Redefining Masculinity: Embrace Strength, Reject Toxicity, and Be a Force for Positive Change

Traditional masculinity often conjures images of stoic, muscular men who never show vulnerability. However, while some aspects of this archetype can be beneficial, others can be deeply harmful. Men must embrace the positive elements of masculinity, such as physical strength and the instinct to protect, while discarding the detrimental traits, like sexism and emotional repression. 


Think about it: lifting weights, engaging in combat sports, and striving for physical prowess can all be aspects of a healthy and empowered masculinity. These activities can boost your self-esteem, improve physical health, and even provide a sense of camaraderie. However, it’s equally important to cultivate emotional maturity and be a supportive partner. Emotional strength, after all, is just as vital as physical strength.

You can be both strong and vulnerable. Being physically powerful doesn’t mean you need to hide your emotions or dominate others. True strength lies in understanding and balancing both aspects of yourself.

person standing on hill

The Manosphere Split: Self-Help vs. Toxic Influences

The “Manosphere” is a term used to describe a collection of websites, blogs, and online forums that cater to men’s issues, focusing on masculinity, men’s rights, and self-improvement. However, within this sphere, a significant split exists between positive influencers and toxic personalities. 

On the beneficial side of the spectrum, figures like Dr Andrew Huberman—an American neuroscientist and associate professor at Stanford University—are leading the charge. With a strong emphasis on physical and mental health, Huberman provides evidence-based advice on everything from sleep and exercise to mindfulness, offering men constructive tools to enhance their well-being. 

Huberman’s approach fosters a holistic understanding of masculinity, where traits like strength and resilience are balanced with emotional intelligence and mindfulness. By encouraging men to be introspective and health-conscious, influencers like Huberman are challenging outdated notions of manhood. 

Additionally, influencers like Lex Fridman, a researcher and podcaster known for deeply reflective interviews on subjects ranging from artificial intelligence to human emotion, add intellectual and emotional depth to the manosphere. Lex champions a balanced life where empathy and curiosity stand on par with physical strength and resilience. 

Similarly, figures like Nsima Inyang and Mark Bell offer valuable insights into strength training and physical fitness. Nsima, a trainer and bodybuilder, emphasises the importance of a holistic approach to health and fitness, integrating mental well-being with physical prowess. Mark Bell, a powerlifter and entrepreneur, promotes strength training as a pathway to personal development and self-discipline. While no influencer is without flaws, these figures’ overarching message is positive, balanced self-improvement. 

Modern podcasters like Joe Rogan also play a dual role in this space. Rogan, known for his podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” often delves into subjects that span fitness, mental health, and the importance of resilience. While his platform can sometimes host a range of perspectives, Rogan frequently emphasises the value of intellectual curiosity and personal improvement, encouraging men to enrich themselves physically and mentally. 

Another positive force is Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL officer, best-selling author, and leadership consultant. Jocko’s teachings on discipline and leadership resonate with many men looking to channel their inherent strengths towards constructive ends. His podcasts and books often focus on personal accountability, resilience, and mental and physical health.

Of course, I must include Jordan Peterson here. He is another great example of a personality with positive and potentially damaging information, depending on your perspective, knowledge, and exposure to his work. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, has undoubtedly left a significant mark on discussions about masculinity and self-improvement. His teachings often draw on psychological theories and complex analysis of human behaviour, offering a unique perspective that many people find insightful and empowering. For instance, Peterson’s emphasis on personal responsibility, order, and competence has resonated with countless individuals seeking meaning and direction in their lives.

However, it’s important to approach Peterson’s work with a critical mind. While his advice can be incredibly motivating and beneficial, it can also be polarising. Some of his views on gender roles and societal structures have sparked controversy and debate. Critics argue that certain aspects of his philosophy can inadvertently reinforce outdated stereotypes or be interpreted in ways that justify negative behaviour. Therefore, it’s crucial to contextualise his advice within a broader understanding of modern values and equality.

Ultimately, Jordan Peterson is a fascinating figure within the ‘manosphere’ – representing positive growth and contentious ideals. By selectively integrating his constructive insights while remaining aware of potential pitfalls, you can empower yourself in ways that align with a progressive and inclusive view of masculinity.

In stark contrast, personalities like Andrew Tate and the proponents of the “Red Pill” community often promote a brand of masculinity steeped in hyper-aggression, misogyny, and emotional suppression. This toxic influence perpetuates harmful stereotypes, encouraging men to view women as conquests and fostering a sense of entitlement that ultimately leads to damaging behaviours. Online forums and social media exacerbate this influence, often spreading misinformation and reinforcing harmful ideologies. 

