Collegian sports columnist Michelle Fredrickson’s “How sports contribute to toxic masculinity” decries the standard to which men are held to in the world of sports and athleticism. The author is not a man, yet claims to be aware of what it is that men are feeling.
Apparently, today’s American utopia is one in which men are no longer men. Instead, we are expected to be weak, skinny-jean wearing tea-drinkers who are expected to keep their manhood up in a jar sitting on a shelf where it can’t be reached, lest it offend someone. However, there are some of us left that like to punch trees, eat small, fluffy animals and pick up heavy things and put them back down.
She says, “This situation got me thinking about the idea of toxic masculinity, and how the ever-present sports industry tells men what it means to be a man.”
However, entertain the idea, for a moment, that it is the opposite. Instead of sports telling men that they should be strong, fast and physically superior in every way, what if many men naturally feel like that and use sports as an outlet for that feeling?
On top of this, sports are a way for young children to look up to their role models; role models who do, more often than not, stand as amazing paragons and examples of what can be achieved.
Here’s a shocking plot twist: sports are hard. It takes dedication, discipline and determination to succeed in them. Not only does it take immense amounts of physical pain for years if not decades, but also an unbelievable amount of mental dedication to fight through that pain.
We, as humans, have a certain level of physical prowess that we should hold ourselves to. Things like being able to do a pullup or run a mile are the bare minimum that we should be expected to do. Not being able to do that is weakness. And one would be correct in saying masculinity decries weakness.
Keep that point in mind for a second while you consider this: masculinity, in the author’s words, is to be unemotional, strong, muscular and aggressive. A lot of social media users have decried this as being a negative thing, which it can absolutely be sometimes.
But I would counter with this: masculinity, this definition coming from a male, means to speak softly, yet carry a big stick. When a man walks into a room, he should command respect without saying a word. This doesn’t mean always being the biggest guy in the room, and it certainly doesn’t mean being a jerk. However, that man does absolutely need to be a rock. A rock is tough, not easily broken mentally and serves as a place for others to rest when they get weary.
To reach this level of confidence, one must have a tough mind. A tough mind is a surefire way to succeed in living a tough life. Those who can live a tough life will stop at nothing to be successful and will never complain when the chips are down. This is what it means to be masculine, and sports are an excellent way to achieve and exemplify that tough mind.
For me personally, this is extremely personal and extremely poignant. In high school, I was 6 feet tall and 130 pounds. Which, if you can’t figure out the math, is severely underweight. I was bean-pole skinny.
I had the option to sit back and cry about it, saying things like “men are held to unrealistic expectations. Wah wah wah.” However, the only people who say that certain expectations are unrealistic are those who are too scared or lazy to work for them.
After gaining 30 pounds in the weight room, I now train to fight in a cage. This is what gets us to the crux of the issue. Sports aren’t about external achievement. Rather, they are about internal success. Masculinity drives people to be a better, stronger, more confident version of themselves, and sports are a physical exemplification of that drive.
One last thing, at the beginning of this column, I made fun of men that drink tea and wear skinny jeans. The reality is, only boys who drink tea and wear skinny jeans will be offended by that. Masculine men won’t get offended by petty things because they know they can do whatever makes them happy. That’s what inner confidence means. If they want to drink tea and wear skinny jeans they are no less a man than the athletes in the gym.
People don’t worship athletes because they can throw a ball or punch people in the face. They worship them because they are the paragon of drive and determination. The same sentiment is true for overtly masculine men. Masculinity is not toxic; rather, it is the people who feel intimidated by it who feel they need to speak out against it.
Collegian guest sports columnist Taylor Tougaw can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TTougaw