Toxic Masculinity Is Not A Mental Illness
Posted by Kristina Agbebiyi
April 17, 2017
If you’ve been paying attention since the beginning of time, you’ll notice that men who commit acts of violence after being scorned by a lover and/or rejected by a woman are not a new phenomenon. Here you’ll find a list of 14 women who have been killed in the last two years by men they rejected. A simple Google search will result in tons of other articles with similar themes. Where there’s a woman, there’s most likely a man trailing behind her, thinking of ways he can assert his power over her. Crossing race, class, and sexuality, men’s violence against women and femmes knows no limit. We’ve seen this in the past two weeks, as recently as yesterday with the Cleveland shooting. These men may have been in relationships with their victims, or they may have never met. Anything can spark violence–a divorce, a rejection on the street, an end to a relationship. These men will frequently stalk, spy, and harass women simply because they are not interested in them.
Often, the first reaction to these acts of violence is to begin calling for discussions of mental health. Because of ableism, neurotypical people, and society as a whole, often attribute any behavior that we deem immoral to people being mentally ill. Well-intentioned people who often claim to want to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental illnesses suddenly become therapists and psychiatrists overnight. Never mind the fact that they do not know the people who have perpetrated these heinous crimes. Never mind the fact that many of these men have gone on record stating the reasons for their actions. We must diagnose them from the comfort of our own homes in order to avoid confronting a harsher truth.
This isn’t to say that mentally ill people never harm others. However, the statistics are a lot lower than we have been lead to believe. In fact, people with mental illnesses are frequently the victims of abuse and more likely to be victims of violent crimes than others. Also, tons of women are diagnosed with mental illnesses every year. They must live with illnesses that impact every facet of their lives. This includes their love lives, and situations involving attraction.The fact that women do not frequently go on killing sprees because of rejection and relationships should be proof enough that there is something deeper at play with men who do.
When we hear about systematic violence against women and femmes and write it off as a mental illness, we do several things. We further stigmatize mental illnesses by continuing the lie that being mentally ill is linked to being a bad person, an evil person, and a dangerous person. This stigma forces people to stay silent about their mental health, for fear that they will be labeled untrustworthy. In an effort to supposedly “end the stigma,” neurotypical people are only furthering it. Also, because they are not mentally ill, people often assume that they are not capable of being abusive or harming those they love. This leads to absolutely no introspection, and instead blaming those who are marginalized.
Blaming men’s violence on mental illness also causes us to ignore the fact that toxic masculinity exists. Toxic masculinity stems from the patriarchy. It’s the fact that our society socializes men to believe that they have the ability to behave in whichever way they want, without repercussions. It encourages men to be dominant, aggressive, and emotionally undeveloped. Toxic masculinity is not a mental illness. It is the result of a system that prioritizes men and their feelings over the real lives of women and femmes. We make it easier for it to thrive and exist in our spaces and we allow the men in our lives to continue to ignore the toxic masculinity within themselves, and their community.
In order to effectively stop this, we need to be proactive. We need to teach men from the beginning about healthy ways to handle relationships, rejection, and their emotions. We need to rid people of the shame of enjoying or behaving in a manner that those may deem “feminine.” We need to educate men on things like gender and sexuality, so they can stop harming trans women and queer people due to their own insecurities. We need to teach men to listen to the voices of those that they’ve harmed and commit to doing better.
It’s very easy to blame acts of violence on a mental illness. It’s harder to talk about the ways that toxic masculinity leads to violence against the people we know and love. It is painful to discuss the fact that we live in a society that rarely holds men accountable for their actions. It’s difficult to accept the fact that the men we know and love can be violent and misogynistic.
It is of the utmost importance that we work through this, and finally start working towards actively dismantling the patriarchy.
Our lives depend on it.
Image via Wikipedia Commons