June 20, 2021
Writers: Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Jerwin Regala, and Christine Joy Salva Cruz
Editor: K Ballesteros
Researcher: Nel Fortes
Graphics: Krystle Mae Labio
Tweet Chat Moderators: Krystle Mae Labio, Angelica Jane Evangelista, Gie Lenna Dela Pena, and Richardson Mojica
Documentation: Alvin Joseph Mapoy and Ian Stephen Velez
Spaces Moderators: Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Azie Marie Libanan, K Ballesteros, and Richardson Mojica
Libra would describe his dad as a strict father. His father always pressured him to be the perfect son, at least from his perspective. He was always cautious around his father and they never developed a close relationship. One night on their way home from church, Libra’s father was shot by another man. Libra saw his father die in his mother’s arms. He never shed a tear until that night because he’s the perfect son that never wept. Libra often wondered how his father felt when he was alive. He had always shown a tough exterior, but what did he really feel?
Similarly, Virgo’s father passed away a decade ago. He was just a nine-year-old boy when his soldier Papa succumbed to lung cancer. It was difficult for him to remember how his father had been. But looking at the stresses of his soldier uncles and cousins, Virgo saw how hard it was to work in the military. The military has a strong standard for masculinity making it also hard for men to express their emotions. Of course, human as they are, Virgo knew they might be also struggling emotionally and mentally, but how can they do it discreetly?
Leo’s father was also strict but was not afraid to show his love and affection to his family. He was strict when it came to his only daughter. Leo understood her father’s behavior since she was his only child. Since the pandemic started, Leo noticed some changes in her father’s behavior. Leo’s father was a tricycle driver used to always being outside and riding his tricycle. Due to restrictions during the pandemic, Lea’s father decided to just stay home. During the lockdown, Leo got the chance to bond with her father. They got the chance to get closer and do something that they both enjoy. But as the pandemic continued, Leo’s father grew tired of the same routine. He then started to become easily irritated about everything, and easily got mad. Leo became worried about her father’s behavior so she started helping him de-stress: she asked him to go for a ride around the town, still following the protocol of course, and to do some sight-seeing. But were these activities enough to help her father to manage his temper?
These questions were seldom asked. Stories that were passed down from generation to generation. In a world where machismo and patriarchy exist, do men feel they have the freedom to show their true emotions?
Toxic Masculinity and Machismo
Patriarchy was a life-threatening socio-political system whose effects men experience every day (Australian, 2020). Under patriarchy, men were “biologically aggressive, dominating, and superior to everything and everyone, and other groups of people, especially females should be considered weak, subservient, and modest” (Australian, 2020). This ideology produced many sub-ideas and cultures that stem from social expectations about men.
Traditional masculinity was rooted in our history. Early Homo sapiens used strength to exert dominance, and the strongest and most desirable male individual had characteristics such as aggression, ruthlessness, and physical strength (Medical, n.d.).
A study by Ingram and her colleagues (2019) defined toxic masculinity as “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence” (as cited in Kupers, 2005). In modern society, toxic masculinity is used to describe exaggerated masculine traits (Medical, n.d.).
These definitions of toxic masculinity appear in research and pop culture, and are rooted in three core components: toughness, anti-femininity, and power (Thompson & Pleck, 1986). The idea that men should be “physically strong, emotionally callous, and behaviorally aggressive” is called toughness. Anti-femininity involves the notion that men should reject anything that is feminine. Lastly, power is the assumption that men should always be deemed as powerful and maintain status to gain the respect of others (Morin, 2020).
Toxic masculinity limits a person’s growth and definition of masculinity, thus, making it dangerous. Men who do not possess traits typically described as “masculine” experience stress called gender role conflict (Medical, n.d.). When men are provided with a limited, narrow lens of masculinity, they tend to feel that they would only experience acceptance when they live up to these traits (Medical, n.d.). Toxic masculinity is “the manifestation of masculinity that coerces limitations in behavior and reiterates the power dominion of men with social, financial, and cultural capital, namely rich white misogynistic men” (Australian, 2020).
