Toxic Masculinity, Hazing and How It Affects the Mental Health of Others

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Throughout the world, men on average have a difficult time seeking help and speaking up when put in serious, uncomfortable or life threatening situations. Prior to college, most males are involved with sports because it is a stereotype of the their gender. However, 74 percent of varsity athletic teams haze their teammates (NBC, 2008). These boys, at a young age, are already starting to feel the torment and isolation from what they believe to be their friends. From college age, men pledge and join fraternities, which may seem like a great idea in order for them to have their so called “brothers”, but this is usually not the case.

Pledges, probationary members of the fraternity until initiated, are predominantly seen as the victims of hazing. 73 percent of fraternities haze within the house (NBC, 2008). However, most of these actions occur prior to initiation of the new pledges. Many people join sports team and fraternities for the experience of friendship, brotherhood, and to gain life skills, like work ethic and accountability. In most cases, these men are faced with challenges which can test their morals and ethics. For example, binge-drinking, drug use, sexual harassment, and assault can later cause anxiety and depression which can complicate men’s lives and health, especially if they will not seek help. However, these circumstances do not only happen in fraternities, but when transitioning to adulthood as well. Some men face the challenges of sexual dysfunction and sexual pain, which can be difficult to tell their partner or doctors resulting in the loss of treatment.

This troubling conversation can cause a lot of stress which also leads to depression and anxiety. Men who have been active in the military often have a hard time seeking help. Many men believe that in order to be in the military they must be strong and cannot afford to look weak. They are fighting for their families and our country and there is also an ample amount of pressure on them. Due to the extreme dangers of being in the military, it is displayed that military men have no fears, therefore, it is hard for them to ask for help. Suicide rates, especially for men who have served, are extremely high because they would rather commit suicide than be seen as weak and ask for help. This social norm that has been built within our society is incredibly subjective and limiting. Men are able to join the military at the young age of 18. To put such a vast amount of pressure on these men can damage their mental and physical health.

Due to the burden and stress that the military puts on these individuals, it can take a toll on their mental health, simply because of how our society is structured. Is this really what we want? All of these men, including fraternities, adults, and military men, experience some kind of stress from trying to prove their masculinity. If these men do not comply with the requested tasks, they can be seen as less masculine and weaker than others, which is dehumanizing. Due to the social norms which wrongfully portray men who are not as masculine as others, they are viewed as weak, feminine, or homosexual, which result in these men living enclosed, secretive lives because of their constant fear for seeking help.

Men conform to their peers and role models in order to fit in so they do not seem less masculine. In the 2017 film, Haze, freshman, Nick, is eager to join a fraternity despite all the rumors about hazing. As he begins his initiation process, he learns the hard way that these supposed rumors are true. From this point forward, Nick diverts his attention to the parties, drugs and sorority girls. He struggles with losing friends, his older brother trying to expose his frat house, and juggling school with all his fraternity requirements. These challenges and distractions make him contemplate the decisions he has made in his college life thus far.

During “hell week”, the hardest week of pledgeship, which results in initiation after completed, the pledge class learned the three pillars of their fraternity: trust, loyalty, and respect. Throughout the movie, the phrase “whatever it takes” continued to be the theme for the brothers. The president of the frat says the “ultimate goal of the frat” is to gain “the unbreakable bond”, however, I do not see how this can be done when the pledge class is constantly being deceived by the upperclassman, which are their so-called brothers. The hazing that was shown in the movie was binge drinking, killing the house dog, getting peed on, drinking their pledge brothers spit, getting paddled and spanked with a baseball bat, destructing school property, and getting branded with their greek letters. Some of these life threatening acts drove the boys to the point of tears. How does hazing these boys create the unbreakable bond? I think it is grotesquely wrong to treat people like this, especially when these boys are being asked to risk their own skin for the fraternity.

