By: Madison Elliott
Toxic masculinity is an old concept that is just being addressed by health officials and psychologists (Focus For Health). It is important to note that toxic masculinity is a cultural construct in which, through gender stereotypes, masculinity may be taken to the extreme and directly attacks those refusing to adhere to behavioral regulation. It is also worth pointing out that the main cause of male violence is not being biologically male, and that violence is not innate in males. It’s socialized violence (Focus For Health). What it is, is society’s way of pressuring men and boys to fit a description that defines them as “masculine”, thus men and boys feel the need to conform to “traditional masculinity ideology”. Toxic masculinity comes from teaching boys that they must hide their emotions and can’t express them openly, they must be “tough” all the time, and that anything that is outside or even slightly strays from this list of values (such as wearing makeup, painting their nails, wearing “feminine” clothing or jewelry, showing emotions, etc.) makes them “feminine” or weak (The New York Times). Being a “feminine” male also does not make a man less of a man; just look at celebrities: Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet, Elton John, Prince, Boy George, etc. One can even argue that being “feminine” means that men are more comfortable in their masculinity for being able to disregard the societal norms labeled for men.
Why is toxic masculinity bad? It creates unhealthy expectations and burdens men and society. A plethora of consequences are at fault of toxic masculinity: male suicide rates, STD rates, sexual assault, etc (Focus For Health). Harmful and serious emotions should be addressed to a professional therapist or psychiatrist, right? Well, toxic masculinity teaches men to suppress their emotions, which also increases the suicide rates in men (Focus For Health). This stereotype that men must be “tough” all the time creates a heavy impact on society. Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. 90% of adult rape victims are female and majority of these rapists are men. This “power through violence” taught through toxic masculinity is the cause of these rapes and even school shootings (Focus for Health). How does this relate to the school system?
Just as I had brought up before, the “power through violence” is taught through the concept that “men are just naturally violent”. This is why violence in men is commonly overlooked and then escalates to the worst imaginable situation. Another concept drilled into children’s heads is how “boys are naturally more sexually driven than girls” which can create the overlook of sexual assaults in the school system, which is in itself appalling and abominable (Womens Republic). While on the subject of sexist injustice in the school system, it’s worthy to mention the sexism and hyper-sexualization of girls in the dress code.
While dress codes may seem or come across as only a regulation of what students can wear deemed as school appropriate it actually does more harm than good. Dress codes specifically restrict “private” and “sexual” parts of the body and primarily in girls. What the dress code does is teaches girls at a young age that they are constantly being sexualized, that the body parts that they must hide should be hidden, are bad, and are important to others, and that they must hide their bodies in order to protect themselves from boys and men who, according to toxic masculinity, are “naturally more sexually driven than girls” and “can’t control themselves”. Dress codes body-shame girls and blame them for sexual harassment where the common misogynist phrase may come up “well what were you wearing?” (Teaching Tolerance). Meanwhile, on the argument that they rigidly control how children express their identities, gender non-conforming and transgender students have often conflicted with such policies. Across the country, transgender students have been sent home, and some have been removed from yearbooks, for wearing clothing different from what is required of their legal sex. Male students were however punished for their fashion choices, using traditionally female accessories that fall within the boundaries of normal dress code regulations, and vice versa. Dress codes establish a discriminatory standard as the norm, excluding members of the LGBTQ + community, destroying girl’s confidence and security, and above all embracing toxic masculinity (The Atlantic).
In Quebec and Montreal, Canada, students have taken a stand against the dress code in the school systems protesting against toxic masculinity and hyper-sexualization of women’s bodies. Boys in College Laval, a private high school, came together to wear skirts to school in consensus with their female peers. At College Laval, the dress code states that the skirts must be worn ten centimeters maximum above the knee, and there are no such clothing restrictions for the male population in this school. A student of the school, Consentino, even states that, “A lot of the teachers say ‘watch out, your skirt is too short, the boys are going to get distracted’,” but “that shouldn’t really be a problem for the girls. It should be more of a problem for the boys”. Consentino spoke out because he knows that the dress code is sexist and discriminatory, it hyper-sexualizes the girl population in the school system, and willingly accepts toxic masculinity (CBC).
It is time to end this sexism and toxic masculinity. It is harmful to both boys and girls and LGBTQ+ members; don’t encourage this behavior, not being a part of the solution is only being a part of the problem.
Boys in College Laval wear skirts to protest toxic masculinity and hyper-sexualization in the dress code of the school system (Photo Courtesy of CBC).