We live in a capitalist world, and there’s no denying that. The structure is inherently competitive. And when we are so focused on getting ‘more’, we build hierarchies so that we’re not on the bottom level, which at most times results in problematic behaviour, like toxic masculinity.
The deep-rooted capitalist culture severely impacts our perspective on checkboxes we must attain to ‘move up the ladder.’ This mindset allows us to normalise toxic behaviour like shaming other men for not conforming to gender stereotypes or creating Instagram groups where women are objectified (read Bois Locker Room).
As the global economy begins to face a large slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to understand how capitalism fuels toxic masculinity and how we can limit its manifestation.
Toxic Masculinity a Problem That Needs to Be Discussed
On a global scale, toxic masculinity is used to generalise sexism and any form of male aggression. The term allows us to distinguish toxic traits like aggression and violence from healthy ones. It also allows us to recognise that masculinity itself is not the sole cause of male-incited violence.
Toxic masculinity needs to be discussed because it is the root cause for a significant number of crimes globally, including domestic violence, murder, and assault.
The National Commission of Women has already announced that it has received double the number of domestic violence complaints during the first 25 days of the lockdown than previous periods.
Toxic masculinity is real and can have a crippling impact on us, regardless of where we come from.
Capitalism Fuels Toxic Masculinity By Building Social Hierarchies
Capitalism’s focus on moving up the chain to achieve success can directly be linked to more selfish and goal-oriented behaviour. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but it can make us careless about others. This mindset impacts the way we judge others and ourselves.
A man who is ‘feminine’ is made fun of because he is different and unwanted in the ‘professional club.’
How often do a group of men in an office mock each other for speaking softly or feeling anxious? Personally, I spent a large amount of time ‘un-feminising’ the way I laughed, walked, and spoke so that I could avoid this mockery and become ‘successful.’
In his book “Healing from Hate,” Michael Kimmel argues that men who were involved in violent political acts felt that “they had not received what they had expected to gain through the virtue of being a man.”
Essentially, the belief that they had not received the “capital” they were entitled to meant that they had to take extreme measures to obtain it. The goals given to us by capitalism are that we should accumulate the most amount of wealth. If I cannot achieve that, I start believing that I’m not ‘manly’ and I need to do “more” to take control of my life.
Sometimes, this “more” can translate to healthy actions of discipline, but a lot of the times it can also manifest into the development of toxic traits like aggression, violence, or bullying.
The ‘Boys Locker Room’ incident is a clear example of young boys feeling like they need to do “more” to prove their masculinity. This desire, among other impulses, allowed these boys to normalise the horrific crime of sharing photos of underage women.
Limiting the Manifestation of Toxic Masculinity Requires Us to Call Ourselves Out
We must identify and address toxic behaviour around us, even if it doesn’t seem extreme. The best way to deal with this is by having a conversation about those actions with a mental health professional. Being in stressful situations while working from home can result in toxic behaviour: Being slightly rude to family members or feeling too entitled to help with household chores.
While these actions may not seem as drastic as domestic violence or an obscene Instagram group, they are still toxic and must be addressed through conversations.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to identifying toxic traits within others and ourselves. Personally, I know that my motivation for succeeding in a capitalist world has made me develop biases that I need to be more aware of.
Writing this article made me think about all the times I could have been complacent in the mockery of others who were not ‘masculine enough.’
Just because I was a victim of toxic masculinity doesn’t mean I don’t possess those traits myself. We need to start calling ourselves out to limit the manifestation of toxic masculinity.
As we deal with one of the most stressful times in our capitalist society, it’s easy for us to feel a lack of “control.” It’s important for us to identify toxic traits by engaging in productive conversations so that we don’t engage in unproductive behavior searching for that “control”.
(The author Sagar Galani has completed his Bachelors in Applied Economics & Management at Cornell University, and currently works in Mumbai in real estate & hotel development. Sagar’s past professional experiences have included infrastructure development, real estate finance, and social justice theater across New York and Mumbai. In his free time, you can find Sagar traveling, attending theater workshops, or reading about personal finance. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)