‘Masculinity Isn’t Toxic; Masculinity is Marvellous’

A quick viewing of this short clip may get resounding agreement that: i) third-wave feminism is all about demolishing patriarchy and ii) its ironic end-product of metaphorical in utero destruction of femininity. Also, it is easy to agree with her that masculinity at its core is not toxic and worth celebrating. However, this statement dismisses the existence of acts of toxic masculinity, some being even institutionalised and going against the natural human order of feeling. But that is a topic for another day. We will instead examine gender and then later explore the toxic effects surrounding mandating them (this has to be done way before discussing toxic masculinity).

As we have explored through Cameron and Kulick’s “Language and Sexuality” (2003), gender is a non-natural, more socialised take on the more scientifically-rooted view from biological sex. Arguably unstable and unclear, genders differ geo-culturally within different societies impinging different binaries for the male and female dichotomy. This usually involves the assignment of traits, social standings and activities befitting that of the scripts society expects of each gender. This distribution process is deeply embedded even in state or religious institutions and ideologies, preserving the social and moral frameworks they produce. These are further entrenched, sanctioning conformity through social mores and folkways.

Genders are coerced and prescribed from birth based on anatomical and physiognomic differences of genitalia. However, such opinions, neglect the psychological aspects of gender; that the performatives of the child also contribute to this gender. Biological essentialists may, in place, argue the irrefutable nurture defence that children learn (not just language) and mould their attitudes through keen observation of their environment (including scripted interactions). Furthermore, such interactions may include power play instances and their outward appearance / behaviours of their society’s men and women. This rings well with Simon de Beauvoir’s legendary quote of “one not (being) born, but rather becomes a woman… it is civilisation as a whole that produces (something)… described (as) feminine”. With the distinctions so ingrained, deviance of any sort from societal prescriptions of gender would be socially disadvantageous for the child and have them constantly struggling against these inconspicuous metaphorical currents. Further complications of the looming possibility of punishment and the stigmas surrounding it might completely drown them out to being outcasted and have psychological ramifications from not fitting in. This is the inception of gender-based toxicity.

Such gender-based toxicity can find its root in usually benign patriarchy through its socially highly valued traits despite insisting on the poorly-conceived notion of equality of the sexes. This foregrounds any further equality of genders to be based on sex, repressing other gender representations. Additionally, privilege is bequeathed onto masculine traits, favouring them over feminine ones. This adds to the inferiority-complex of the feminine (including the effeminised men) that they are inferior and should submit to the more masculine performances by both sexes. Such instances can even creep into other life aspects outside of the social including career in terms of opportunities and progress. Improper valorisation of masculinity makes favourable for hypermasculine tendencies. This begets prejudice and discrimination of not just sex and gender but of ethnicity and social standings (through his wealth and assets). Matters are made worse with the trivialisation of this issue through the widespread posts online, some sarcastic others parodies of the dissociation of gender from biological imperatives; see “apache helicopter” as a representation of gender. These poorly conceived attempts of debasing the spectrum of genders in favour of the binary proliferates the misguided notions of alternative genders as being jokes and are attention-seeking tendencies. The advancement of technology and increasing internet penetration rates spread this idea like wildfire.

A woman (biologically) claiming to be a gay man should theoretically be accepted especially if she identifies exclusively as a male and adopting the stereotypical attributes and traits befitting the mould of “man”, no?

Additionally, imposing compulsory genders means corrupted autonomy and subjectivity extending beyond gender and creeping into sexual selfhood. Though extreme, this disrupts the normal functioning of the affected due to increased stressors, when compounded could very well be hampering economic growth and productivity, one of society’s main goals.

As an aside, this article discusses gender politics surrounding eating in Indian cultures: Men are to be the first to eat, followed by children and then women. For women, it is also “usually after the rest of the family had finished its meal”. This then begs the question, how is this hierarchy disrupted when (Adult) Hijras (India’s Third Gender) are factored in? This renounces and rejects the age-old binary approach to gender and makes way for fluid, unyielding definitions. Despite the human ”tendency” to organise and categorise, some things are best left unrestricted so that we are free from compartmentalising and corresponding traits to genders. Moreover, these traits are more often observable characteristics and physiognomic, unreflective of a person’s interior and therefore entirety.


Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and sexuality. New York, United States of America: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved March 1, 2018