Why should they want to risk defacing their skin to do these tasks when it could get them kicked out of the house if not completed correctly, kicked off campus for breaking the law, or even result in death? On a large college campus, it can be hard to fit in, hence many people partake in greek life. It is understandable that young men join a fraternity in order to have friends, as well as seem like they have a sense of purpose. But what I do not understand is how some people have so much power over these young men that it makes their actions results in regret. Although men in fraternities have less of a chance to seek help because they are constantly focused on their relationships between their brothers, they do not even hesitate when given the chance to prove their manliness. This can result in reacting at whatever is thrown at them, like all of the hazing tasks presented in the movie. In Haze, it was easy to see the dangers and hazards that exist with being part of a fraternity, while also portraying the fulfilling and enjoyable aspects of fraternity life.. There was an ample amount of hazing examples throughout the film which showed the audience how serious and perilous, yet normal it is for these fraternities to haze, especially on big campuses.

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In the article, “It’s a Manhood Thing”, there is a review of previous fraternity incidents of hazing which shows that hazing is not a new thing, yet still continues to go on. In 1990, some greek councils refused pledging in order to stop hazing in general. As no new members could be added, the councils attempted to eliminate the traditional hazing that occured during this new time. However, in most cases, they were not successful because hazing still goes on today, if not worse than it did in the 1990’s. Then in 2003, an organization launched the “New Member Intake” program which allows the fraternities and sororities to seek a greater amount of people than normal. This program only made things worse, as fraternities started pledging again, but now decided to go “underground” so no one would find out, therefore, they could continue their old hazing traditions. As pledging “underground” is now illegal, it does not happen anymore and is now required to be seen by the public eye.

Although hazing is devastating, what is sad is that fraternities consider hazing part of the pledge experience or do not even realize they are hazing. The injuries caused by hazing in the article include two deaths, severe bruising, torn blood vessels, and damages to someone’s kidney, face, neck, and chest (Khoury, 2013). In some instances, some fraternities would have court hearings or even get their chapter suspended. Does a suspended chapter make up for the death of an INNOCENT man? Personally, I do not understand how men can haze someone so hard to the point of death. How hard are these men really pushing these young men, if there are results of death? Hazing makes these boys feel like men, but how does death on their hands make them feel? During the whole fraternity process, there are many “masculine identities that are both destructive and oppositional” (Khoury, 2013). Something I found interesting is that both the article and movie talk about “ultimate goals” for the fraternity (Khoury, 2013). As previously stated, the movie said the goal was the unbreakable bond, but the article says the ultimate goal is manhood. Therefore, being in the fraternity will help achieve that goal of manhood, which will later lead to the unbreakable bond. Some have mentioned hazing to be “emotionally and physically” abusive, but how does inflicting pain, whether it be mental or physical, create these goals being asked by the fraternities. If these men do not present their most masculine self, they are often seen as “feminine, weak, or homosexual” (Khoury, 2013). In fraternities, pledging is considered a “sacrifice” that re-establishes a sense of their manhood, hence the fact they believe hazing is necessary.

Men, on average, do not seek help from physicians because seeking physical or mental help can be seen as being weak. The article, “Macho Men and Preventive Health Care: Implications for Older Men in Different Social Classes”, focuses their research predominantly on older men because the majority of studies show the factors and data of college students or younger men. This highly leaned comparison makes older men feel invisible. The subject focus of this article is unique because what people hear about is the younger generation, but it is interesting to see that there are very similar results. On average, men die 5 years sooner than women do for many reasons. For example, men have a low rate of seeking help, they partake in difficult and life threatening jobs, and there is a high chance of smoking and drinking as a stress reliever.

If a man has strong masculinity beliefs, they are half as likely to receive preventative healthcare than men with moderate masculinity beliefs. However, gay and bisexual men are likely to seek help. Since these men are already “being seen as less masculine” (Springer et al, 2011), they seek help to ensure their safety. I do not blame them. I would rather be seen as less masculine and be healthy and safe than die 5 years earlier than I am supposed to because I am scared to defy the generalization that men are weak if they seek help. However, if men decide to seek help they prefer male doctors, but will not necessarily share their symptoms due to embarrassment. A doctor’s job is to examine their patients without judgement. I think it would be more beneficial to report the symptoms because the male doctor can share stories or tips that could help the individual, however, we will never know unless men start to share them. Manhood is a status that is “linked towards invincibility (Springer et al, 2011). If you show concern about sickness or something that is not stereotypically masculine, then the status is altered. I believe this is why men are so competitive. In the article, men compare their socioeconomic status with each other (SES) in order to have a sense of who is more powerful. Unfortunately, for African Americans and other races, ethnicities and cultures tend to have lower SES, which can be a burden within their social group.

