What Is Healthy Masculinity?

Or, how to make your gender antifragile

Anna Mercury

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Photo by Abby Savage on Unsplash

Ah, the fragile masculine: you’ve seen him or you’ve been him or both. He’s the cat-caller who turns to threats when he’s ignored. He’s the boss who turns domineering when his opinions are questioned. He’s the once-nice friend who turns to rage when his sexual advances are rejected. He’s the man who spirals into vitriol and violence when his sense of security feels threatened in any way.

If you haven’t heard, this phenomenon is commonly called “fragile masculinity.”

In an age littered with new frontlines of feminism, post-#MeToo and post-Roe, with shifting meanings of relationship roles and family structures while every day the apocalypse seems to edge ever closer, navigating something as fundamental to our identities as gender has gotten, well, complicated. Everyone has an opinion, everyone’s opinions seem to differ, and everyone seems very angry at those with different opinions from their own. Add to this that social media allows us to share previously private experiences with the entire world in the blink of an eye, and we end up in a landscape so hectic and littered with contradiction that navigating the healthy expression of gender is almost impossible.

All around me, I see men confused and struggling with what it means to be healthily masculine. There’s a lot they know they’re not supposed to do anymore, but not enough they seem to know to start doing, and whatever they’re doing is never (K)enough.

As a result, there’s this pervasive floundering and fear I encounter in men when it comes to truly owning the self. I don’t believe the worst behavioral manifestations of this are excusable, yet I do find them understandable. They’re conditioning, conflicting social expectations, lack of awareness and ability to respond with grace and responsibility all hyped up into a fever-pitch and slammed down again under stress and fear because everyone is upset and the rent is always too damn high.

As a woman, it is obvious to me that this is not an easy age for men to navigate. That is no excuse to turn away from the difficulty and complexity of engaging sincerely in that navigation, but it can be a reason for all of us of all genders to pause, reflect, and proceed with some compassion.

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