Toxic masculinity is defined by Oxford as common socially defined male-centric noxious behaviors that are harmful for the male image and encourages cruelty and violence against women. In reflection of my tremendous curiosity and interest in ‘boys toys’ and their activities, one of the most regrettable lessons I must unlearn is toxic masculinity.

Someone was extremely upset because their child was being taught about toxic masculinity in school. The father was tremendously offended and implied that this was a female effort to emasculate men. I begged the question of whether this person has done any investigation on the meaning and who coined the term. He had not.

Since that conversation, my personal observation has been that several women are equally complicit in perpetuating toxic masculinity. Myself included.

Men’s shaving company Gillette sparked a series of conversations last week with a nearly two minute ad that challenged traditional ideas of masculinity. We talk to a columnist for The Washington Post who says, if we want to make real changes to our culture, we also need to talk about how women perpetuate “toxic masculinity.”

During a class, hubby shared that they were discussing the origin of shaving. The class was asked about their opinion about women shaving. When hubby eagerly offered his opinion, he shared that he didn’t care if I shaved or not. His affection for me had nothing to do with hair and he wouldn’t care if I stopped shaving. His love and attraction to me had to do with my character.

Shaving is harmful to our skin. However, our egos and social perceptions as a result of the razor industry and marketing experts effectively convinced society that hair on women did not belong. It was defined, for women, that no respectable woman would permit unsightly hair on their armpits, legs, or face.

Admittedly, I do shave under my arms. My socio-generational conditioning has planted that seed and it is a challenging one to irradicate. The bright side of chemotherapy, I no longer have hair on my legs that have to be shaved.

My mother had a mustache as she reached her 60’s. I used to comment about her mustache and she patiently responded, “Oh, I know.” What a horrid thing to do. She knew about the harm shaving was doing. Instead of sharing that information with me and checking my bias, she said nothing.

It is argued that the concept of toxic masculinity was coined from “Hegemonic masculinity” by Raewyn Connell. However, it is claimed that the concept of toxic masculinity was popularized through Shephard Bliss and others then gained further traction during the #MeToo movement.

Why I’m done trying to be “man enough” by Justin Baldoni
TEDWomen 2017

Because of the zip codes I was raised in, there was a toxic perception I had about male personas. I adopted them. I embraced them. As someone that has been, “one of the guys,” in several male circles–I behaved in some toxic masculine ways that perpetuate the vapid view of masculinity.

I have been complicit in that. Recently, I have been floored by some of the sentiments shared by women regarding their view of what a “man” “should” be. Many of the statements heard have been horrifying and this is an effort worth changing in myself.

I am willing. I can change this and start working on ripping out the roots of this generational conditioning that has had a devastating impact on social issues.

For that, I will be apologetic for. To be sorry for that ignorance–I commit to a wholehearted effort in changing that in myself.

How I unlearned dangerous lessons about masculinity by Eldra Jackson
TEDWomen 2018