The divergence in the manosphere is stark and highlights the critical need for men to discern between positive self-help and toxic masculinity. Embracing constructive advice from experts can lead to a more fulfilling and balanced life, whereas succumbing to toxic influences often results in perpetuating cycles of anger, isolation, and unhealthy relationships.

As seen from the outside

Mention Joe Rogan to many women, and you are guaranteed an eye roll. From the outside looking in, the broad appeal of figures like Joe Rogan, Andrew Huberman, and others can often be met with scepticism or even disdain, particularly from women. This reaction is understandable; Rogan’s approach to masculinity, featuring discussions on combat sports, hunting, and other traditionally ‘manly’ topics, may seem to be aligned with the more toxic elements of the manosphere. Additionally, there is a prevalent perception that everyone who puts on a pile of muscle becomes a meathead or that those who enjoy combat sports and firearms must be the stereotypical American redneck. However, this perception doesn’t fully capture the breadth of their influence.

While Rogan undeniably celebrates physical prowess and self-sufficiency, he frequently champions emotional intelligence, self-improvement, and open-mindedness. His extensive guest list includes scientists, philosophers, athletes, and mental health experts, fostering dialogues that cross ideological lines and encourage holistic personal growth. Similarly, Andrew Huberman’s emphasis on neuroscience and well-being showcases a modern approach to masculinity that values mental fortitude as much as physical strength. Thus, while some of their content may initially provoke eye-rolls, exploring their discussions more deeply reveals a broader, more nuanced approach to modern masculinity. There is a lot more subtlety beneath the surface, challenging stereotypes and advocating for a well-rounded personal development.

Of course, as they have grown, their messages have been monetised—this is no different from those who blazed trails before them, such as Tim Ferris, Anthony Robbins, and Deepak Chopra. The shift towards monetisation is a common pathway for many influential figures, reflecting both their popularity and the demand for their content.

I would also observe that as they grow, there is sometimes a shift in their own persona – as they start to believe their own hype – coming across as not so ‘interested to learn’ – as ‘proclaiming the truth’ – a tricky line to walk.  

This shift can radically deform their perception of masculinity, often leading to an unhealthy conviction that they possess all the answers and are above critique. This misconception fosters an environment where toxic traits like arrogance and dismissiveness thrive, undermining authentic growth and development. To navigate this precarious path, it’s crucial to maintain humility and be perpetual learners, embracing growth in physical strength and emotional and intellectual maturity. 

The journey to balanced masculinity involves acknowledging vulnerability as a pathway to strength rather than a weakness to be concealed. It means being open to changing perspectives and understanding that “being a man” can encompass much more than traditional stereotypes suggest.

Red Pill, Black Pill, Incells

The term ‘manosphere’ encompasses various online communities with differing views on manhood. Among these, the Red Pill and Black Pill movements often attract negative attention due to their association with toxic ideologies. Red Pill followers advocate for a “wake-up call” to realise the perceived injustices men face in modern society, frequently vilifying women and promoting controlling behaviours. Black Pill ideology, even more extreme, dwells on fatalistic beliefs that men are inherently doomed by societal and genetic factors, which fosters deep-seated misogyny and nihilism. 

Incels, or involuntary celibates, share a similar strain of toxic masculinity, blaming women and societal standards for their lack of romantic success. This frustration often escalates into harmful rhetoric and even violent actions, as seen in several notorious cases of incel-related violence.

At the heart of the incel ideology is a deep-seated belief in strict gender roles and a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. This is a manifestation of toxic masculinity that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and fuels misogyny. The dangerous combination of frustration, resentment, and perceived injustice can, in extreme cases, lead to tragic outcomes, further cementing the destructive nature of such beliefs. 

It’s crucial to underscore that the issue extends beyond just incels. Similar toxic behaviours are evident in some segments of the so-called “manosphere,” where harmful advice and ideologies are dispensed under the guise of self-improvement. These communities often promote a worldview where women are dehumanised and viewed as obstacles or commodities rather than as equal partners in society. 

Acknowledging the existence and impact of these toxic attitudes is the first step towards fostering a healthier understanding of masculinity. By offering and embracing alternative, positive models of manhood, we can create a cultural shift that values emotional maturity, respect, and equality. This transformation involves encouraging men to express vulnerability, cultivate empathy, and develop healthy relationships.

Understanding Toxic Masculinity: Bigotry and Sexism Unveiled

Toxic masculinity is an insidious force seeping into the lives of boys and men through cultural and social norms that glorify dominance, aggression, and emotional stoicism. At its core, it involves a set of behaviours and beliefs that include the suppression of emotions, the devaluation of women, and the rejection of anything perceived as “feminine.” 