Society views men as stoic, self-sacrificing, and, most importantly, strong (KidCentral, n.d.), the reason majority of these health difficulties go unnoticed. In the book Psychology of Men & Masculinity, the authors thought that there is accumulating evidence that supports the relation between the way men are traditionally socialized to be masculine, and the harmful mental health consequences of this socialization (Fragoso; Kashubeck, 2000). “Machismo” describes an attitude and conception that men by nature are strong and self-reliant (Ortiz, 2018). Machismo is by far the most oppressive and systemic idea that keeps men from expressing emotions.
Displays of machismo and sexism still persist in the socio-political climate that we currently experience. Leaders flaunting their machismo, rape jokes, and the vilification of women are still prevalent in the Philippines (Santos, 2018). Sadly, “misogyny is deeply entrenched in Philippine society and culture,” said Betty Romero, a teacher and activist (Santos, 2018).
While machismo and toxic masculinity are prevalent in television and social media, Filipino masculinity was androcentric, and manifested in pervasive and problematic images of men. “What is rarely analyzed are the varieties of men and the varieties of masculinities which are not necessarily problematic, but often destabilizing, contradictory, and unsettling, and sometimes disempowering” said Angeles (2001) in her study about Filipino masculinity. Empowering unproblematic masculine traits is one step towards changing the discourse surrounding Filipino masculinity.
As we move forward with masculinity as a concept forms of masculinity may be rejected while others may be better accepted (Medical, n.d.). This suggests that masculinity is a shifting idea rather than a pure, narrow set of rules.
Man Up!: Development of toxic masculinity mentality
Social expectations and gender roles dictate that men should be “the breadwinners of their family, and emanate “masculine” traits of aggression, stoicism, physical strength, and dominance” (Australian, 2020).
In 1981, Sandra Bem introduced the Gender Schema Theory (Sharma, 2017). The theory asserts that children learn about female and male roles from the culture that they were raised to (Lehman, 2020). How does gender schema theory apply in the Philippines?
In a typical Filipino family, every kid in the family has to undergo different processes or changes for them to become ganap na babae or ganap na lalaki. For the boys, they are expected to undergo pagtutuli or the circumcision process (Tuli, the Filipino Tradition, 2020) while girls are expected to experience their first menstrual cycle when they reach the age of 12. Some even experienced having theirs late which is also normal (White, 2018).
Fathers’ involvement during the perinatal period and the first years of their children’s lives can help prepare their children for school, help them acquire an advanced vocabulary, enhance their social skills, and teach them to regulate their emotions. A father’s involvement in childcare has a positive impact on their partner, and will result in both of them being responsive when raising their child. The father’s involvement also decreases the chance of either parent experiencing mental health issues when raising their child (Yogman et al., 2016). Despite these benefits, most fathers have a hard time getting involved in their children’s lives (NICHQ, n.d.).
Men are pressured to maintain macho ideals at the risk of judgment. The role of fathers as the “haligi ng tahanan” can also have an impact on the child’s development. Since they are most likely working to provide for their family, they spend less time with their kids. According to Singley (n.d.), fathers deal with barriers to interacting with their children, which results in stress and eventual mental health issues. Fathers who are unable to deal with their mental health find it difficult to interact with their children and build relationships with them (Singley, n.d.) This results in being stressed because they cannot always be present as their child grows up since there are lots of barriers that are keeping them away from interacting with their child. And this stress can turn into a more serious mental health issue which will make it difficult for fathers to interact or build their relationship with their children (Singley, n.d.).
Boys are discouraged from showing their emotional side. They are always expected to be this macho type of guy who doesn’t know how to cry. And when they do cry, they are told to ‘man up!’ and ‘boys don’t cry!’ (Montero, 2018).
A study by Seidler and his colleagues (2016) stated that conforming to the masculine ideology and gender roles is related to anguish, poorer mental health, and the reluctance to seek help.
