Do you think toxic masculinity affects women in STEM?
In a paper published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, it was stated that “The overall image of successful scientists appears to be one of exaggerated masculinity...”(Carli et al., 2016). Dr. Linda Carli also stated, “...it’s a culture where people don’t perceive women as compatible with the traits of scientists…”
Not only do young boys tend to internalize toxic masculinity, but young girls also tend to romanticize toxic masculinity from a young age through the books they read, and the shows and movies they watch. In this article by Darsh Kaur, she tells us about her experience with how young girls tend to romanticize toxic masculinity through the books they read.
Recently I finished one of my favorite young adult (YA) series that a lot of you might be familiar with, Hush Hush. This series was all the hype when I was in middle school, and all the girls were swooning over the main character, Patch, and rightfully so. In the book, he was portrayed as a bad boy who was only good to the girl he loves. He was the perfect balance of confidence and dominance while having a soft spot for Nora (the heroine). Back in middle school all my friends and I wanted was a guy like Patch. However, as I reread the series being in my twenties and being much more educated, my perspective has drastically changed.
When reading the series for the first time, I was unaware of the concept of toxic masculinity. However, over the years as I took more interest in feminism, I began to understand what toxic masculinity is. An article in the New York Times defined this concept as “the suppression of emotion, paired with using violence in an act to be hard.” This sort of behavior is toxic because it forces men to act in a way where they can't be vulnerable, leaving them at a higher risk for health issues or challenges academically. Throughout the whole series Patch was Nora's savior even when he had a lot going on in his life, but instead of showing his struggles, the books made it seem like Patch was always well composed and confident. He was overly controlling, and often ignored Nora’s wishes for his own satisfaction. Middle school me thought this is what an ideal partner would be like, but what I didn't realize then, was that he was the epitome of toxic masculinity.
What I noticed is that a lot of YA novels actually carry this plot of the heroine being responsible for fixing the traumas male characters have faced. This mostly occurs because the male characters practice toxic masculinity unknowingly and are unable to navigate their own feelings. This is a problematic scenario because it teaches teens that it is their job to help their partners who are emotionally unavailable and make them “good” (i.e. turn the bad boy good for you). However it is not the responsibility of someone else to help you become your best self. Men should be given space and freedom to navigate their own feelings and that should be deemed acceptable by society. Men should be allowed to be vulnerable, but women should not be held responsible for the emotional wellbeing of their partners.
Personally, I believe it's important to be critical of how relationships are portrayed in your favorite forms of media, whether it be books, movies, TV shows etc. You should know whether the media you consume is setting up unrealistic expectations of you relationships and whether they promote healthy relationships. All that being said it is still possible to enjoy your favorite series just be aware of its possible influence on you.
1. Ruder B., Plaza D., Warner R., Bothwell M. (2018) STEM Women Faculty Struggling for Recognition and Advancement in a “Men’s Club” Culture. In: Cho C., Corkett J., Steele A. (eds) Exploring the Toxicity of Lateral Violence and Microaggressions. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
2. Linda L. Carli, L. (2016, January 6). Stereotypes About Gender and Science: Women ≠ Scientists - Linda L. Carli, Laila Alawa, YoonAh Lee, Bei Zhao, Elaine Kim, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2020, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0361684315622645
Cover image: https://carleton.ca/align/?p=1614
Written by Darsh Kaur | Instagram: @darshkaur