Medusa is one of the most memorable characters in Greek mythology. She was a demon with a head full of snakes and a look that, even from her severed head, would turn whomever saw it into stone. But before this, Medusa was a rape victim. According to one myth, Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden. She was violated in a temple by Poseidon, the god of the seas. This violation marked her transformation into the popularly known snake-haired character. So, the next time you think of the phrase, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” spare a thought for Medusa, for this horrific creature was borne out of a society of patriarchs—a classic example of toxic masculinity.
An article in the New York Times describes toxic masculinity as what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotions openly. The American Psychological Association has since released guidelines for psychologists working with boys and men socialized to conform to traditional masculinity ideology. The Association says this pattern of belief may deter men and boys from exploring what it means to be male. The APA warns against these “cultural lessons” that have raised a generation of males to be aggressive, to fight, to fail to accept wrongs committed or transgressions pointed out. Psychologist Dr Ellen Hendriksen further illustrated this culture is like a box: it’s narrow, rigid, and men have to contort themselves to fit inside it. Unfortunately, it’s the women and children in those men’s lives who face the brunt of this anger. That ideology leads to abuse.
Understanding the Difference
Wetman. Swordsman. Player. Dan. All these are the words associated with men of loose morals who enjoy the company of multiple female partners. Now think of the words and phrases women have been called either for making a mistake, for putting their faith in the wrong person, for wanting or just simply enjoying the physical act of “relations.”
Hoe. Slut. A duttiness. “She loose.”
Hurtful. Demoralizing. In a simple word? Toxic. The very existence of toxic masculinity is a societal plague.
Bridging the Gap
Forgive me if I sound like I’m “mansplaining.” And I apologize in advance for those who have been covered in the sludge of an unhealthy relationship because of a toxic man. There is no way I can relate to the pain a woman and a faithful partner endures. And many in this world should marvel at the strength she has displayed and the hurdles she has unquestionably overcome to reach this point in life. There’s no excuse for violence against women or children, especially in the house. A home is supposed to be an environment of love, laughter, and positivity, with plans being laid for growth and the future.
Society frowns upon the man being emotional and sharing his feelings. And the facets of society that promote this toxic way of thinking is broad: race, religion, culture, sexuality, and class. Society, even in this day, shuns the modern “job equality” trends: men shouldn’t be nurses or full-time househusbands. An article in TIME Magazine points to a paradigm shift. Researchers found that between 1976 and 2009, the percentage of households with stay-at-home dads increased steadily. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2012 that 189,000 married men with children under the age of 18 identified themselves as stay-at-home fathers. Another report found 2 million U.S. fathers with children under age 18 still at home were not working outside the home.
The numbers show there is hope, in this sense. With gender equality, gender parity, and both sexes on an even keel in their respective relationships, toxic masculinity could go from angry, green, smashing HULK to the mild-mannered, intelligent, and caring Bruce Banner.
Tips to End Toxic Masculinity
Men, this is for you. Women, this is for you to try with your men. Medical News Today advises on a personal level that toxic males need to educate themselves. They must define what masculinity means to them but must be open to other definitions. The warnings must be sounded as this negative behaviour can have serious fallouts: psychological and otherwise for the family unit, for the individual, and of course, the victims. Another key tip is to have open discussions. And it is important that while those discussions are open, comments must be frank and honest, but kind, in an effort to facilitate change.
The lesson in all of this is that we, as men, create the “demons” that we fear the most. Our actions on a daily basis, keep putting a new snake in another Medusa’s head. And the “demon” is not just an angry woman, scorned and in pain. The “demon” is what you made her, through your uncaring actions, through your narrow thinking and beliefs. The “demon” becomes the friends who have deserted you, the children who fear you, and the society that pressured you to be a certain way, to disown you. To be a true man is to take a solid hit on the chin but yet get back up to continue to fight for your code. A good man may be strong, but in control of his emotions, willing to share and seek help when it is needed.