This past week in class we have been discussing The effects of toxic masculinity when it comes to raising boys. for me as a girl I have seen toxic masculinity because I have a little brother and a father who was raised in a very different time from my own. While the term can be used as a catch-all I want to see how the black community has interpreted this ideology. I want to explore where this belief system comes from and how black men today are trying to fix a problem that destroys everything it touches.
Before we get started, let’s start with defining the term first. According to Dictionary.com Toxic Masculinity is “a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health”. I prefer this definition to all the others because it includes the consequence of the ideology. The term itself was created in the 1980s as an answer to second-wave feminism by the mythopoetic Mens’ movement (McCombs,1991). While we have begun to explore this term regarding all men I feel that black men have may have an experience that is heartbreaking than most.
As James Baldwin exclaimed in his essay “Here Be Dragons,“* our society’s concept of manhood lives off the ideals that gave birth to the mythology of “cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys, punks and studs, tough guys and softies, butch and faggot, black and white.” We see this in the sayings that we use such as “little man” and “fembois”, a derogatory term for men with feminine characteristics. Because of the emotional damage inflicted by toxic masculinity many men find themselves emotionally closed off and self-destructive. How has this affected the black community? The CDC published a report stating that 67% of African-American children are born out of wedlock and live in a single-parent home. With rapper Future and Actor Nick Cannon purposely having children with multiple women that they have no plans to commit to, this supports the normative behavior imposed by toxic masculinity that a man is judged by his sexual conquests. We could take this conversation further I could show the lines connecting toxic masculinity to rape culture but that is a completely different blog post by itself. If you would like to read it, this paper by Dr. Malin Wikström is a great read.
So where does this leave black men today? Let me say this first, It is not the responsibility of black women to eradicate toxic masculinity from the black community. While women can support and enforce positive ideals in their children the men of today must take lessons from black women in starting the road of self-improvement. Whether it be through therapy, self-help books, or meeting with a spiritual leader, men must Confront their vulnerabilities and learn to accept themselves as human, and erase the harmful practices that have plagued this Ideal of masculinity for far too long.
*Here be Dragons was originally titled, “Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood”
Baldwin, J. (n.d.). Here Be Dragons . Chandler Unified School District . Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.cusd80.com/cms/lib6/AZ01001175/Centricity/Domain/1073/Full%20Text%20Here-be-Dragons-James-Baldwin.pdf.
Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Toxic masculinity definition & meaning. Dictionary.com. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/toxic-masculinity.
Martin, J. A., Hamilton , B. E., Ventura, S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., Wilson, E. C., & Mathews, T. J. (2012, August 28). Births: Final Data for 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf.
McCombs, P. (1991, February 3). Men’s movement stalks the Wild Side. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 10, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1991/02/03/mens-movement-stalks-the-wild-side/83d3e85f-1384-484c-8e43-c4e30e1229f4/?utm_term=.61fcdd5dd11f.