Toxic Masculinity and the Harmful Standards We’re All Expected to Meet

Uncharacteristically early on a Saturday morning to go meet my friend and her child for coffee. I am embarrassed to say that by “uncharacteristically early” I mean 8:30am, which is not that early. I get it.

As I walked by two chipper twenty-something-year-old girls in skintight leggings either in route to or on their way back from a workout class, I found my mind reeling.

It is strange that New York City has so many women who wake up at a reasonable hour on weekends. Is it because they are more productive than men?

This trend was first noticeable after I finished college. When I went out at night to a local drinking hole, I heard a few of my girlfriends talk about how they planned to be up by 6 a.m. and join a fitness class. The only thing I planned for the next morning was to get up at noon and have a bagel (with scallion cheese).

Reflecting today, I noticed that this tiny, little behavioral difference is so emblematic of society’s varying expectations of men and women.

The toxic masculinity of men has made them the center of attention. Drink hard. Do not smoke cigarettes. Do drugs. Do not give up. To recover from this behavior, you must always sleep in.

On the other side, women place greater emphasis on appearance, calm, and productivity. It is all about being flawless.

Although this may seem antiquated and backwards, it is still a lot of expectations that affect society today, even though these are gradually changing. This is not a good result for men. Oder women.

Women tend to burn the midnight oil, which affects their happiness and stress levels. On the other hand, men are often tougher and more unbridled. These behaviors can lead to severe mental and physical health problems. Toxic masculinity often contributes to shorter life expectancies for men than it is for women.

This morning I was struck by envy as I looked at the two beautiful women. I wish I could be more productive in the morning. I wish that I was more serious about my fitness. I wish I could be more productive. I realized that my focus was on the positive outcomes of expectations for women.

Maybe they were tired and wanted to please everyone. Perhaps they didn’t go outside and are just morning people. Maybe this is their way of self-care. Then why should I attempt to identify them?

However, it was a feeling of envy that I felt. Yet, I have yet to learn the early habits I inherited.

High school was difficult for me because I was very closeted. I tried to be accepted and found that drinking alcohol was the best way to get there. Drinking heavily would get me rewarded. This was my demonstration of masculinity. It was worse than that, because I had to get away from my haunting sexual obsessions and the escapism it provided, alcohol made me even more seductive. I was already forming a new habit. The instructions were clear. Drinking a lot is a good idea. There are many benefits.

What they don’t talk about is the anxiety and laziness that is birthed from a lifestyle of partying to prove something. My 20s were the worst years of my life. I spent my weekends drinking and felt sad every day. It was a vicious cycle that I was trapped in.

For me to be more aware of the depression I felt due to my drinking and to stop drinking it, it was necessary to get cancer. The difference is huge. The productivity of my team has increased dramatically. (Though, my productivity has skyrocketed. It is notA morning person.

I was a teenager when I first saw these skinny, legging-clad women. This reminded me of the toxicity I’m trying to unlearn. This reminded me that I am making changes and that it’s okay not to meet the expectations of others. This morning reminded me, however, that it is not easy for women to do what society expects. It is never easier to be greener.

All of us need to find a middle way and balance. This is too many expectations. We all need to define what is meaningful for ourselves—this should not be up to society.

I didn’t know Lululemon could cause me to get so excited by it.

Charles Razook

Charlie lives in New York City with his dog Margot. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton, and he has an MBA from SDA Bocconi (Milan, Italy).

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