A father’s transition to parenthood
After being in love with a woman, engaged and married, being a father is one of the most overwhelming and proudest moments in a man’s life. Imagine holding a breathing and innocent human life. Becoming a parent is a crucial developmental turning point for men (KidCentral, n.d.).
While the majority of the attention is fairly given to the mother and the newborn, before, during and after the childbirth, the physical and mental health of the father ares often forgotten and neglected (Stoneham, 2016).
Biologically, a few months before childbirth, the testosterone level (the primary sex hormone for males) of a man decreases while prolactin (hormone responsible in maintaing reproductive health and strong immunity in men), vasopressin (helps in maintaing water balance of the body, blood volume, internal temperature,and urine flow in kidneys) and other hormones increase, rewiring a man’s brain to prepare him for fatherhood. Entire areas of a man’s brain respond to hormonal changes in the first year of a child’s life, which equip him with crucial skills to care for a newborn including an increased sensitivity to crying, a deeper capacity to bond emotionally, and a greater responsiveness to another’s needs (Schaeffer, 2016).
These hormonal changes and the transition to fatherhood increases a man’s chances of experiencing mental instability, mood disorders and clinical depression.
Patriarchy is killing men’s well-being and their children too
The narrow lens on toxic masculinity could cause a variety of issues among men with highly masculine beliefs such as bullying, domestic abuse, and sexual assault (Medical, n.d.). Furthermore, toxic masculinity tends to glorify unhealthy beliefs and habits. The idea that “self-care is for women” discourages men from seeing doctors (Morin, 2020). In a study by Springer & Mouzon (2011), men who have strong masculinity beliefs are less likely to seek preventive health than those men with moderate masculinity beliefs. Furthermore, unhealthy habits and risky behaviors such as heavy drinking and smoking are most prevalent among men with higher conformity towards masculine norms.
According to research conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (2017), the number of depressive symptoms in boys nationwide have increased from 4.3% to 5.7%. Recent studies show one in ten fathers get postpartum depression and nearly 20 percent are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when a new baby arrives (KidCentral, 2018). This increase in number should be taken more seriously because this only proves that men are vulnerable to depression too and that they are not what we always think they are.
For many men in the United States suffering from mental disorders, it is easier to get a gun than to seek help (Plank, 2019). This belief is related to the masculine mindset that men are weak when they seek help for themselves. Thus, reluctance to care for their mental health is a prevalent issue among men (Plank, 2019). This is more visible among rural counties who do not have access towards mental health professionals (Plank, 2019). Thus, in the Philippines, where mental health professionals are limited in number, do men seek help for their mental health?
Filipinos, in general, are hampered to seek help regarding mental health problems due to financial constraints and inaccessibility of services. But one of the main concerns that prevents Filipinos from seeking help involves the following: “self and social stigma, and by concern for loss of face, sense of shame, and adherence to Asian values of conformity to norms where mental illness is considered unacceptable” (Martinez et al., 2020). Sadly, there is no data about the self and social stigma that Filipino men experience that hampers help-seeking behavior.
While fathers’ mental health needs to be protected, their children are affected by their refusal to seek help. Children are at higher risk of emotional and behavioral difficulties when fathers are experiencing mental illness. It also has the same intensity as when mothers experience any mental illness (DPhil, Psychogiou, 2009). Also, according to the data from Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (2015), fathers who are experiencing rising distress are more likely to become less consistent in setting clear boundaries and limitations for their child’s behavior. There’s also a tendency for fathers to become distant and show less warmth to their children. They also show greater hostility by the time their child is eight or nine years of age.
This only proves that when fathers, or even mothers, are struggling with their mental health, their children are the ones deeply affected by the situation.
Psychologically, men face some of the toughest developmental challenges when they become a father. Recent studies show one in ten fathers get postpartum depression and nearly 20 percent are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when a new baby arrives (KidCentral, 2018). “And men are far less likely to seek help, particularly mental health help, in the perinatal period.” says Dr. Daniel Single. However, this has not always been the case in all countries.