Bigotry and sexism are two of its most glaring manifestations. Men who have absorbed these traits are often taught that showing vulnerability or empathy is a sign of weakness. This leads to emotional suppression, which not only affects their mental health but can also result in aggressive behaviour as they struggle to express their true feelings. 

Sexism, another toxic offshoot, leads to the objectification of women and an entitled attitude towards their bodies and lives. This mindset fosters harmful practices such as sexual harassment and even violence against women. The cultural narrative that men must be dominant and controlling perpetuates these issues, making it challenging for genuine equality to take root. 

Understanding these components of toxic masculinity is the first step towards dismantling them. By recognising that these harmful behaviours are socially conditioned rather than inherent, men can begin to embrace more positive aspects of masculinity. It allows them to break free from these outdated norms and redefine what it means to be a man in contemporary society.

Combat Sports and Compassion: Balancing Toughness with Kindness

Engaging in combat sports like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu often brings images of physical strength, discipline, and toughness to mind. These activities foster not only physical prowess but also mental resilience. However, it’s essential to balance this toughness with compassion to break free from the constraints of toxic masculinity. 

Combat sports can teach you humility, respect, and patience. Entering the ring or dojo isn’t just about overpowering an opponent; it’s about honouring the principles of fair play, understanding your own limits, and managing emotions like anger and frustration healthily. Recognising the person behind the opponent facilitates empathy and reduces the urge to dominate aggressively. 

Beyond these values, combat sports enhance your capacity for resilience and strength in adversity. You’ll inevitably face challenging moments that test your skills and resolve in any match. Learning to take a hit—whether physical or metaphorical—and move forward is a crucial life skill, building a robust mental fortitude that extends far beyond the mat. 

This resilience is cultivated every time you get knocked down and choose to get back up. It reinforces a mindset of perseverance and determination, driving home the idea that failure is merely an opportunity to learn and improve. Through repeated practice, you develop a thicker skin, enabling you to handle life’s challenges with greater ease and confidence. 

Thus, don’t neglect your emotional growth while you sharpen your physical abilities. Building emotional intelligence—being attuned to your feelings and those of others—enhances your relationships and fosters a more inclusive and supportive environment. This balance enables you to become stronger, kinder, and more understanding.

The Desire to Protect: A Positive Outlet for Masculine Energy

The desire to protect is often rooted in men’s historical roles as guardians and providers. When channelled positively, this instinct can lead to commendable behaviour contributing to societal well-being. However, it’s crucial to differentiate this protective instinct from controlling behaviour that stems from toxic masculinity. 

Being a protector doesn’t necessarily mean taking on physical threats. It can mean advocating for others, standing up against injustices, and supporting the lives of friends and family. For example, mental health has become a growing issue; by understanding the importance of mental well-being, men can protect and support those around them who might be struggling. 

Physical strength and protection: Embracing activities like lifting weights and participating in combat sports can enhance physical strength and instil discipline. These physical outlets provide a means for men to connect with their bodies and cultivate a protective instinct in a non-violent way. 

Emotional strength and protection: Developing emotional intelligence allows men to protect their emotional well-being and that of others. This means listening actively, showing empathy, and offering emotional support. By fostering open communication, men can help create environments where everyone feels safe and valued. 

Ultimately, being a protector in the modern world requires a balance between physical prowess and emotional maturity. It’s about using your strength not to dominate but to uplift and defend those who are vulnerable. This balanced approach strengthens your character and contributes positively to the community, making the desire to protect a truly noble aspect of positive masculinity.

man in black long sleeve shirt holding white ceramic mug

Emotional Intelligence: The New Standard for Manhood

Emotional intelligence, often abbreviated as EQ, is rapidly becoming a cornerstone for modern manhood. While physical strength and resilience have long been celebrated, they are increasingly complemented by the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions and those of others. This shift is pivotal in dismantling the rigid, harmful stereotypes of traditional masculinity. 

Research suggests that high emotional intelligence can greatly enhance personal and professional relationships. Awareness of emotions makes you better equipped to handle stress and make thoughtful decisions. Additionally, understanding the emotions of those around you fosters empathy, which plays a crucial role in building inclusive, respectful communities. 

So, how can you cultivate emotional intelligence? It starts with self-awareness. Reflect on your feelings and consider why you react in certain ways to specific situations. Journaling can be an effective tool for this, helping you track your emotional patterns and triggers. Next is self-regulation, which involves managing your emotions in healthy ways. Techniques such as mindful breathing, taking a break when you’re upset, and engaging in physical exercise can all contribute to better emotional control. 

