Toxic masculinity is an American crisis

Let men be emotional


(Judith Gibson-Okunieff)

By Ana Pietrewicz, Collegian Columnist

“Last September, the American Psychological Association determined that there was a connection between ‘negative male socialization and violence.’”

With this quote, fellow Massachusetts Daily Collegian opinion columnist Greg Fournier opens his Jan. 30 article “We need more masculinity in our lives,” which details the perceived problems with a lack of masculinity in American families. Fournier goes on to describe the detriments and disadvantages of single-parent households, as well as insinuate that a former Navy SEAL knows more about masculine psychology than the American Psychological Association. It should be said Fournier is certainly entitled to his opinion, and I am glad he provides a different viewpoint than the one usually presented in the Collegian. However, I am entitled to my opinion as well – and my opinion is that masculinity is a dangerous social construct.

Before you accuse me of hating men, you should understand my issue is not with traditional masculinity as a whole. In fact, I believe traits traditionally associated with masculinity are beneficial in a well-developed individual – for instance; assertiveness, stoicism, courage and strength are all valuable and “traditionally masculine” characteristics. What I take issue with are the implications that in order for a child to be successful, there must be a traditionally masculine influence in their life. Can’t a child who has grown up in a single-parent household learn these traits? Can’t a mother teach her son or daughter to be strong, brave, assertive or stoic?

It is true that most single-parent households are run by mothers. According to the 2016 United States census, of the 11 million families with children under age 18, and no spouse present, 8.5 million are single mothers. It is also true that this may have an effect on the development of children growing up in those homes. However, the argument at hand is that a lack of a specifically masculine presence in a household has dangerous consequences, including, evidently, a correlation with neighborhood crime rates. The study used as a source for this information mentions nothing about the lack of a masculine influence in connection to an increase in violent crime and burglary – it simply connects single parent families to neighborhoods which are more prone to crime.

However, there is a connection between masculinity and dangerous behavior in the psyches of men across the United States. Men are taught to suppress their emotions and be entirely self-reliant, which can potentially lead to increased depression, stress and substance abuse. Men are also less likely than women to seek mental health treatment for depression, substance abuse and general life events – a full two-thirds of mental health outpatient visits were made by women– despite experiencing these problems just as frequently as women.

The effects of masculinity can also be deadly. In 2010, Bushmaster Firearms ran an ad campaign featuring an AR-15 and the words, “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.” Firearms and weapons are associated with masculinity, and this can have devastating effects. According to the FBI, 66 percent of all known homicide offenders were men. In the case of mass shootings with four or more victims, nearly all of the perpetrators were men. Guns are marketed toward men and are made out to be one of the ultimate tools of masculinity. What results is dangerous weapons in the hands of people who think they know how to use them.

There is a crisis involving masculinity in the United States, but it is not the one Fournier describes in his article. Men in the United States face a crisis of identity within themselves – suffering silently with their problems and feeling like it’s not “manly” to seek professional counseling. Rather than teaching men to suppress their feelings, we should teach our men that it is okay to reach out for help when they need it, in regard to mental health and in life in general. We should teach our men empathy and compassion rather than forcing them to develop a tough-guy attitude. It is okay to have traditionally “feminine” traits, in fact, it makes for a more mature and emotionally well-rounded person. Instead of placing the blame for whatever the gripe may be on single parents or on “lack of a masculine influence,” we should take charge and raise a new generation to break the constructs they have been raised to believe in. Let women be assertive, and let men be emotional, for their own sakes.


Ana Pietrewicz is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]