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Where have all the good men gone? A letter to men addressing toxic masculinity and healthy masculinity


Dear Fellow Men, 

Toxic masculinity is a problem and needs to be addressed; however, many men are unaware they exercise toxic behaviors and struggle to identify toxic traits they may possess. Men must understand what separates toxic masculinity and healthy masculinity, so we can recognize and address behaviors that are toxic. In doing so, we can begin to resolve toxic male stereotypes and correct these behaviors. 

To become better men parallels any program in which people seek to better themselves—education. By simply denying the presence of toxic masculinity or this behavior being exuded by yourself, you deny yourself the opportunity for betterment. It is not going to be easy, and you will disagree with what you may read but taking the time to read this is a small step forward. 


Let’s start with what is familiar, masculinity—what is it? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is “the fact of being a man; the qualities that are considered to be typical of men.”  In identifying as male, you are innately masculine; simply as perceiving yourself as male grants you a certain degree of masculinity. 

Additionally, however, there are masculine traits, agreed on by society, which is expected of those who identify as male. In Western society, these traits traditionally include “strength, courage, independence, leadership, and assertiveness.” Those who exhibit any or all of these traits are perceived as more masculine than those who do not. 

Toxic Masculinity 

A definition of toxic masculinity could be a collection of aggressive male behaviors that champion radicalized masculine traits. The exact behaviors of toxic masculinity are subjective and are identified by the populous; but in educating yourself, you should be aware of what they are and the harm they can inflict on others. Most common are the suppression of emotion, encouragement of violence, discouragement of seeking help, the perpetuation of rape culture, homophobia, and misogyny. 

There is a common conception that toxic masculinity is a female invention—this is false. In fact, the original concept was first coined by Shepherd Bliss, a man, during the mythopoetic men’s movement of the 1980s. Why did they do this? Well, according to Bustle magazine“what they sought to do at the time was to separate what they perceived as ‘healthy’ masculinity from the negative tropes tied to the term.” In buying into this misconception or worse, having a problem with the claim of it being a female idea, we only hinder ourselves further from betterment. 

Feminization of Masculinity 

The most common argument made against the deconstruction of toxic masculinity is the idea that feminist movements are trying to emasculate us. To emasculate a man, by definition, is to make him “feel that he has lost his male role or qualities.” This would imply that feminism aims to deprive men of their aforementioned traits. This, in the lens of anti-feminists, may inspire ideas of barring men from leadership roles, robbing them of their independence, or, more radically to some, forcing men to wear dresses, makeup, and high heels.  This is simply not the case. 


For the majority, feminists do not seek to shame or emasculate men—they seek equal treatment. Then, their largest obstacle is toxic masculinity as it seeks to oppress and mistreat those who are not privileged cisgender heterosexual males. By helping dissemble toxic masculinity, we are not opening the door to the ‘feminization of our masculinity’ but taking the necessary steps to a new trust in men. However, we have a lot of work to do. 

Healthy Masculinity 

As previously stated, there is no easy fix as the process takes time and determination; but here are some practices to start: 

Communicate. Any problem should always start with communication. Start a dialogue with the men and women in your life; start to identify behaviors you or someone you know perform that can be toxic. 

Awareness. Be aware of those around you and how you interact with them. If you find others express discomfort around you or are intimidated by you that’s a red flag. Also, be aware of red-flag behavior exercised by others. 

Educate. Once you have identified any red flags within yourself and personal behavior—educate yourself. If you see a friend or co-worker exhibiting toxic tendencies—educate them respectfully and immediately. 

Finally, define your own masculinity. Understand what it is that you are proud of and what it is you are not. In beginning these practices and listening to how it is others perceive you; you will become more in tune with the man you presently are and will be able to decide and redefine the man that you want to be. The only person who can decide that is you, but why not choose to be a healthy one—a ‘good man.’ 


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