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For the Males: Breaking Stereotypes and Toxic Masculinity

April 13th, 2024

by Oluwatosin Oludele

From “why you dey cry? No be man you be?” to “man no suppose dey gentle my guy”, society has always instructed men on how to act, think, and live. We are constantly bombarded with messages from the media and our environment on the Dos and Don’ts of being a man as though it’s a character we put on, an armor even— “don’t cry, don’t ask for help”; “be tough, be hypersexual”. Endless unspoken and spoken rules that are in the business of turning men to walls—unmoving, unfeeling, a stoic statue made of flesh.

Male stereotypes and toxic masculinity did not just pop up like those horrific beings in escape rooms. Let’s take a walk back to our rustic settings, where a man was deemed worthy by how many battles he had won, the number of wives and children he had, how strict and distanced he appeared. The hero was no hero if he asked for help. The leader was not efficient if he didn’t behead offenders at least twice in a month (this might be an exaggeration but who knows?) The man with one wife and no kid? That was no man, he was an outcast. In essence, the men had to be extra—because let’s be honest, if beheading and distancing isn’t extra, I don’t know what it is then. Remember Okonkwo from Things Fall Apart? Fictional, but an excellent example of what a man should embody, at least according to society’s standards.

Fast forward to today and we’re not beheading people and spilling blood like in the days of old but toxic masculinity still exists. It’s everywhere, we see it every day. The guy that refuses to speak to his partner about his financial issues but will have no problem whatsoever ghosting her. The man who feels insulted when his wife earns more than he does. The “na man I be” that is shouted during little harmless arguments. It is seemingly harmless when a father scolds his son for crying when he loses his favorite toy. This is a step in molding that boy to be the man that disregards emotions or is ashamed to be the emotional one, except that emotion is anger. Let’s take a pause to understand and accept that it’s near impossible to live like that—a person devoid of the simplest of human emotions—as the human body consists of a very important part, the brain, that cannot simply be repressed except in medical or psychological conditions. So, no society, you can’t numb our men.

One of the many stereotypes the male gender faces is that they should and must be self-sufficient. Basically, a man should be an island; that talk that no man is an island does not apply to them. Society screams “you don’t need help” into the ears of men, barring them from asking, from being vulnerable and open. For every attack, there’s a counterattack; here’s mine—YOU ARE NOT SELF-SUFFICIENT, no one is really, well except those guys in Marvel Comics but guess what, they’re not real. And if I remember clearly from my on again, off again interest in them, they have periods where they come together to take down the bad guy. You need your person, your own community to bare yourself of the walls and be exposed. It’s scary, I know, to let someone in and see those imperfect pieces of you but you’re human. Give yourself the privilege of having someone to lean on, you deserve it.

Being a man doesn’t equate to excess and unnecessary aggression. Yes, there are some instances where you get angry, because that’s a valid emotion too, and act out. It’s normal, everyone has their own stories to tell. But you know what isn’t? Making that your default mood. You’re aggressive when speaking with friends. You’re aggressive with your significant others. Your family can’t even approach you because you’re like a chihuahua ready to attack. That’s not a way to live, even though society and the media have glamorised that so bad looks cool, it isn’t.

“Successful men look good but spending too much time on your look is not manly”, society says. How is this even a thing? Dear males, please take your time and look good. Preen in front of your mirror, care about the look of your nails, spray that perfume, go ahead and defy society because it’s your life. Live it, I beg of you.

I understand that reading this will not magically make the damage go away. It took years for us to get here and realize we have a problem at hand, it might also take years to get rid of the problem. If we were to carefully analyze and dissect every stereotype thrown the way of men, we might have a journal or book in our hands but this will do for now. Toxic masculinity is a thing, understand it and fight it. When society’s voice whispers into your ears to, say, act tough when you really shouldn’t, be rigid, be self-sufficient and the likes, remember that those are not the words of wisdom. Move on from people or places that drag you deeper into this pit of toxicity, you need to heal and grow; we need our men to be emotionally sane and healthy.

The true words of wisdom: cry, feel, live; you’re human.

Oluwatosin Oludele is a 20-year-old who loves to turn events, feelings and thoughts into reflective and relatable written pieces.  At present, her greatest ambition is to be in a place where she writes to live. She cannot imagine herself doing anything that has nothing to do with writing and reading. Currently, she is an undergraduate at the University of Lagos where she studies mass communication. She loves to fish out the story in everything she does or sees.

