let us talk about if we’re scared or vulnerable or things like that. It’s kind of like what’s been deemed as ‘toxic masculinity…But no, you’ve got to talk about it.”

Terry Crews

Photo Credit: Rollingout.com

Talk about brave, strong and vulnerable. Terry has been open about his own sexual assault and is taking a stand against toxic masculinity. That I can get behind.

“No man, woman, or child can be treated this way, ever,” he said. 

The Queer-Eye Crew

Photo Credit: Thrillist

These guys are physically fit, very strong, healthy, sexually expressive, and socially confident.” Yep, all masculinity there… but they are also “…empathetic, physically affectionate, emotionally available and vulnerable, supportive, verbally kind and tender in a way that risks something.”

Are you catching the difference?

It is the responsibility of our society to make the SHIFT happen completely. To help boys grow up to be men in the best way possible. Teach them that “boy’s shouldn’t be boys” and “boys can cry”. Emotions are the most dynamic facets of being a human. Boys shouldn’t be taught at a young age that they are wrong for feeling a certain way for fear they will be seen as weak.

We can’t let the world’s toxic men dictate what all men are like or what constitutes a man in general, or a woman for that matter.

The Huffington Post said:“…having fewer limitations on what men and women “should” and “shouldn’t” do is a win for everyone. Because at the end of the day, we’re all just human beings.”