Approaching this subject is perhaps apt during pride month, as most of the abuse that the LGBTQ community receives, unfortunately, comes from straight, white males.
Just so we are clear, I am a straight, white young man.
This group is also the group, I would certainly argue, that struggle the most with toxic masculinity, but I believe that all men in this generation at some point will either come face to face with this issue or will be accused of it.
Firstly, it is perhaps best that we discuss what toxic masculinity actually is.
I would define it as the stereotypes of men wanting to be socially dominant, which leads to many forms of aggression and holding dangerous views about people who are not straight and male. Also, a desire to be self-reliant and repress any emotions. The best example I have found is the unspoken behaviour of men in prison and desire to appear dominant.
There is no denying that this is an issue in modern society. But I think that the solution can be found in a rather unlikely place: Robin Williams.
Arthur Mendelson: How many fingers do you see?
Hunter Patch Adams: Four.
Arthur Mendelson: No no! Look beyond the fingers! Now tell me how many you see.Patch Adams
Patch Adams is perhaps one of my favourite films for many reasons. Robin Williams is at his usual excellent self, powerfully telling the story of a suicidal man who becomes a doctor to treat not only the diseases but the people affected. It is moving and funny, often at the same time.
Robin Williams in character as Patch Adams, entertaining a small child Credit: Newsweek
But how does this relate to Toxic Masculinity? I will concede, Robin Williams is not someone I naturally think of when I think of masculine actors, or even just men in general. Jason Statham or Michael B. Jordan are far more likely to come to mind. They are the heroes of the stories, the powerful action man that every guy wants to be.
But, the reality is, as a group, men are more like Robin Williams. For some, myself included, that sounds great, for others it might be very undermining to be thought of as the Genie in Aladdin.
Unfortunately, Robin Williams committed suicide on August 11th 2014. He suffered from a disease called Lewy Body Disease, which affected his biological mental health and it is this that both his widow and medical experts attribute his suicide to.
Here is a man, a loving husband and father, with a hugely successful career, who lost his battle with his demons. Here is a man who made millions laugh, and will continue to make generations laugh through his art.
And yet, he was never happy and he relied on substance abuse throughout his career to simply survive.
While this is a rather bleak outlook, my point is simple. Most men would rather fake perfection, than admit that they are struggling.
Be it as simple as carrying something heavy, most men will push out their chests like they are Mr Olympia and strut forward.
As men, if we cannot even admit to ourselves when we are struggling, when we are down or even when we need help, how can we expect ourselves to be good role models for the next generation? How can we be apart of the discussion surrounding toxic masculinity if the majority of us all do it without realising?
Like Arthur Mendelson says, we need to look beyond the superficial issue of toxic masculinity and look at the deeper issues present. Are you a good role model to those that look up to you? And who are your role models?
The answer to both of these questions, I believe will make a small, but significant impact on this issue.
To get to the top of the mountain that we are climbing when we are discussing this issue, to examine and try and fix it, we have to take it step by step. Daily decisions will have major impacts down the line.
This issue, whilst heavily being on men to fix ourselves, we are going to need our better halves, our girlfriends, our boyfriends, our friends, our mates, our families, even strangers in the street.
Being a man is complex and we don’t make it any easier on ourselves. But it is within our power to fix this issue, as both a group and a wider community. All it takes is one text, one phone call, and you can make someone’s day. Or even stop them from doing something they will really regret.
You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.
Featured Image Credit: The Conversation