Macho Stereotypes Are Hurting Guys Too

Surgeon At Work
Photo: Romano Cagnoni/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “toxic masculinity” — basically, the idea of gender-based pressure for men to act a certain way that can damage men and women alike. There’s naturally some controversy over the term and how far it can be stretched, but a study just released in the British Journal of Psychology (it’s not online yet, but the press release is here) offers a useful example of how this concept might work in practice.

As the press release explains, “In a two part study of 218 Royal Marine recruits and 117 male surgical trainees, the researchers found that simply being a man isn’t enough to protect from the ‘corrosive effects’ of these macho stereotypes.” Many of the men felt like they didn’t fit in given the pressure to act in an overtly macho manner. “[T]he researchers found that in new male recruits a perceived ‘lack of fit’ with masculine commandos was associated with reduced identification and motivation within their occupation,” the release explains. “Furthermore, they discovered that male surgical trainees who didn’t feel they fit in were more likely to want to leave the profession.”

It would be shocking if these effects were limited to these two professions in this one country; surely they’re prevalent in a lot of other places and fields. And that’s a shame — whether or not one can act macho should have no bearing on the decision of whether or not to become a surgeon (or anything else). It certainly seems likely that some people who might otherwise be wonderful, caring surgeons are getting chased out by toxic pressures to conform to a certain sort of image and bearing. This isn’t good news for anybody.