Iceland has been recognized as the best nation in terms of gender equality for a decade. The country is a “feminist utopia” as well as a country where men enjoy the highest life expectancy in Europe (Plank, 2019). What is the secret behind the country’s gender equality?
Norwegian sociologist Holter’s research indicated that there is a direct relationship between the state of gender equality in a country and male well-being (Plank, 2019). Thus, suggesting that “if men’s rights activists want to improve men’s lives, they should join the feminists in dismantling bygone ideals of masculinity” (Plank, 2019).
We have to understand that men can feel emotions. They might be viewed as the dominant in the society but they also have the right to express their feelings and emotions.
Different fathers in society
“John Henryism” is used to describe men who use high effort as a way to cope with problems and they continue to do so in the face of chronic stress and discrimination (Morin, 2020).
The modern father comes in various forms. Today’s father is no longer always the traditional married breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family. He can be single or married; externally employed or stay-at home; gay or straight; an adoptive or step-parent; and a more than capable caregiver to children facing physical or psychological challenges (APA, 2009).
Within the responsible fatherhood arena, fathers who are not living with their children are often referred to as non-residential or non-custodial fathers. Non-custodial fathers do not have legal or physical custody of children, even if they live with them. Non-residential teen fathers may experience other unique challenges, such as navigating relationships with the child’s grandparents and affording child support. (National, n.d.)
Non-residential fathers are at high risk for becoming disconnected from their children over time. Lacking a minimally close relationship, as is the case when couples become acquaintances, is likely to result in lower levels of paternal engagement of children (APA, 2009).
Divorced and stepfathers
In cases of divorce, it is often difficult, if not impossible, for fathers to maintain the same types of parenting roles with their biological children. Most divorced fathers do not receive full custody of their children (APA, 2009).
It is estimated that one in three Americans is part of a step-family. Step-fathers can encounter many difficulties in their new parenting roles. They must strike a balance between maintaining healthy relationships with their ex-spouses in order to benefit their biological children without alienating their new partners (APA, 2009).
With the growing numbers of gay fathers in our society, research suggests that they are likely to divide the work involved in child care relatively evenly and that they are happy with their couple relationships. In fact, research findings suggest that gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive home environments for children (APA, 2009).
Extensive research over the last three decades shows that homosexuality is not a mental disorder; there is no reliable evidence that it impairs psychological functioning, although the discrimination and prejudice gay men face can often cause acute distress. Likewise, beliefs that gay men are not fit parents have no empirical foundation (APA, 2009).
The emergence of the “stay-at-home” father demonstrates a new type of patriarch who is primarily charged with caregiving in the context of his family (APA, 2009).
Stay-at-home fathers court stigma as they flout social norms surrounding masculine behavior. Most of these fathers do not feel bound to these norms and are comfortable being affectionate and nurturing with their children, characteristics which are traditionally thought of as feminine (APA, 2009).
Checking our Fathers’ Well-Being and Promoting Paternal Mental Health
Supporting and promoting the mental health of fathers should be a no brainer. “Erasing the stigma” as our advocacy says, promotes fathers’ mental wellbeing in response to the reality of their increased risk for depression in the postpartum period, and their low rate of help-seeking behavior.
Dad’s Matter UK (n.d.) listed some simple Do’s for fathers. We can use these tips to encourage and support them:
- Believe that you will get better and recognize that you are unwell and not a failure. Letting our fathers understand their situation is the first step to acceptance, and with acceptance there can be recovery.
- Take every opportunity to get plenty of rest and sleep. Of course, psychologists have proven how sleep affects our mental health. Resting and sleeping give our brain a chance to recharge (Sunshine Behavioral Health, n.d.). Some fathers tend to overwork; it is best to remind them if things don’t get done, there will always be tomorrow.
- Get enough nourishment and exercise. Maintaining a regular exercise routine and healthy eating habits are some of the most common suggestions mental health professionals have for fathers that are stressed and overwhelmed in their daily lives (Manuel, n.d.)
