OPINION: Masculine Misconceptions: Toxicity and Insecurity

Scott Rainey

If you spend any amount of time on the internet, you’ll find there is someone, somewhere, pointing out examples of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity became somewhat of a buzzword because it was never really defined, only used as a tool to show how men shouldn’t act.

The concept is very real, but it’s often misused. Kelly O’Donnell, an NBC News White House correspondent, said in a tweet Kanye West felt the “Make America Great Again” hat gave him power. The responses to the tweet frequently mentioned toxic masculinity; not the correct conclusion to draw from Kanye’s words and actions.

Kanye was exhibiting insecurity about his masculinity, not toxic masculinity. The concepts are a little different.

True; “toxic” masculinity is the presumption of certain rules men have to follow in order to be considered “men,” and then imposing those rules onto other men to keep them in their place. This includes concepts such as the suppression of emotion, using homosexuality as an insult, fighting when feeling disrespected, insults to get others to “toughen up,” and assuming certain hierarchies by jockeying for position as the leader or alpha of a group.

This is quite common among groups of men, and it doesn’t actually give them the power, sense of camaraderie or the support they desire. The constant stress of having to appear masculine to your group of friends means you’ll suppress parts of yourself that are vitally important, such as emotions, concerns and fears.

Even if you want to express your desire to be something bigger and better than you are, having toxic masculine friends can tear you down. They will do whatever they need to do to make sure you don’t because they see it as a threat.

Insecurity about masculinity comes from within. Kanye essentially said he feels powerless around a feminine family without some sort of external symbol of what he considers masculine. He’s uncomfortable in a feminine environment, and he’s aware enough to know he can’t handle that energy without some form of support.

If your only way of showing your masculinity is through something external (such as a big, red hat), then it becomes apparent you are easily shakable, and you can’t handle the pressure of these environments on your own. This kind of insecurity can come from immature masculine ideas, sure, but it’s important to note the difference because, then, it becomes easier to identify and unravel.

We need to also understand that insecurity itself is not a bad thing. Everyone has their insecurities, and it’s OK to have them. Many men feel insecure about their masculinity, and they deal with that in different ways. Some will do it in healthier ways than others, but insecurity about their identity will certainly affect them to some degree. If we can identify and understand our insecurities, then we can work to give them less power over us.

Kanye’s understanding of masculinity comes from insecurity about his own masculinity. Without proper masculine role models, men often get a warped sense of what it means to be masculine, why it’s important and how their friend groups affect and influence these ideas.

Finding proper role models and friend groups can help alleviate the pressure many men feel to form a proper sense of identity and masculinity.

Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].