So if you live in today’s times, you’ll know that feminism is often a controversial topic because it’s seen as detrimental toward men, or somehow taking away from them. However, feminism has expanded to encompass and include men’s rights and how they are also affected by the patriarchy. This typically shows its face in the form of ‘toxic masculinity’, Toxic masculinity is one of the ways in which Patriarchy is harmful to men. It refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.
Toxic masculinity mostly seems to show itself in the aggression or level of testosterone in males. This is why Adam is pretty much seen as the weaker member of the group throughout the novel: he isn’t as physically strong. However, he’s given a sort of alternate route out of being seen as the more sensitive member of the group, in that he can use his nerdiness to pick up women.
The way most people typically see it, how masculine someone is depends on how sexual, strong, or physically aggressive they are. Throughout the novel, violence and aggression are actually what manage to ruin rank’s life. He’s constantly got pressure put on him to be this super dominant alpha male from both his father and later from his college coach. When he goes along with his father’s demands, he nearly kills Mick Croft, a local punk, and when he refuses to hurt anyone and goes directly against the role laid out for him, he’s punished by having to quit hockey and lose his scholarship.
This also perpetuates that violence is the only way to deal with his problems, which is very evident. In the novel, he often pushes people or tries to intimidate them when he’s angry, most likely because he simply doesn’t understand how else to go about it.
Rank mentions that growing up he felt the stronger effects of puberty before a lot of his peers. Due to him living in a society and era (aka the 80s) where being a strong jock and stuff was praised and definitely preferred, this causes women to start treating him as a grown up or sometimes an authority figure just because he adheres to the roles put out for him by that society. Because we associate masculinity with being grown up, this can often make us treat children as adults that they are not even in today’s society. Rank nicely sums it up when discussing his childhood.
“First, being a grown man gives you this instant, irrational power. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t graduated from junior high yet, it doesn’t matter if you spend most of your evenings picking your nose in front of Family Ties, and it doesn’t matter if you have done precisely nothing in your life worthy of your fellow man’s respect. Doesn’t matter — you have it. Everyone figures you can fix their cars, that you know what kind of aluminium siding they should buy, that you can file a tax return. And they turn to you, this is what’s astounding — They turn to you, these ladies with the bashed-up furnaces — In all your assumed expertise and aptitude.“ (Coady 62)
The issue with this is that Rank is not a grown man at that point at all. He’s still a child, but because we associate the traits he has (muscular, tall, deepened voice) with being an adult, people treat him like an adult.
Heck, the reason that he even becomes a bouncer is because his father sees him as a grown adult when he’s still a child because of his size. He can use him to intimidate other people because his masculinity says “Prove it. Prove to me how big you are.” (Coady 62)
Another problem with typical standards of masculinity is the ‘unemotional’ aspect of it. Men are expected not to show emotion, not to talk about their feelings. This is a ‘girl’ thing. Real men deal with it on their own. After all, what could be more traditionally macho than dealing with pain on your own?
This shows itself in Rank’s behaviour. He never really talks to his friends about his post-traumatic stress disorder or his actual feelings toward his father. He tends to simply bottle things up until he just can’t take it anymore and snaps. He even describes healthy venting as “yanking off hanks of self-flesh and shoving them bloodily at everyone around [him].” (Coady 4)
The problem with this is that it likely contributes to the suicide rate of males, who die 3.5 times more often than women do by their own hands. It is considered weak and lowly to ask for help, which is absolute crap and causes a lot of problems for Rank when he bottles it up because he releases it in one, angry wave. I believe that his life would have been easier if he’d just felt like he could talk to people.
I think that if these issues weren’t present in Rank’s childhood and adolesence, nearly none of the events in the book would have occured. Most or all of them stemmed from bad parenting based on stereotypes or social norms that need to be thrown out. The real antagonist is those who perpetuate them.
This is Katie, signing off.