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We Have Toxic Masculinity All Wrong

Written by: Paul Spinella, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

As we enter 2022, the need for self-work and self-love has never been more necessary, more messy, and more uncertain. The last few years have proven to be a constant reminder of my need for safety, security, and connection, as they have all been absent at one point or another. I consider those my core needs. They also happen to be the same needs (themes) I frequently write about because I believe many of us seek them. I think the human experience requires those needs to co-exist in harmony within ourselves and toward each other. I also believe we can resort to extraordinary measures to obtain these needs—measures which see we exhaust any and every effort possible, even toxic ones.

When seeking out our needs, it’s relatively common to resort to protest behaviors (any action that tries to reestablish connection). These behaviors are often rooted in the blueprints and pre-programming our parents and caregivers modeled for us. Behaviors that become rewarded or shamed (judged/condemned/not allowed to exist). When shame occurs to us at an early age, we can respond by convincing ourselves that what we are feeling isn’t as important as its impact on those around us. So we suppress our emotions, burying them deep inside of ourselves until they come out sideways and explode in moments of toxic anger, judgment, and yes shaming others.


As a nation, we have seen a tremendous amount of division in recent events. Many courageous groups continue to fight for equality and their voice to be heard. They desire to be seen, and most importantly, accepted just as they are. To say we have a lot of work to co-exist is an understatement. But there is beauty within these voices. There is sound reasoning for why they don’t feel safe or connected to the rest of society as a whole. One particular movement that has become a bit lost in the mix of aspiring voices is a matter that plagues an entire gender and even generation. The claim that our men are rooted in toxicity has grown to become a polarizing and socially acceptable term for labeling all men who don’t conform as – Toxic Masculinity.


According to the Oxford Dictionary, the origins of Toxic Masculinity include “a set of attitudes and ways of behaving stereotypically associated with or expected of men, regarded as having a negative impact on men and on society as a whole” (Oxford, 2021). Coincidently there exists no definition for healthy masculinity. I recognize my lens is as a white male, therefore inherently biased, no matter how much I want to believe my awareness for this particular issue is in desperate need of radical change. Biased, or not, I do believe toxic traits are plaguing our society and preventing us from evolving and growing in empathy, acceptance, and inclusion.


Yes, there has never been a greater need to bring together our (inner) masculine and feminine energies (yin and yang) in a healthy and harmonious balance. However, I believe our approach to correcting Toxic Masculinity is preventing us from having that harmony. I think we have Toxic Masculinity all wrong. Now, I’m not condoning or accepting toxic traits. Instead, I want to encourage us to find a way to meet each other where we are and move beyond the need for placing such generalized shame-based titles on each other. Titles can often trigger an individual rather than move them towards healing.


A quick search on Google for “what is toxic masculinity” produces 28 million results. No doubt further validating the significance and relevance of Toxic Masculinity. In contrast, searching for “what is healthy masculinity” yields only 11 million. Worse, when searching for “what causes toxic masculinity,” there are less than 1.5M results.


Some initial thoughts;

  • How can we expect men to behave differently with such a gap in resource?

  • How can we ever move forward when such little research on causation exists?

  • Where have all the good men gone?


I believe we have become so good at pointing out what the problem is that we are causing a deficit and failure in how to effectively and adequately address it. Suppose we continue to paint with a broad stroke this desire to label any deficit of moral behavior that exists within our society from men as toxic. In that case, we may risk contributing to the very core wounding of toxic masculinity, which is inherently rooted in shame. The desire to shame men may create distance, offense, and division. Instead, I believe we must courageously discuss the behaviors we no longer wish to tolerate; we must come together on those differences and needs.


We should be able to talk about these behaviors in a healthy and safe way. We must be able to discuss them. If we make these discussions about the person instead of the problem, we will remain disconnected. I want to suggest that we discuss the core toxic behaviors, not the individual. We must be able to call each other’s behaviors out without shaming one another. We must find a way to meet people where they are, to seek to understand. We must have empathy for why these men are behaving in this manner while gently creating the space and reasoning for change to occur.


While there exists little resource for what healthy masculinity looks like, I want to suggest the following traits:

  • Forgiveness of self and others

  • Kindness and empathy

  • Acceptance of all, even for those who are different in views and ideology

  • Patience and mindfulness

  • Embrace our emotions, all of them. Allow them to exist and learn how to communicate them in a healthy and safe way

  • Love everyone deeply, including ourselves


Our trauma often becomes the lens through which we view the world around us. This world cannot exist without us co-existing. I want us to find a way to harmonize with each other. We have a responsibility to ourselves and the greater society to heal pieces (of ourselves) that no longer serve the greater good. As we enter a new year, I want to encourage the men in this world to find a way to move towards healing, to drop any toxic traits, and recognize that we must change. We owe this to the women in our society and our future generation of boys so they can finally see what a healthy man actually looks and behaves like. Above all, remember to love one another deeply.


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Paul Spinella, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Paul Spinella believes that we all seek security, safety, and connection. After overcoming adverse childhood trauma and unhealthy relationships, including heartbreak and loss, he dove headfirst into his healing journey to rediscover who he truly is. That journey brought increasing wisdom in lessons for finding self-love and self-worth. Today, Paul remains an advocate and student of self-growth and self-development. He pays forward these lessons as a pro-bono coach, writer, and advocate. He enjoys story-telling and sharing topics on healthy and unhealthy relationships and their impact on our overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

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