Men’s products like cologne, deodorant, energy drink and even cigarettes, have always been known to show some muscular men doing some manly activities in their advertisements. Although the purpose for this is to attract more men to use their products, you might realize how every ad tends to glorify hypermasculinity. It’s like these ads are showing that there are certain standards of being a ‘real man’ in the 21st century, it’s like unless you fullfil these toxic standards, society would not see you as a ‘real man’.
Terry Kupers, a professor at The Wright Institute school of psychology, defines toxic masculinity as
“the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence.”
So what are the kinds of toxic masculinity that most men’s product advertisements promote?
First, muscularity as men’s body standard. Most men’s product ads are always at least showing a muscular man as the main model of these ads. Do they even realize that their products are not used or consumed by only muscular and ripped men? Not every man can/want to have a muscular body, so a little representation in the media about men’s body positivity would not hurt anyone would it? For example, in this Old Spice body wash ad, it’s literally just a body wash, did they really have to cast someone muscular in it as well?
Second, sexism. Have you ever noticed how most men’s products are always showing some men doing dangerous stunts, or any other ‘manly’ activities like man-on-man violence or extreme sports while in reality, not every man is into those kind of things? This creates a stigma in the society about what ‘real men’ should do, which can cause some men who are not into those kind of activities to be looked down upon by society.
Additionally, the image of a ‘ladies’ man’. We often see how some men’s product ads show a storyline about how the main male character in the end would end up getting the ladies he wants/surrounded by ladies after using/consuming the products that are being promoted. Once again, this creates a bad stigma towards men, while in reality not every man is ladies’ man or even attracted to women.
So how can toxic masculinity hurt men in general? As explained before, toxic masculinity creates a ‘standard’ about how men should behave in general and with mass media promoting it, there’s a certain pressure that most men would feel after seeing those ads. Recent research even found that men that follow gender comformity and toxic masculinity are more likely to be suffering from a mental illness. Advertisers should be more aware with those kinds of issue, and stop bombarding the media with messages about how men should follow some kind of ‘standard’ to be seen as masculine or manly enough.