Emotional Health

Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

Rigid definitions of masculinity are toxic to men's health. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that men's tendency to die at younger ages may correlate to the harmful ways that masculinity has been defined in society and the ways that men have been conditioned to practice it.

“In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the need to pay greater attention to the shorter life expectancy of men and identified a lack of understanding of the role of ‘masculinity’ in shaping men’s expectations and behaviours as a primary causative factor for the health disparity between men and women” (Evans, Frank, Oliffe and Gregory, 2011).

They determined that risk-taking behaviors and lack of willingness to seek help were among the reasons for negative health outcomes that men experience (Baker et al., 2014).  This lack of willingness to seek help is not limited to physical injury and illness. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that the suicide rate for men is about four times higher than it is for women (“Facts and Figures, date unknown).

How men are socialized plays into the type of violence that exists in college communities. The harm and violence that men inflict is not strictly contained to the self-harm mentioned previously. Men will often resort to violence to resolve conflict because anger is the only emotion that they have been socialized to express. Unfortunately, the way that young men are conditioned to view sex and their need to be dominant and have power over others also contribute to instances of sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence on college campuses.

Men don't have a lot of spaces to have open and honest conversations about the different things that they are dealing with, like how they grapple with emotions or deal with conflict. BWell is investing in creating safe spaces for men to unpack all of the things they have learned about masculinity and what it means to be a man. The goal is to help those socialized as men to unlearn some of the notions that have led to such profound harm being enacted toward others and toward themselves.

Our current programming includes:

  • Masculinity101- a weekly discussion group for students who identify as men (in any way or in part)
  • The Masculinity Storybook- a biannual publication of personal stories about struggles and triumphs related to toxic masculinity
  • Conversations on Masculinity - a video compliation of interviews with students about masculinity

Our past programming includes:

  • The Men's Story Project: Looking Within and Speaking Out- a large-scale storytelling event featuring the stories of male-identified students and staff from the Brown University community.

 

References

Baker, P., Dworkin, S., Tong, S., Banks, I., Shand, T., & Yamey, G. (2014). The men’s health gap: Men must be included in the global health equity agenda. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 618-620.

Evans, J. Frank, B. Oliffe, J. and Gregory, D. (2011) ‘Health, illness, men and masculinities (HIMM): a theoretical framework for understanding men and their health,’ Journal of Men’s Health 8.1: 7-15.

Facts and Figures. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures.

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