Justice

Twitter Thread Exposes the Dangers of Toxic Masculinity

On Wednesday, a special election in Montana became national news when Montana Republican candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly body-slammed a reporter. The incident, which didn't stop Gianforte from winning the election on Thursday, sparked a conversation about toxic masculinity.

Greg-Gianforte

In a tweet thread on Thursday, reporter Mike Riggs weighed in on the "Montana incident." He said the assault reminded him of his experience as a child who grew up larger than his peers and "used his fist from an early age." It reflected a corrosive, yet socially accepted, belief that "real men occasionally hit, and that real men hit back," he wrote.

During his youth, Riggs said his violent tendencies alienated him from his family and peers, concerning them to the point that his aunt told him they considered sending him away. But to his mind at the time, violence was a sign of "toughness"—a concept often reinforced in the media and in male-dominated cultures.

But for men who don't grow out of the "real men" mentality, the consequences can escalate, Riggs said.

Real real men "do everything they can to avoid hurting others and themselves," practicing "self-restraint and wisdom," he wrote.

The culture of toxic masculinity that puts expectations of toughness and aggression on boys—which sometimes follow them into adulthood—doesn't just put others at risk. It leaves men less willing to seek help with mental health, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

The study found that men who exhibit certain "masculine" behaviors such as risk-taking, exercising power over women, and sexual promiscuity have "poorer mental health and less favorable attitudes towards seeking psychological help."

That's part of the reason there's been a push in recent years to avoid indoctrinating boys with a warped understanding of what it means to be a man.