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November, 18th 2020

With International Men’s Day approaching, it is important that we all address the elephant in the room… You can be masculine without being toxic! In this article, we begin to unpick the stitches of this stigmatization, explaining how important it is to ignore stereotypes and to realise that men are in fact human and have feelings just like women. 

Words By Jen McDonald


November 19th is a day that few people know about; a day that usually comes and goes without any fuss or fanfare, yet it should be an occasion that is globally acknowledged and celebrated. It should be a day where we cease talking about men as a common noun and start showing support towards the increasingly common issues they face like mental health and male suicide. Did you know, International Men’s Day falls on the same day every year? It also coincides with Movember, the period when men stop shaving and grow their moustaches to raise money for men’s health. On International Men’s Day, let us celebrate and show some love for all the positive male role models in our lives.


So what does “toxic masculinity” actually mean? It is a term often used to describe the negative aspects of exaggerated masculine traits like being violent, emotionally detached and sexually aggressive. Some people view men who show their emotions as weak and not manly enough. We often hear phrases like “man up” or “only girls cry” if men express sensitivity, a consequence of this inaccurate perception. A report showed that 61% of young men in Britain feel pressured to “man up” because of these gender stereotypes. These views can be damaging to men, leading to higher rates of depression, violence and even suicide. We live in the 21st century, this should not be an issue in modern day society, and yet, it remains prevalent. 


Of course, being a man in itself is not toxic. It is not a biological trait. Rather, it is the behaviour that some men display that may be deemed toxic. Whilst this is by no means a reflection of all men, there are some out there who can be physically violent, who objectify women and who are bullies in the workplace, actions which should never be condoned. We need to treat men as individuals rather than tarnishing all men with the same brush based on narrow-minded stereotypes. Let us set positive examples and actively work on dissolving this prejudice.

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Suicide is one of the biggest male killers. There are many reasons why men may wish to end their lives, and we must learn to recognise these triggers so that we can work to prevent them. Additionally, understanding exactly who is at risk can help us reduce these numbers drastically. Excessive masculinity has been linked to a significantly increased risk of suicide in men, with men in the UK being three times more likely to take their own lives than women. According to the World Health Organization, there are a staggering 800,000 suicides every year. Currently, the highest suicide rate in the UK is in men aged 45 to 49, suggesting that older men are more likely than younger men to take their lives. There is a great deal of pressure on men to appear strong in society but this needs to change. We need to let men know that it is okay to talk about their struggles and difficulties, that it is not weak to show emotions. In fact, the opposite stands true. It takes courage to talk about and share one’s emotions. No one should suffer in silence and be made to feel that they cannot confide in others.

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Thankfully, this toxic problem is completely resolvable. We can start with how we raise our children; stop using phrases like “boys will be boys” when children fight or misbehave. Change begins by recognising that we must break away from such stereotypical attitudes. Instead, we must raise the next generation in a safe, non judgemental environment where no one feels pressured to be anyone but themselves. Men need to learn to be at one with their emotions and be able to talk openly and freely. 


When International Men’s Day comes round this year, let us all unite and appreciate the positive men in our lives. So how can we celebrate it? We can all remind the men in our lives that they are loved and valued. Writing a note of appreciation or cooking a meal is a sure way to put a smile on their face. If you are looking for ways to spread awareness, why not donate to registered charities supporting men’s mental health, or post on social media to spread the word?