The new masculinity movement is, fundamentally, a movement that seeks to identify, and strip away, the toxic vestiges of traditional conceptions of masculinity. Seven key topics and areas of discussion around this movement include male anger and aggression, rape culture, collective socialization, occupational masculinity, progressive masculinity, patriarchy, and men's mental health. Below, we have provided a brief overview of each of these topics, followed by an explanation of our research methodology.
Male Anger and Aggression
- The activists and groups that populate the new masculinity movement often begin their efforts to defuse toxic masculinity by attempting to curb "anger and aggression;" while the movement encompasses much more, this is frequently an important first step.
- University of Akron professor emeritus of psychology Ronald F. Levant explains that from an early age, "boys are encouraged to push down any emotion other than anger," meaning that anger and aggression often mask other emotions in those afflicted with toxic masculinity.
- In many cases, this acceptance — and even expectation — of anger and aggression in lieu of any other emotion leads men to commit violent acts.
- To break down this cornerstone of toxic masculinity, new masculinity activists are helping men learn about "being in touch with [their] emotions and not being afraid to be vulnerable," thereby subverting the traditional proclivity toward anger.
- The new masculinity movement is seeking to shed light on how traditional, toxic masculinity supports and fuels rape culture. Rape culture is defined as "an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture...perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety."
- Traditional conceptions of masculinity can fuel this state of affairs directly — for example, a recent study found that those who adhere to traditional notions of masculinity are less likely to report cases of rape. Similarly, men afflicted with toxic masculinity are likely to ignore the fact that sex without consent is rape.
- However, the connection between traditional masculinity and rape culture is often more insidious, and new masculinity groups seek to show men how, even if they are not rapists themselves, "they might be part of a larger system of inequality that makes sexual assault a rampant problem."
- Groups like Men Can Stop Rape, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, and ReThink, among others, are elements of the new masculinity movement attempting to bring this issue to light.
- Collective socialization refers to the often-subtle process of creating norms through language and actions. In the context of traditional norms around masculinity, one minor example of this is the use of the term "man of the house" to suggest that men are, by default, the primary authority figures in a household.
- The new masculinity group A Call to Men calls the traditional norms around masculinity created via this process of collective socialization "The Man Box." It is a concept that intersects with all others in this area, as The Man Box consists of norms that deter men from showing emotions (besides anger), lead them to consciously or subconsciously perpetuate rape culture, and result in their exhibiting all the other deleterious hallmarks of toxic masculinity.
- Fundamentally, the collective socialization around the traditional masculine ideal — A Call to Men's "The Man Box" — teaches that "men and boys don’t ask for, offer or accept help...[and] always act like [they] have everything under control." This immutable insistence on stoicism, toughness, and self-reliance can be damaging not only to men's mental health, but to the health and safety of everyone in their lives.
- New masculinity activists utilize the concept of 'occupational masculinity' to describe how the negative features of toxic masculinity function in the workplace, making work environments more uncomfortable for, and damaging the career prospects of, women or men who do not conform to traditional male norms — or even making the workplace more physically dangerous.
- A common example of occupational masculinity is exhibited by bouncers who "use aggression and physical dominance to keep the peace in bars and clubs," an approach that "has been shown to increase violence between bouncers and clientele."
- Similarly, sexual harassment and assault perpetrated in the workplace by men — Harvey Weinstein is the most prominent example among many — are examples of occupational masculinity, though new masculinity advocates also seek to shed light on how traditional norms around masculinity often lead men to be "silent about the men who do behave that way," even if they aren't committing the acts themselves.
- While women often bear the brunt of occupational masculinity's damaging effects, studies have shown that men, too, can face challenges as a result of traditional masculine norms in the workplace, particularly when they do not embody those norms themselves.
- Progressive masculinity is a concept put forth by new masculinity groups that is juxtaposed with toxic masculinity, and seeks to exhibit all the qualities it lacks.
- In particular, progressive masculinity is, to a large degree, about breaking out of "The Man Box," by "being in touch with your emotions and not being afraid to be vulnerable."
- Progressive masculinity calls upon men to discard the collective socialization that has constructed traditional male ideals, and all the linguistic vestiges that constitute it, such as "take it like a man."
- The concept of a patriarchy long precedes the new masculinity movement, and, like 'toxic masculinity,' it has become politically fraught and is rejected by many. Men's group attendee Nelson Melina articulates this rejection as such: "I don't subscribe to this idea that we live in a system of victims and oppressors. There are different games that can be played in life, you have advantages in some, you have disadvantages in others."
- The new masculinity movement seeks to demonstrate that patriarchy can manifest itself in ways subtler and more insidious than what many people picture when they hear the term. For example, author V. Shraya explains that she felt obligated "to reveal a single traumatic event" in her book I'm Afraid of Men, but in reality "patriarchal oppression goes beyond single acts" and manifests in a persistent, "ever-present danger."
- Like rape culture, patriarchy is not only about actions themselves, but about the cultural biases and collective socialization that makes those actions possible. Ultimately, like toxic masculinity, patriarchy can be deleterious to women and men alike.
Men's Mental Health and Loneliness
- While the new masculinity movement often focuses on the harmful effects of toxic masculinity vis-à-vis women, it also highlights how traditional masculine norms have wreaked havoc on the state of men's mental health.
- New masculinity advocates highlight how toxic masculinity and the collectively-socialized traditional male ideal propagates depression, anxiety, and, ultimately, skyrocketing rates of suicide among men.
- Similarly, members of the new masculinity movement point to traditional conceptions of masculinity, with their pressure on men to remain emotionally isolated and stoic in the face of pain or sadness, ultimately fuels rising feelings of loneliness amongst men, in turn fueling many of toxic masculinity's harmful effects like prevalent anger and aggression.
Your research team employed the following strategy:
To determine key topics and areas of discussion around the 'new masculinity' movement, we first conducted an extensive review of various source material related to this movement. Our research in this regard encompassed three main types of source material: media reports on the movement, of which there have been many in the past year; academic literature relating to the movement and its primary beliefs; and materials provided by organizations within the movement. After reviewing a range of sources on this topic, we selected seven topics and areas of discussion that appear to be foundational in this area. We then examined additional sources to provide increased information and context around each individual topic and area of discussion.