Over the past several years, toxic masculinity has become a catchall explanation for male violence and sexism. The appeal of the term, which distinguishes “toxic” traits such as aggression and self-entitlement from “healthy” masculinity, has grown to the point where Gillette invoked it last month in a viral advertisement against bullying and sexual harassment. Around the same time, the American Psychological Association introduced new guidelines for therapists working with boys and men, warning that extreme forms of certain “traditional” masculine traits are linked to aggression, misogyny, and negative health outcomes.
A predictable conflict has accompanied the term’s rise. Many conservatives allege that charges of toxic masculinity are an attack on manhood itself, at a time when men already face challenges such as higher rates of drug overdose and suicide. Many progressives, meanwhile, contend that the detoxification of masculinity is an essential pathway to gender equality. Amid this heated discourse, newspaper and magazine articles have blamed toxic masculinity for rape, murder, mass shootings, gang violence, online trolling, climate change, Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump.