Pass the Toxic Masculinity

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Flickr / John Lustig

Patrick O’Connell
Staff Writer

Personally, I have never been interested in sports at all. However, I cannot deny that they play a major role in society. Professional athletes are paid millions per year, and everywhere in the world there are sports fans. Sports play a positive role on the world, influencing people to stay in shape and bringing people together. But every problem with sports seems to arise from how people act towards each other. While sports are a good thing for lots of different communities, people seem to lose themselves in the excitement.

It is fun to get excited over a game. The main draw of watching a game is the suspense of it all. Then there’s some of the more intense stuff, like what happens on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill during basketball season. People lose their minds, roads are often shut down and it is not uncommon for people to attack each other over which team got the most imaginary points. When large groups of people get together, it’s easier to justify doing ridiculous things if everyone around you is doing it too. Organizations like the NFL have constantly been urging fans to stop attacking each other, but there doesn’t seem to be any change in sight. It seems to just be something people do.

Sports are not wholly negative though, as they do have benefits. One of the biggest of these positives of sports as a whole are the health benefits. Getting kids to play outside is one of the best ways to combat the obesity epidemic, and sports are great at doing just that. Sports also teach kids things like cooperation and how to properly lose at something. However, organized sports tend to cultivate a mindset that undoes any positive lessons previously mentioned.

Anyone who has ever been to a Little League baseball game knows that there is a lot of yelling involved at referees, coaches and young players alike. With so much pressure on kids, it teaches them that winning is imperative and having a good time is secondary. It sets the example that kids should be looking out for themselves and doing whatever it is they can to succeed. A pretty American mindset, but not necessarily a good one.

I said before that sports never interested me. However, I did play on Little League baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer teams as a kid. Long story short, my experience with sports was mainly negative and I ended up developing an eating disorder that still affects me to this day. From my experience, the main issue that sports have is toxic masculinity, which is the construction of gender roles around men that encourage abusive behaviors and discourage emotional development.  

As someone who played football as a kid, it felt very comparable to a beauty pageant but for boys. At a beauty pageant, girls are being taught that they should be valued by their looks alone, while Little League sports teach boys that they are valued by their physical capabilities.The stereotype of a “man” is someone who feels very little and is ruthlessly successful. A man is supposed to be someone who is strong-willed, physically perfect, and sexually dominative.

This stereotype comes from the types of role models given to young boys. Famous athletes project an unhealthy image of what “manliness” is, thus setting a poor example for those who look up to them. When so many boys’ role models are people who objectify women, use steroids, cheat and abuse their spouses, it’s no wonder that rape is so common. The term “locker room talk” literally refers to athletes boasting about their sexuality in a men-only setting.

Yet, all of the bad things associated with sports are not inherently part of sports. The crazy fandoms, the example set for kids and the toxic masculinity are all created by the way people treat other people. It’s the mob mentality that lets others justify attacking someone over a game. It’s the shame of losing that turns a game played by children into a farce. It is the fear of being different that makes men perpetuate toxic behaviors. Sports are an example of how people can take something generally good and contort it into something bad.


Categories: Columns, Opinions


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