Toxic Masculinity: a Disaffected Generation
Masculinity is in crisis, but it’s not what it seems
If the US election has taught us anything, it’s that a bullish debating style and a strongman persona can still get you far in this world.
In 2015, to stare into the future and witness the hot mess of a year 2016 has been would be a pretty shocking experience. Brexit and Trump’s campaign have dominated the headlines and while the former has taught us much about the rot that set into Westminster so long ago, the latter has made evident something that statistically speaking has been fairly obvious for years now. Vast swathes of the male population are utterly utterly lost.
The most startling thing about the past few years has been the meteoric rise of the third wave of feminism, emboldened by social media and tech (we are millennials after all), to the point where the bulk of feminist thought (we’ll ignore the weird fringe bits) is mainstream. While acceptance of the tag ‘feminist’ is still not in the majority, you’d have to search pretty long among our undergraduate body to find men or women who don’t agree in gender equality and hence necessarily in the decline of gender roles (something that’s happened fairly naturally for the past few decades). While some pretty hefty examples of residual gender inequality still exist (none better than the discrepancy between female lawyers and female partners at every city law firm), statistics show that for the gaps are slowly but surely closing.
Fine right? We all happily agree that the worlds probably getting better? Well no, it isn’t that simple. With the gradual loss of gender roles comes another problem, one that generally gets pathetically covered in the ignored lifestyle sections of the daily newpapers. It is the crisis of male identity. While women in general now have a banner to march under, many men are asking themselves what they are for, how they should act and indeed, who they are.
In the past, the male lifestyle was very clear cut: employment, protection and fatherhood. While it’s certainly not a bad thing that the societal roles of men and women are converging to a more even position, evidence suggests many men are getting left behind. Without any real sense of identity, what are they to do?
One option of course is over compensation. A fleetingly small but still significant group of young men feel the need to propagate an intensely puerile and flawed form of masculinity (you might call it toxic), generally characterised with sexual obsession and a caveman like chauvinism, as though society still revolves around ape like competition for the silverback role. While these men are maybe most obvious example, they are certainly not the most populous, nor the most toxic.
Male suicide is so commonplace it has earned itself disease terminology: an epidemic. Rates are on the increase (and have been since 2010) with the problem always put down again to toxic masculinity. A lack of willingness to discuss mental health, a societal pressure to keep a straight face, these are but factors in crisis we currently experience.
It would be easy to apply them to the previously discussed chauvinists, yet they seem to make up a fairly small percentage of young men who give up on life. The bulk lies with the outcasts, the ones who long ago became so utterly nihilistic, so lacking in purpose and identity that they retreated to their bedrooms and hooked themselves up to the steady dopamine drip of the internet. Often, these boys have been failed by the education system, which due to gender based preference for teaching roles favours women, who’ve out performed men in almost every metric of academic performance since the new millennium.
Unemployed, disinterested and full of resent, many attach to the indefinable mass of the so called ‘alt-right’, a loose mass of new found conservatives who’s stand for little of the old principles of right wing ideology (personal responsibility, economic liberality and social morality) but instead base their whole thought process on resentment of the new social media driven equality movements.
The man hating twitter posts of a few extremist feminists are generalised across the entire gender equality movement, reinforcing the images of feminism they’ve already constructed and driving them further from normality. To these young men, Trump is the strongman, someone who can destroy everything they’ve come to hate. The great irony is that Trump represents the ultimate chauvinist, the school bully who they probably used to despise even more than the women they dreamt of and then resented.
As society moves towards near equity for men and women, it’s important that thousands of young men aren’t alienated. Rather than have nothing but scorn for the locker room sexist and the edgy meme poster, consider sympathy, for they really don’t know who they are.