trigger warning: brief mention of suicide statistics

Masculinity vs TOXIC Masculinity

People often mix up the terms masculinity and toxic masculinity. So, what is the main difference between these two terms? 

Masculinity

is a basket of behaviours that has been conventionally associated with men and manhood in our society. These can be both positive and negative. 

Toxic Masculinity

refers to a subset of those traits which are harmful. It is associated with emotional detachment, hyper-competitiveness and used as a shorthand to describe traits linked to domination and power. 

The modifier “toxic” is used to highlight the fact that these traits carry some potentially significant and detrimental outcomes that affect mental health and the relationships at family and societal levels.

Many cases of masculinity are mainly defined in counter to anything culturally associated with the opposite gender. This explains why toxic masculinity is propelled by this immense fear of emasculation, which is the fear of being seen and regarded by others as “feminine” and hence “unmanly”.

Prevalence of Toxic Masculinity in Singapore

In conservative Singapore, which is largely based on traditional values, not many are willing to be open-minded towards new ideas that challenge the stereotypes of gender roles. This results in Singaporean men feeling the strong need to conform to these uninformed societal expectations of male roles and uphold traditional “manly” values from young.

Some examples would include:
  1. Men have to bear the responsibility of being the sole breadwinner of their family
  1. Men must be independent and strong regardless of the hardships they go through
  1. Men should express masculinity by being aggressive, sexually experienced, and demanding. 

 

Despite their unwillingness to conform to such expectations, the majority of Singaporean men still find themselves doing so in fear of receiving criticisms from others in the judgmental society that we live in. Many of them simply “suck it up” because society expects them to just “be a man”. 

"Is Toxic Masculinity really that big of an issue?"

This is very worrying since such suppression of emotions can be unhealthy and cause males to find other ways to express these emotions. Having mental health issues is one of the most common and alarming consequences of toxic masculinity.

According to the statistics provided by the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS),

more than 0 %
of all suicides in 2020 were male

As the majority of these males who endorse dominant ideals of masculinity are afraid of others knowing their mental conditions and only seek help from a very limited range of online sources, they are often unable to receive proper counselling.

Toxic Masculinity ruins interpersonal relationships

Toxic masculinity also ruins interpersonal relationships when men are given more power and females are expected to resign to the idea of “submitting”. Violence comes into play when men exert their dominance and aggression over females as a way to hide their inferiority.

The International Violence Against Women Survey conducted in 2010 stated that

1 in every 10 women in Singapore has experienced lifetime physical violence by a male that was pressured to conform to societal expectations of gender roles.

What further aggravates this situation is when society normalises it with comments like “Boys will be boys” or “Real men don’t cry”.

"What do you mean I exhibit signs of toxic masculinity? Me?"

Toxic masculinity is an issue that should be widely addressed and given attention to since all kinds of men — nerdy, intelligent, charming or witty — can participate in toxic masculinity.

Men usually do not exhibit all behaviours related to toxic masculinity since it is a set of behaviours and not a biological trait. This causes the majority of men to not even realise that they are actually showing signs of toxic masculinity – they are exhibiting toxicity without even realising themselves!

As a result many of them are not even aware of the potential risks that can be posed to the people around them or themselves.

How we can all help

To decrease the occurrence of toxic masculinity, we, as a society need to create an environment where being called “gay” is not considered an insult and realise that men can have the choice of being effeminate without being laughed at.

Men do not have to mask their emotions and put on a tough front just because those are what society expects of them. Every person has the right to show their emotions.

Still unsure of how to improve the situation of toxic masculinity as an individual?

You can first start by getting to know the signs of toxic masculinity and the risks posed to relationships at family and societal levels.

Having open discussions about gender roles is also definitely another great way to raise awareness of this imperative issue!

Serene Lim

Serene Lim

Serene loves connecting with others and enjoys learning new things. She's driven by her thirst for knowledge, opportunities, and challenges.

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Last modified: August 17, 2021