Kimmel describes the American manhood as being afraid of other men, and I couldn’t agree more. The fact that boys are taught from young ages to never be the weaker one just shows them there’s shame in being unmanly. Kids will fight to see who’s the sissy of the group and then shame that participant. Being one of the strongest also brings a sense of power. If the child cries, he’s a sissy. If the child runs back to his father crying, then he might also receive criticism from his father who was also raised with the same set of negative rules. It’s no surprise there’s always negative effects on the adult that stems from that childhood and no surprise that these rules continue on. Why would a father want his son to be such a sissy; wouldn’t he want him to toughen up and be a man. In adolescence, our peers will become the greatest influence to us and these same peers become “gender police”. Boys will be scared of being unmasked as feminine. A norm will be set down as to what’s tolerable and what’s not, and whatever doesn’t follow the norm will be judged. Arguably, the only way to fix the problem would be to rip out the roots of the problem: get rid of the imposition of these negative rules upon children.
Another root of the problem is simply the political system we live in and face every day. The patriarchy basically insists that men be the more dominant sex and basically overshadow women in many ways. It then gives this power to dominate “over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence” (Hooks 1) These ideas of dominance actually stem deeper than we think. For example, there’s the idea that God gave men the innate power to rule over women. The women should follow, not question. “They were taught that God was male. These teachings were reinforced in every institution they encountered– schools, courthouses, clubs, sport arenas, as well as churches. Embracing patriarchal thinking, like everyone else around them, they taught it to their children because it seemed like a “natural” way to organize life” (Hooks 1). If we just use a little bit more critical thinking and just reassess how much we want the patriarchy to be part of our lives, then maybe we wouldn’t have toxic masculinity.
Let’s face it, it took a while before homosexuality was accepted, but why is that? “Homophobia is the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do. not measure up, that we are not real men. We are afraid to let other men see that fear” (Kimmel 147). This is important to know as homophobia goes hand in hand with sexism. As a society, we have built very strict, sets of negative rules men must follow in order to be men. This always leads to an exaggeration of all the traditional rules of masculinity. If you open up about your feelings too much, it’s gay. If you take care of your appearances too much, you’re gay. If you don’t act sexual with women, you’re gay.”Our efforts to maintain a manly front cover everything we do. What we wear. How we talk. How we walk. What we eat. Every mannerism, every movement contains a coded gender language” (Kimmel 148). And with this thought process there’s always a fear of humiliation that forces men to stick to their gender roles and follow them almost blindly. It’s almost scary to know we’ve intertwined sexuality and gender, and it’s scarier that it won’t be untangled very easily even if it’s something necessary.
On another note, Kimmel points out that “manhood is equated with power—over women, over other men”(Kimmel 149) . Which explains why violence is the most evident marker of manhood according to Kimmel. Men are taught that they must be willing to fight or rather desire to fight. We’ve all heard that he must protect the family, therefore he should fight. However, power comes in all shapes and forms. It can also be seen through jobs and higher positions. It’s about a drive for domination, power and conquest. Once again, fear plays a factor. The more power, the more fear arises within the man. He’s scared of losing what he has. He’s scared of not being manly enough to keep his position. This is something we can work on: “Feminism as a set of theories both explains women’s fear of men and empowers women to confront it both publicly and privately” (Kimmel 149). So not only should men be aware of this problem, but women need to also show how much it affects them.