For these lower SES cultural groups, they may not have the financial or social status needed in order to go to the doctor. For example, the stereotype is that other races are not as superior as Americans, thus making this group of people feel degraded and not worthy. I think this comparison is important to show just how much power means to these men. There are many ways to compare masculinity, but comparing SES is an odd thing to consider when deciding who is more masculine. I understand being embarrassed and not wanting to seek help when dealing with sexual pain or dysfunction. Although one should seek help no matter the complexity, I do not see how a man can be so shallow that he will not even see a doctor when needed. How can a stereotype have so much power over a person’s head?

Men who serve or have served have a stigma around them that makes them feel like they have to stay strong for everyone. Clearly, this is not the case. In the article, Defining Stigma in the Military Context, there is mention that in order for an article to talk about stigma, they have to supply the readers with the definition. As there can be many definitions of words, the article states that the actual definition of stigma is “‘brand’ or ‘mark of infamy’ associated with a specific subgroup or identity” (Acosta et al, 2014). This definition hints at the idea that the “identity” is “outside of what is normal or accepted” (Acosta et al, 2014) which will make these men feel less likely to seek help. Men perceive a greater stigma associated with seeking help than woman. Due to the norms and values as service members, the culture and perceptions of a military man create the sense of feeling like leaders. From their years of service, these men have always been told “no man gets left behind” so to think that their problems are worse than everyone else’s is against the militaries ethics.

Hegemonic masculinity is defined as a practice that legitimizes men's dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of the common male population and other marginalized ways of being a man. In the article, Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept, there was research and comments that challenged masculinity as well as enforced it. People can defend the “underlying concepts of masculinity” (Connell et al, 2005) but there is also some criticism. Throughout the years, masculinity has been criticized because it sets up men to be too macho. This research contemplates the varying sides of masculinity. To the authors, reevaluating the concept of hegemonic masculinity is worth their wild because if reworking the concept is useful, it can be transformed into contemporary terms. (Connell, 2005). The article suggests that if people reshape masculinity, it will lead to less criticism and focus less on social hierarchy. Although masculinity is open to change, their research is limited because it is based off changing it to more of a contemporary concept.

People may ask themselves, how did masculinity come to be? Was it because of the ancient paintings that were drawn on caves where men were engaged in battles? Was it that all the hunters many decades ago were all men? No matter what it was, our world is subject to change. It has changed so much in the past year which leads me to believe that how society views masculinity can change and should change. To search for, to try to find, or to ask for are all definitions for seeking help. There are many ways for men to get the help they need and/or want but are too scared too. In my opinion, this topic is similar to the one of body image.

People want to look a certain way, whether it is skinnier, thicker, curvier, prettier, they will do whatever it is to try to get that way, for example, purging, cosmetic enhancements and surgeries, or lots of makeup. This is similar to how men do not feel manly enough to be themself and to always out do themself or one another by being more masculine. Men, who do not seek help, will also do whatever it takes to feel comfortable in their own skin. With these stigmas, about weight and manliness, people try to change who they are when in reality, it is society that needs to change. Seeking help is important because no matter how manly someone wants to be, it should not deny them the rights of seeking help or talking to their loved ones. If the stereotypical norms of society changed, how many people would accept themselves as they are and seek help and who would still be too scared? As I have previously stated, it is bizarre how much people will change or try to adapt to fit under the expectations and guidelines of society.

After the studies shown, I think a study comparing the mental health of men who have seeked health and men who have not would be interesting to see how much of a difference it makes. If this study was completed, I wonder how many people would actually seek help after knowing it would benefit their mental health and could potentially help many unresolved issues in their life? All of the articles presented discuss how these men do not seek help because of the norms and stereotypes, but none talk about the men who actually have seeked help and how it has or has not improved them.

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