Toxic Masculinity: A Gender-Blind Epidemic
There is a double standard among lesbian and gay men that scorns gay “feminine” men, indirectly condescends women, and their femininity in the process.
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Lesbian women receive nowhere near the same amount of crucifixion their homosexual male counterparts do because of the “masculine” mannerisms they are perceived to possess.
This double standard is prevalent when gay men, particularly feminine ones, are criticized for going against ‘a man’s natural instinct to love women,’ in addition to being or having the perception of being feminine.
That’s not to say women who express their masculine sides do not receive criticism, but they do receive less than “feminine” males.
Lesbian women – who are often stereotyped as masculine – get less criticism from a male-dominated society than their male counterparts because of this perception and their shared love interest in women.
With that being said, because of men’s association with masculinity, they are often deemed the dominant and capable gender, whereas women are deemed inferior because of their association with femininity.
This subliminally communicates society’s belief that femininity hinders one from achieving things a man can, and why feminine women are seen as not being capable of such and forces them to portray “masculine” attributes in areas where it is seen as necessary by society.
Therefore, when women imitate men, they are more likely to succeed depending on the circumstance, which is why masculine women succeed in some areas that feminine women and men don’t.
In some instances, straight and lesbian women assert their dominance by wearing perceived masculine fashion.
To Jack Halberstam, a Gender Studies professor, and director of The Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California, they “wear pantsuits or leather jackets to confirm the role of dominance and power in their respective industries.”
The move both banishes the “feminine character,” as Halberstam calls it, “traditionally known as docile and apathetic,” and to silence men in the workplace who still think masculinity is solely for men.
Halberstam’s example of fashion is itself an elaboration on Stuart Hall’s Low Theory, which claims that “feminine success is always measured by male, heterosexual standards.”
No one bats an eye when women are progressively transforming their wardrobe to mimic men’s. However, when men partake in “feminine” behavior and fashion, they are ridiculed for ‘stooping down’ to fashion and behavior associated with the inferior gender.
This happened back in 2016, when Will Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, was the face of Louis Vuitton womenswear and was ridiculed for wearing a skirt.
Skirts are the ultimate and most traditional symbol of femininity used to represent a group of people — women, who as mentioned, are seen as the weaker gender in many societies.
With that same logic, it also boggles some wealthy people when others of similar means ‘stoop down’ to dress or partake in activities and behavior often associated with the working class.
Because men do have more power, they are often confused as to why other men would want to dress like women, who symbolize weakness.
The more masculine a woman’s demeanor is, the ‘wealthier’ she becomes, but only to an extent compared to men.
Beyond fashion in male-dominated workplaces, another area where a woman’s “masculinity” is rewarded over femininity is in hip hop music.
The rap industry is dominated by males of color and is a place where being a female or gay has yet to be completely welcome despite it being a woman, Sylvia Robinson, who opened the doors to hip-hop.
However, Young M.A., a Black and lesbian rapper known for her 2016 hit “OOOUUU” adopts a demeanor, musical flow, and voice that is very much deemed as masculine, resulting in many males listening to and enjoying her music.
Her masculine persona along with the degradation of women in her music like other male rappers grants her consideration as ‘one of the guys’ and a largely male audience compared to other feminine female rappers.
Although she will never be fully treated with the same respect that a man will be because she is not one, she receives more respect than feminine female rappers and gay male rappers.
Rapper Lil Nas X is an example of an artist being outcast in the rap industry because he is gay. And most recently, after owning that he is a Nicki Minaj fan or a ‘Barb,’ after an initial denial due to fear of ridicule, according to MTV.
Lil Nas explained his hesitation on Twitter that while being a fan of Minaj doesn’t make him gay, “people will assume…and the rap/music industry ain’t exactly built or accepting of gay men yet.”
Moreover, it is a major insult when men are ridiculed and treated as inferior for being perceived as feminine because it subliminally reinforces that women are the inferior gender and their femininity is the cause.
“Like so many gay men, I can remember the limp wrists, mincing walks and camp impressions the straight boys did of me at school – although these can function as insults only if they’re based on an understanding that being female is somehow inferior to being male,” wrote Matt Cain of his experience growing up as a gay man in The Guardian.
Eric Beach, on the other hand, is a masculine gay man and has been able to pass as a straight man as a result of his displayed masculinity.
