Masculinity’s toxic stranglehold over the male sex is perhaps best witnessed through the prism of a boy’s locker room. Chanting, bullying and witless initiations are the norm. Racist and sexist views are bandied around. To the ‘lad’, all this is an example of what it means to be a man. For those not privileged enough to have experienced this first hand, the world of the changing room is very fight club-esque, violent by nature and clandestine by implication. Breaking omerta is seen as a crime worthy of social exile. Disdain for the dogma and anything less than total wholehearted engagement is a taboo not worth breaking.
Anger is the predominant emotion in this hostile, spiteful environment of competition. For many, anger is the necessary emotion, and the need to transmit all emotion as anger explains phrases like ‘man up’. Such phrases encourage men to deny their own emotions, leading to insensitivity and ultimately, emotional repression. The evaporation of emotion into anger is a consequence of the same type of toxic masculinity responsible for excessive alcohol and drug use. Whilst the masculinity of the 50s and 60s allowed men an open platform, modern ‘lad culture’ pressures men to repress their emotions in a more furtive sense. Emotional repression is easier when one is isolated from the outside world as well as their own thoughts. Among many groups of young people alcohol is easily accessible, and is therefore a relatively easy way to ensure emotional isolation.
In this context, most drinkers aren’t enjoying the inherent qualities of alcohol. Common phrases such as “get it down and over with” depict consumption not as an enjoyable pastime, but as something which has to be done. These young men need the alcohol for its levelling qualities, because when everyone is smashed out of their mind, no individual’s emotions are relevant. Even if they were, no one would remember in the morning. Over-dependence on alcohol and drugs is ultimately a destructive quality, one which would often be associated with poor mental health.
These young men need the alcohol for its levelling qualities, because when everyone is smashed out of their mind, no individual’s emotions are relevant.
A common disorder among many young sportsmen is the colloquially termed ‘bigorexia’, a disorder in which the sufferer views themselves as small, despite actually being large and muscular. Closely linked to the notion of ‘toxic masculinity’, ‘hyper masculinity’ is the need to act excessively macho. Taken to an extreme, it implies aggression, a lack of tears and a need for sexual promiscuity. Masculinity in this form unnaturally restricts personality whilst changing eating and sleeping habits.
Last year, Donald Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” remarks were portrayed as extreme; most in the public sphere were aghast. To anyone with experience of ‘lad culture’ however, the phrase was nothing shocking. Comparing women to domestic and sexual automata happens often and racially contentious ‘banter’ is pervasive. Many of us have become numb to it. Those making the comments rarely believe them, but simply seek to impress their peers. Once again, these actions come back to secondary reasons. This duality is crucial to the nature of masculinity and serves to highlight the poor mental health which contributes to the eagerness of its members.
Masculinity in this form unnaturally restricts personality whilst changing eating and sleeping habits.
Nothing about ‘lad culture’ is what it seems. It is no coincidence that the notion of necessity comes up so often in this article. As is often the case among sufferers of poor mental health, depression or addiction, the illness and vulnerability takes over. It becomes the root cause of all behaviour, stunting development and ensuring that the sufferer is fixed in a state of denial, depending on toxic behaviours and substances. This only serves to catalyse the problem, creating an inescapable cycle of destruction.