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Brull: We need a new masculinity

A women holding a sign that reads "toxic masculinity" inside a drawing of a gun
A person holds a sign that reads “toxic masculinity.” Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Social norms and structures shape our reality far beyond our individual realization. Some hurt us more than others. Toxic masculinity is such a norm, and its grasp is far-reaching and catastrophic.

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Notably, toxic masculinity hurts women in several ways, including socialized misogyny, objectification, sexual harassment and much more. While these are all prevalent issues today and require the utmost care and attention, toxic masculinity isn’t something that only affects women — it also impacts men, as they struggle with drastic internalized effects.

If we are to address the problem, we must first define its boundaries. The New York Times relays the definition of toxic masculinity as “behaviors and beliefs that include the following: suppressing emotions or masking distress, maintaining an appearance of hardness, (and) violence as an indicator of power (think: ‘tough guy’ behavior).”

Such a personality works for characters in a Hollywood Western movie, but they only live in a fantasy world where a will to survive, an iron on a hip and the writer’s heavy hand are required. The real world features unknown turns, challenges and mental strife.

Fortunately, we (by which I mean men) can make a difference. We can consciously decide which social norms we accept and which we reject.”

A survey conducted between 2010 and 2013 from the National Center for Health Statistics indicated that 9% of American men experienced daily feelings of depression or anxiety, but less than half of those spoke to a mental health professional about such feelings. It should then come as no surprise that there is a shockingly high rate of male suicide in the United States.

The average suicide rate for women in 2018 was 6.2 deaths per 100,000 individuals. The average for men was about 3.7 times greater at 22.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Such a high suicide rate actually makes it the most frequent, nonaccidental cause of death in men under the age of 35. 

Then why do men commit suicide at a disproportionate rate compared to women? There are several theories, but the most prevalent, supported by the American Psychological Association (APA), is quite simple: Men don’t go to therapy.

Why is this the case? The APA posits society demands men follow the “Marlboro man ideal — tough, independent and unemotional.”

In short, society demands men adhere to toxic masculinity, and it’s killing us. Still, we routinely fail to address and mend the problem.

Kindness begets kindness, and acceptance begets acceptance. It’s time for men to reach to each other rather than to their own bootstraps.”

Combining Centers for Disease Control suicide rate projections (22.8 suicides per 100,000 individuals in the standard population) with current U.S. population estimates (~330,000,000 individuals), we can predict roughly 75,000 men commit suicide a year. Our current societal response is to shrug our shoulders and say, “Real men don’t cry.” 

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I have two words in response: F*ck. That.

We shouldn’t die for an archaic ideal nor should we condemn our children to suffer its social consequences. 

Fortunately, we (by which I mean men) can make a difference. We can consciously decide which social norms we accept and which we reject. We can challenge ourselves and our friends to create space for male vulnerability and empathy. We can seek to resolve conflict instead of bottling it up.

We cannot, however, be satisfied with improving only our own condition. Toxic masculinity is learned, not inherited. Boys learn from men in their lives how to be a man both socially and personally. Should we act on what we preach and share it with our contemporaries, the world might finally rid itself of this cruel stigma for good.

Kindness begets kindness, and acceptance begets acceptance. It’s time for men to reach to each other rather than to their own bootstraps.

The issue is apparent, and the solution is simple. Let’s make a new masculinity and a better world.

Paul Brull can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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About the Contributor
Paul Brull, Cannabis Director
In 2020, Paul Brull joined The Rocky Mountain Collegian as an opinion writer, and he continues to fool the paper into letting him stay around. During the spring of 2021, he worked as an editor for the opinion desk before leaving for Scotland to study abroad for a year. During that time, he wrote for The Saint, the student newspaper at the University of St. Andrews, before returning to Colorado State University as the cannabis desk director. Realistically, Brull knows very little about cannabis or the culture surrounding it but hopes to learn quite a bit in the coming year. Among other responsibilities, he will be responsible for content planning, editing writer contributions and producing content on cannabis policy. He hopes to help in the effort to destigmatize cannabis and its use by focusing the desk on exposure to culture, information and current cannabis policy in the state of Colorado. Brull is currently a student at Colorado State studying political science and philosophy. He hopes in the future to find gainful employment and eventual work-life balance. Current career interests of his include outdoor education and political science academia.

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