• Julian Crosby

Flower Boys

Repressive, destructive, and harmful are just a few words to describe the effect toxic masculinity can have on young men today.

Toxic masculinity is a dense way of viewing manhood and is determined by what society deems appropriate and acceptable for a man to behave like. It exists as a social construct that dismisses certain behavior that do not portray aggressiveness, strength, or loudness. One particular idea enforced in toxic masculinity is that physical strength amounts to everything while emotions are for the weak. Such expectations create a harmful culture for men.

Rachelle Bogle, a junior at the University of Miami explained, “My first week into college I noticed my closest guy friend being ridiculed for not getting with a lot of girls like his peers. One of his friends who believed he was very masculine because of his ‘sexual conquests’ went as far as to question my friend’s sexuality in front of their other friends based on his behavior. He felt like because of this they talked down to him like he was a boy rather than a man.” Bogle believes that a man does not need to be hypersexual and sexually active to be masculine. In her words, “if you are secure with yourself and believe you’re a man than no one can tell you who you are but yourself.” This is a prime example of how toxic masculinity can be corrupt.

Societal norms paint the wrong definition of masculinity by misinterpreting it and condoning certain behavior. Sexual potency, social respect, and physical strength shouldn’t be the measurement of your manhood. While vulnerability and display of emotions are seen as the exact opposite, feminine and weak.

This encourages stoic behavior and pushes the narrative, “Man up” or the popular phrase “be a man about it.” It suggests that all men have to be self-reliant, independent, and physically and mentally strong to be successful in life. Some men feel like without their physical strength, power, or dominance they are failing at “being a man.” This causes insecurity and anxiousness which can prompt actions that use force and dominance to feel more in control. This is when that masculinity becomes toxic and more a weapon than a fixed trait.

Bogle stated, “The idea that men shouldn’t cry or be emotional is ridiculous. Crying and other emotions are natural and part of being human. So why can’t men partake in something so expressive? Toxic masculinity is truly a disease that represses some men but also feeds some men’s ego.”

In today’s society, specifically millennials, many have become accustomed to these toxic manners. Modern-day examples of “accepted” masculine behavior are portrayed every day through fashion, film, TV, music, and more.

Within the music industry, especially hip-hop, a common theme expressed in lyrics is the idea of toxic masculinity and misogynistic behavior. Famous rappers like Future and Lil Baby are known for this.

Caleb Harris, a junior at the University of Miami, explains that rappers that sing about this type of activity are more approved of when it comes to young male adults. He specifically stated, “When I am with my guy friends I am more prone to put on Gunna or Lil Baby before I play SZA or Jhene Aiko because it’s seen as softer.” Associating a type of music genre to particular sex is an act of toxic masculinity because it’s suggesting men shouldn’t play songs that express emotional feelings or display feminity but instead talk about power, sex, and money.

Although the hip-hop industry is known to display and promote toxic masculinity, some artists have helped contribute to changing that. For example, both Tyler the Creator, and Frank Ocean have tried to redefine masculinity in music and knockdown the rigid ideas of how men are perceived.

Tyler the Creator’s album “Flower Boy” expresses the process he went through in finding himself and being secure with the man he is today. This album touches on the ideas of loneliness, sexuality, depression, and fame while being a man. He went from being unsure of himself to blossoming into a confident man who doesn’t fold into the box the world forces him into. Frank Ocean is known to challenge the hypersexuality seen in music today. In the popular song “Chanel,” he described a man being “pretty like a girl.” These two artists not only are vulnerable, open, and honest in their music but aren’t afraid to defy society's norms.

The idea that physical strength and power shouldn’t be connected to masculinity isn’t the problem. The problem is that men often view masculinity as a currency that can be earned or stolen if you don’t fit the qualifications. More men need to learn how to be open and honest with who they are and not feel the pressure on what society tells them to be.

“Femininity is depicted as weakness, the sapping of strength, yet masculinity is so fragile that apparently, even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it. - Gwen Sharp

REPORTER: Jalyn Hamilton

THE ART, Gravity Magazine, 2020

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