Social constructions of gender have forced individuals to mirror traits based on their sex and develop them in their daily lives through behavior. Despite the changing roles of men and women in society, gender stereotypes are still present in the media reinforcing traditional roles. Concepts such as toxic masculinity cause harm to society and to men themselves, as cultural norms have been deeply embedded in society promoting hegemonic values.
“Real men don’t cry”. An overused phrase we’ve heard again and again based on presumptions we have of men and how they should act. This simple statement eliminates the ability of men to exhibit vulnerability and sensitivity; automatically forming an image of a macho male who isn’t allowed to show their feelings, otherwise, they will be judged. This may lead to shame and incapability of true self-expression as they will fear that they will not be accepted.
The media plays a vital role in promoting these stereotypes through advertisements, music, films, TV shows etc. Men exposed to such media are influenced because they may believe that their lives should be a reflection of this. For example, certain stereotypes are expected for men through their personality traits (aggressive, self-confident), domestic behaviors (take care of finances), occupations (doctors, engineers), and physical appearance (muscular, strong). Strong messages are reinforced through each of these, having a lasting effect on how men perceive themselves and how others are expected to perceive them.
With individuality rising as a phenomenon, however, society is slowly beginning to get used to fluidity within their ideas and beliefs. Our cultural values have shifted throughout the years, allowing for new ideologies to be built and exhibited, aiming for a society surrounded by freedom of expression. Toxic masculinity may not fully disappear as a concept, but a new pathway of open-mindedness will be adopted as our culture today no longer reflects dominant ideologies of the past.