- Find time to talk and have some fun with your partner and children. Building good family dynamics needs a good parent partnership. That means sharing both the good and the bad news, working through any bumps or frustrations, and trading off duties every now and then (Manuel, n.d.). Regular communication between parents is important. Developing a bond with your father would also be mentally supportive to them which might also relieve stress.
- Keeping a strong support group. Encouraging fathers to maintain connections is crucial, too. They will need all of the help they can get, including people who can serve as an outlet with whom they can freely express themselves (Manuel, n.d.). More than that, it is also important to seek help from a mental health professional which will also reduce the risk of developing stress-related illnesses.
As Libra, Virgo, and Lea reflect on the questions they want to ask their fathers, they realize that the idea of masculinity is a socio-political issue that needs to be addressed. If one wants to protect men’s mental health and rights, one must adapt to the feminist ideology of gender equality.
- Quote tweet with a GIF or a Picture of your favorite moments with your father. Describe an unexpected bonding moment with your father.
- Do you think your father has a hard time expressing his emotions?
- What are the common issues about toxic masculinity? How can we fight this ideology?
- How can we support fathers who have concerns with their mental health, especially this pandemic?
- If you are given a chance to ask one question to your father, what would you ask him?
- What do you want to say to your father?
References and Other Readings
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). The changing role of the modern day father. https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/changing-father
Angeles, L. C. (2001). The Filipino male as macho-Machunurin: Bringing men and masculinities in gender and development in the Philippines. Kasarinlan Journal of Third World Issues, 9–30.
Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association. (2020). Men’s mental health: “Man up” is not the answer. https://anzmh.asn.au/blog/mental-health/mens-mental-health-toxic-masculinity
Cherry, K. (2020). Gender schema theory and roles in culture. Verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-gender-schema-theory-2795205
Dad matters. (n.d.). Dad matters. https://dadmatters.org.uk/national/
Ingram, K. M., Davis, J. P., Espelage, D. L., Hatchel, T., Merrin, G. J., Valido, A., & Torgal, C. (2019). Longitudinal associations between features of toxic masculinity and bystander willingness to intervene in bullying among middle school boys. Journal of School Psychology, 139–151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2019.10.007
Kidcentral TN. (n.d.). Dad’s mental health can affect the entire family. https://www.kidcentraltn.com/support/full-family-support/dad-s-mental-health-can-affect-the-entire-family-.html
Mahalik, J. R., Burns, S. M., & Syzdek, M. (2007). Masculinity and perceived normative health behaviors as predictors of men’s health behaviors. Social Science & Medicine, 2201–2209. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.02.035
Martinez, A. B., Co, M., Lau, J., & Brown, J. S. L. (2020). Filipino help-seeking for mental health problems and associated barriers and facilitators: A systematic review. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 55, 1397–1413. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-020-01937-2
Medical News Today. (n.d.). What to know about toxic masculinity. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/toxic-masculinity#summary
Morin, A. (2020). What is toxic masculinity? Verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-toxic-masculinity-5075107
Plank, L. (2019). Why the patriarchy is killing men. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/why-the-patriarchy-is-killing-men/2019/09/12/2490fa7e-d3ea-11e9-86ac-0f250cc91758_story.html
Pleck, J. H., & Thompson, E. H. (1986). The structure of male role norms. American Behavioral Scientist. Published. https://doi.org/10.1177/000276486029005003
Santos, A. P. (2018). The price of ‘Machismo populism’ in the Philippines. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/duterte-kiss-philippines/562265/
Seidler, Z. E., Dawes, A. J., Rice, S. M., Oliffe, J. L., & Dhillon, H. M. (2016). The role of masculinity in men’s help-seeking for depression: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review. Published. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2016.09.002
Springer, K. W., & Mouzon, D. M. (2011). “Macho men” and preventive health care: Implications for older men in different social classes. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Published. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146510393972
The News Minute. (2017). How patriarchy and gender roles contribute to mental health issues in Indian women. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/how-patriarchy-and-gender-roles-contribute-mental-health-issues-indian-women-67688