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by Oluwatosin Oludele

From “why you dey cry? No be man you be?” to “man no suppose dey gentle my guy”, society has always instructed men on how to act, think, and live. We are constantly bombarded with messages from the media and our environment on the Dos and Don’ts of being a man as though it’s a character we put on, an armor even— “don’t cry, don’t ask for help”; “be tough, be hypersexual”. Endless unspoken and spoken rules that are in the business of turning men to walls—unmoving, unfeeling, a stoic statue made of flesh.

Male stereotypes and toxic masculinity did not just pop up like those horrific beings in escape rooms. Let’s take a walk back to our rustic settings, where a man was deemed worthy by how many battles he had won, the number of wives and children he had, how strict and distanced he appeared. The hero was no hero if he asked for help. The leader was not efficient if he didn’t behead offenders at least twice in a month (this might be an exaggeration but who knows?) The man with one wife and no kid? That was no man, he was an outcast. In essence, the men had to be extra—because let’s be honest, if beheading and distancing isn’t extra, I don’t know what it is then. Remember Okonkwo from Things Fall Apart? Fictional, but an excellent example of what a man should embody, at least according to society’s standards.

Fast forward to today and we’re not beheading people and spilling blood like in the days of old but toxic masculinity still exists. It’s everywhere, we see it every day. The guy that refuses to speak to his partner about his financial issues but will have no problem whatsoever ghosting her. The man who feels insulted when his wife earns more than he does. The “na man I be” that is shouted during little harmless arguments. It is seemingly harmless when a father scolds his son for crying when he loses his favorite toy. This is a step in molding that boy to be the man that disregards emotions or is ashamed to be the emotional one, except that emotion is anger. Let’s take a pause to understand and accept that it’s near impossible to live like that—a person devoid of the simplest of human emotions—as the human body consists of a very important part, the brain, that cannot simply be repressed except in medical or psychological conditions. So, no society, you can’t numb our men.

One of the many stereotypes the male gender faces is that they should and must be self-sufficient. Basically, a man should be an island; that talk that no man is an island does not apply to them. Society screams “you don’t need help” into the ears of men, barring them from asking, from being vulnerable and open. For every attack, there’s a counterattack; here’s mine—YOU ARE NOT SELF-SUFFICIENT, no one is really, well except those guys in Marvel Comics but guess what, they’re not real. And if I remember clearly from my on again, off again interest in them, they have periods where they come together to take down the bad guy. You need your person, your own community to bare yourself of the walls and be exposed. It’s scary, I know, to let someone in and see those imperfect pieces of you but you’re human. Give yourself the privilege of having someone to lean on, you deserve it.

Being a man doesn’t equate to excess and unnecessary aggression. Yes, there are some instances where you get angry, because that’s a valid emotion too, and act out. It’s normal, everyone has their own stories to tell. But you know what isn’t? Making that your default mood. You’re aggressive when speaking with friends. You’re aggressive with your significant others. Your family can’t even approach you because you’re like a chihuahua ready to attack. That’s not a way to live, even though society and the media have glamorised that so bad looks cool, it isn’t.

“Successful men look good but spending too much time on your look is not manly”, society says. How is this even a thing? Dear males, please take your time and look good. Preen in front of your mirror, care about the look of your nails, spray that perfume, go ahead and defy society because it’s your life. Live it, I beg of you.

I understand that reading this will not magically make the damage go away. It took years for us to get here and realize we have a problem at hand, it might also take years to get rid of the problem. If we were to carefully analyze and dissect every stereotype thrown the way of men, we might have a journal or book in our hands but this will do for now. Toxic masculinity is a thing, understand it and fight it. When society’s voice whispers into your ears to, say, act tough when you really shouldn’t, be rigid, be self-sufficient and the likes, remember that those are not the words of wisdom. Move on from people or places that drag you deeper into this pit of toxicity, you need to heal and grow; we need our men to be emotionally sane and healthy.

The true words of wisdom: cry, feel, live; you’re human.

Oluwatosin Oludele is a 20-year-old who loves to turn events, feelings and thoughts into reflective and relatable written pieces.  At present, her greatest ambition is to be in a place where she writes to live. She cannot imagine herself doing anything that has nothing to do with writing and reading. Currently, she is an undergraduate at the University of Lagos where she studies mass communication. She loves to fish out the story in everything she does or sees.