“Being able to pass for a straight man is another layer of privilege that I have to acknowledge” Beach wrote in a Medium post on the matter.
Furthermore, where there is injustice among just a group of people, there is injustice among all.
When gay “feminine” men are belittled, women are also belittled because they are almost always associated with the same femininity.
Women in general are valued for their appearances and what they can sexually offer men over their intelligence and other characteristics which results in the exploitation and objectification of their bodies and services.
Not only is being a lesbian attractive or appealing to the male gaze as seen in their objectification and sexualization in media such as, again, in music — take PnB Rock’s “I Like Girls” as an example — but it also makes them an object for consumption in many types of media.
“For example, lesbian and/or same-sex female relationships have become increasing sexualized, exploited, and used in the media to target some male fantasies of being involved sexually with two or more women at the same time,” stated psychologists, Dawn M. Szymanski, Lauren B. Moffitt, and Erika R. Carr.
This portrayal in the media leads to their intelligence not being acknowledged and therefore more excusable for their ‘bad’ behavior to be overlooked. In other words, ‘they don’t know any better’ and is possibly a factor as to why their jail time, if any, is less compared to men’s according to Journalist’s Resource.
In a piece for Huffington Post, Trans Rights Advocate, Stefani Dexaeris, ties the acceptance of female ‘bad’ behavior to “female innocence,” which she calls a myth for its misogynist connotations.
“It assumes that women are fragile and inherently less capable than men, and worse; it insinuates that we, and only we, as women, must be “innocent,” meeting a sexist double standard of absolute obedience to what men consider to be acceptable behavior,” she wrote.
This is comparable to when an adult and child both make the same mistake, and the child gets off easier because of their impaired sense of judgment, while the adult gets prosecuted to the fullest extent because they ‘know better.’
The “innocence” assumed of children in cases of ‘bad’ behavior is the same assumed of women — lesbian or straight — when they make a mistake.
The opposite goes for men – gay or straight – because they ‘do know better.’
When a man is gay, they are paid in ‘repercussions’ for ‘knowing better’ than to go against what is perceived as man’s instinct to be attracted to women.
This undermining and objectification of women ultimately divulge how the effects of toxic masculinity are detrimental for everyone.
Men with self-esteem issues are oftentimes threatened by women's power – as showcased more and more in modern day – and therefore, try to condescend them into negative connotations and false narratives. This holds them back from achievements so that men can have all the opportunities and advantages for themselves.
One of the most popular ideas throughout history perpetuated by men about women is “female hysteria” which undermines women’s emotions and thoughts by making them seem like a side effect to a disease. In turn they believed women were not rational or capable beings.
To not be seen in the same light, men in many societies are pressured by other men to be “macho,” emotionally stable, and suppress feelings of vulnerability with an exception of anger.
The constant pressure to always remain strong and shy away from showing certain emotions may actually make men feel inferior within because they do not have the liberty to show those emotions without judgment and without their ‘manhood’ being questioned or invalidated.
Externally, they may display superiority to mask their inner feelings of inferiority, also known as a superiority complex.
A very common outlet of men is to use humor to disguise their sadness and despair, which explains why men are generally considered funnier than women, whereas women generally do not need to use humor to express their feelings because they would never face the same amount of criticism males would.
“Put in another way, there is roughly 60% chance that a randomly selected man will have a better humor-production ability than a randomly selected woman” according to a study by Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
In addition, this provokes men to be other men’s biggest critics.
This is so because they can’t feel certain feelings, at least publicly, without judgment, so they cope by not allowing the next man to do so in peace or free of ridicule.
Toxic male “masculinity” and fragility indirectly teaches men to hate who they really are, creating a silent mental health crisis among males, with gay men being the worst off.
“A big part of the reason people in the LGBT community have more mental health issues is not only because they experience high levels of marginalization from society at large, but also because of the intense pressure to be, look, and act in a masculine way,” psychologist Justin Lehmiller told them.
Toxic “masculinity” stems from the inability to be fully human and be appreciated.
Therefore, they envy that women are encouraged and not judged for being expressive as opposed to their experience and it translates into their treatment of them and of feminine men.
Ultimately, cis straight masculine men may envy the fact that women are expected to be and are accepted for being human while they have to constantly have to mask the chinks in their 'armor.'