Question of the Day: “How do I avoid raising boys who suffer from toxic masculinity?”

Toxic masculinity refers to the masculine “traits” that so often describe men. Masculinity has long taken pride in its high levels of physical strength, emotional detachment, and brute force. But these traits can quickly become dangerous when left unchecked. Brute force can easily turn into an unmitigated violence. Emotional detachment can spiral into an inability to form loving and cohesive attachments, and physical strength can take the place of rationality and logic. Due to this, I often ask myself, “How can I avoid raising boys who suffer from toxic masculinity?”

The other day I was driving my son Jonah to art class. These car rides are often an opportunity for us to chat, and today was no different. Apparently, he was upset at the way his stepfather is correcting him.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Rewind: Every morning, afternoon, evening when Jonah uses the bathroom, he slams the toilet seat down when he is done. My husband has asked, required, begged, joked, yelled, and even stood outside the door so when he opened it, he scared him.

This was the straw that leads us to the conversation in the car.

“It just really bothers me that he keeps…I don’t know. He keeps bringing it up,” he said.

“Okay, well, why don’t you talk to him?” I interjected.

“I mean he’s not wrong, but why does he have to…why did he have to stand outside the door?”

“Jonah,” I repeated. “I think you need to talk to him during dinner tonight. It is clearly bothering you, but I have to be honest, buddy. You are going to break the toilet with the way you are slamming it.”

“I’m not slamming it,” he answered. “And no, I am not going to do that. What do you want me to do? Cry like a baby that he is hurting my feelings?”

“Wait, why wouldn’t you tell him how you feel and how is your crying a bad thing?” I was shocked and a bit brokenhearted. I have worked so hard to try and show my boys that their feelings are valid and that crying is simply a physical reaction to an emotional one. But somewhere along the way, they picked up the idea that crying was weakness and withholding communication about their feelings was a sign of strength.

“Mom, of course it’s a bad thing,” he continued.

“You should at the very least tell him how you feel,” I said.

“Nah, I’m good.” I looked over at him and he just stared straight ahead. “Yeah, I’m good,” he reiterated to the air in front of him, though I had said nothing.

And I was rendered silent, unable to truly digest how lost and defeated I felt at having failed when previously I had felt successful.

Love and Light, my friends.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on