What is “Toxic Masculinity” and Why Does it Matter?

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Abstract

Coined in late 20th-century men’s movements, “toxic masculinity” spread to therapeutic and social policy settings in the early 21st century. Since 2013, feminists began attributing misogyny, homophobia, and men’s violence to toxic masculinity. Around the same time, feminism enjoyed renewed popularization. While some feminist scholars use the concept, it is often left under-defined. I argue that talk of toxic masculinity provides an intriguing window into gender politics in any given context. However, feminists should not adopt toxic masculinity as an analytical concept. I consider the term’s origins, history, and usage, arguing that it appears in individualizing discourses that have historically targeted marginalized men. Thus, accusations of toxic masculinity often work to maintain gender hierarchies and individualize responsibility for gender inequalities to certain bad men.

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Harrington, C. (2021). What is “Toxic Masculinity” and Why Does it Matter? Men and Masculinities, 24(2), 345–352. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X20943254

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