Empathy and social skills are the other key components of emotional intelligence. Practise active listening when talking to others, focusing fully on what they are saying without planning your own responses. This shows respect and deepens your understanding of their experiences and emotions. 

Furthermore, developing emotional intelligence doesn’t mean suppressing your masculine traits; instead, it complements them. Strength and emotional depth can coexist. Embrace the complexity of human emotions and recognise that showing vulnerability can signify immense inner strength. This balance allows for a more holistic approach to masculinity, which is powerful and compassionate. 

Adopting these practices contributes to a broader cultural shift towards a more positive, inclusive vision of manhood. Equipping yourself with emotional intelligence enhances your life and sets a valuable example for others, fostering a society where emotional maturity is celebrated alongside traditional masculine virtues.

Raised fist

Alternative Models of Manhood: Finding Your Own Path

One of the most empowering aspects of redefining masculinity is the freedom to find your own path. It’s about embracing individuality and rejecting harmful stereotypes. A man can be strong, compassionate, assertive, empathetic, disciplined, and flexible. You don’t have to fit into a narrow box to be proud of who you are. 

Consider Positive Role Models 

Look towards individuals who embody a balanced perspective of masculinity. Figures like Andrew Huberman offer a fresh take, combining physical fitness with mental well-being, pushing men to be resilient and emotionally intelligent. These role models challenge the toxic influences prevalent in the ‘manosphere,’ which often promote aggression and misogyny. 

Define Your Own Success 

Success doesn’t have to entail domination or accumulation of wealth. It can mean being a loving partner, a supportive friend, or an engaged community member. Embrace traits that foster genuine connections and personal growth. Whether you’re interested in art, sports, academics, or any other field, pursue what brings you joy without needing external validation. 

Practice Emotional Intelligence 

Building emotional intelligence is crucial. It involves acknowledging your own feelings and understanding the emotions of others. This makes for a better partner, friend, and more content, self-aware individual. It’s a practice that can be cultivated through reflection and mindfulness, shattering the outdated idea that men should suppress their feelings. 

Engage in Healthy Competition 

Competition can be a positive force when approached healthily. Engage in activities that challenge you physically and mentally, like sports or creative pursuits, but remember that the true measure of success lies in personal improvement and not necessarily in defeating others. Embrace the spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect. 

Support Each Other 

Encourage other men to leave behind toxic behaviours and adopt healthier ones. Create a supportive environment where open conversations about masculinity and its challenges are welcomed. By fostering a community rooted in mutual respect and kindness, the damaging aspects of traditional masculinity can be replaced with nurturing and constructive models. 

In redefining masculinity, the key is to remain true to yourself. You can be robust and resilient while also being emotionally attuned and compassionate. These qualities are not mutually exclusive but are components of a well-rounded, authentic manhood.

a hand holding a flower

The Future of Masculinity: A Vision for Positive Change

The future of masculinity hinges on reshaping and redefining what it means to be a man in today’s society. At its core, this transformation involves balancing traditional strengths with emotional intelligence and empathy. Imagine a world where men are praised for their physical prowess and ability to protect and their capacity to nurture, communicate openly, and advocate for equality. 

Positive masculinity can be a driving force for societal change. It diffuses toxic norms by teaching boys and young men that expressing emotions does not equate to weakness but to human resilience and strength. Programmes that positively integrate boys and men into society can foster this change, promoting respectful attitudes towards women and dismantling harmful stereotypes. 

Creating marketing campaigns that challenge outdated norms around masculinity can also play a pivotal role. By showcasing diverse male role models who embody a range of positive attributes, these campaigns can inspire a new generation of men to embrace healthier masculinities. Highlighting stories of men who combine toughness with tenderness and ambition with compassion can set new benchmarks for manhood. 

For this vision to take root, it requires collective effort and a commitment to change. Men must be encouraged to be proud of their masculinity, embracing strength and vulnerability. This journey towards positive masculinity is not about eradicating traditional masculine traits but refining and expanding them to include a broader emotional and social spectrum. Remember, being a “manly man” can mean different things to different people, and finding your path truly matters. 

Ultimately, the future of masculinity will be brighter and more inclusive if individuality is celebrated over conformity. By fostering environments where boys and men can express their true selves without fear of judgment, we pave the way for a healthier, more harmonious society. This is the blueprint for change, where positive masculinity becomes the norm, and every man can uniquely contribute positively to the world around him.