Why Using “Real Men” In Any Context Is Encouraging Toxic Masculinity

By: Omar Hossam

The discussion we’re about to have is a long time coming and it’s about toxic masculinity.

For years, this toxic masculinity has led to boys being taught that they can’t express emotions and can’t open up, having to be aggressive and tough to one another in order to be “real men”. And my fellow men, I feel that there is something that has to be addressed here, and I’m going be the one to deliver; we need to do better. Raising chaos for no good cause, treating other people like they’re worthless, sexually harassing women, and claiming it’s ‘not harassment’ or even showing random acts of aggression isn’t really decent human material.

The concept of being a “real man” that was engraved into our minds is total bullshit, what is a “real man” anyway? It’s occurred to me that the idea of “real man” itself is maybe something we really shouldn’t be using. Phrases like this tend to get into our minds as teens or even adults, believing that becoming “real men” is a goal or an accomplishment. It makes us view this nonexistent and very much purely male attribute as something positive to strive for, which in itself creates an imbalance in how we see gender roles If you identify as a man, then you are a man. Period. Pushing men to be “real men” might be the sole reason this toxicity started in the first place, no matter the context in which it is being used. A person’s identity is not up to society to label and judge. The existence of “real men” is inherently exclusive and oppressive, it gives each group of people the seeming right to dictate how a man should act, think, behave, etc to be socially acceptable.

I have seen friends hurt in silence only because they were taught that “real men” can neither show emotion, nor open up, and that only makes me feel sick to my stomach. Enough talk, let’s actually start taking action to reduce and hopefully wipe this issue out. We need to be having conversations regarding the so-called-ideal of being a “real man” with our parents. Our parents may be stuck in another era of thought, but we need to shed light on the fact that this isn’t okay and that there’s no shame in letting go of past beliefs when we understand how dangerous they are. If you also see friends practicing toxic masculinity in any form, you should have a talk with them too. Don’t just tell them that feeling different emotions and actually acknowledging their existence is okay – and can even in fact be considered modesty – show them it is. If you don’t particularly do this yourself, you might want to start, it’s quite liberating.

Please, if you see anyone trying to be kind, showing sadness, standing up for women’s rights, calling out racist guys trying to be ‘rewsheen’, actually helping a disabled person instead of pitying them, etc. encourage them, empower them, join them even. Being respectful and compassionate is nothing to be applauded guys, they’re basic human decency and human decency knows no gender.

Being a feminist, dismantling the patriarchy – it’s not a war against men, it’s a war against oppression and one for humanity. Dismantling the patriarchy means starting with chucking “real men” and whatever comes with it, right out of the window. “Real men” are whoever they choose to be – so long as they are respectful, compassionate, and understanding of the world around them. Wear whatever you want, act however you like, and be true to yourself – but take down the patriarchy.

Let’s be more human; better to each other, to women, to disabled people, to black people, to people from a class different from yours, to people with different ideologies and religions. It’s about time to brush off all the toxic traits that we’ve uselessly clung on to, there’s a better way now, a more hopeful and liberating road, and we have the chance to take it.

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