How pop culture influences toxic masculinity

By Natalie Ciociola
December 8, 2020

Toxic masculinity is a concept that has existed for many years. However, in recent years, we see more of a discussion taking place on what effect both pop culture and social media have on toxic masculinity.

According to Medical News Today, toxic masculinity is defined as “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence.”

Toxic masculinity is a broad term and can be used to describe things men do and say that they may even be unconscious of.

Some examples we see of toxic masculinity are the inability to be vulnerable, overpowering women with dominance and refraining from therapy when needed. “Men are often shamed for showing emotions, which causes them to bottle it up and pretend to act tough to not show their weaknesses,” Taylor Simon, senior from West Virginia University, said. “This has become normalized because what people see on social media will unconsciously affect their day-to-day lives and impact how they act or express their feelings.”

The Fire Will Run
A man yelling. Photo by: Almond Butterscotch

Toxic masculinity can be detrimental to a man’s well-being. The suppression of emotions and feelings and beliefs what of what a man “should” be often begins the manifestation of toxic masculinity within themselves. “Men have a hard time talking about their feelings because they think it is ‘girlish’ especially regarding being sad or depressed,” Paige Klocko, senior at Temple University said. “So, instead, they end up self-sabotaging when they should actually be addressing the issues because they think that is the ‘manly’ way to handle it.”

selbstinszinierung durch fremdbestimmung
A man crying. Photo by: Der Bobbel

We see a lot of toxic masculinity more specifically in TV and movies as well as rap music.

In a typical TV sitcom, the dad is typical portrayed as the “alpha-male,” the dominant figure of the house and often, misogynistic. For example, character Joe Goldberg from “You” is an embodiment of toxic masculinity because he is a sociopathic stalker who manipulates his victims into loving him and revolving their lives around him, often making the women drop everything and everyone they love for Joe.

Arguably one of the biggest influences, especially on young men, regarding toxic masculinity is rap music, as described in the Daily Trojan. A lot of rap music is notoriously known for degrading and objectifying women, encouraging homophobic behavior, promoting drug and alcohol abuse as ways of coping and violence towards both women and other men.

Some of the modern and popular rappers that demonstrate toxic masculinity through their music are Tyler the Creator, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Migos, and more. Tyler the Creator has written countless songs about his homophobic slurs, misogynistic feelings and promotes senseless violence.

However, among the rappers who exhibits toxic masculinity, there are some that have actively worked to dismantle it. Young Thug and the late Mac Miller are great examples for this but both for very different reasons.

Rapper Young Thug defies the stereotypes of modern day rappers by going against gender norms. He is often shown wearing skirts and dress as well as wearing bright-colored nail polish. Despite the backlash he has received from fellow rappers, he continues to express himself as he wants.

Mac Miller, on the other hand, dismantles toxic masculinity in two ways: being open about his emotional struggles and by preaching about respect for women and to love women. In his album “Swimming,” he is very transparent in his raps that explain his experience with depression and drug abuse due to mental illness struggles.

Another Mac Miller album, “The Divine Feminine,” is essentially an entire album dedicated to his love, respect and appreciation for women.

So, while toxic masculinity is a prominent issue in modern pop culture, there are major figures also working to address and tackle the issue.

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Natalie Ciociola

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