“Toxic masculinity” is an extremely useful term. It describes a recurring problem with men and boys, which is that the societal pressure to appear and act “manly” can often harm not just others, but the guys themselves. Even the most naturally hyper-masculine individuals can benefit from awareness of this concept because they can at least know that crying, or not being confrontational all the time isn’t a sign that they’re not men. It’s also good for pointing out when media, be it films, video games, anime, etc., reinforce harmful notions of what being a “man” is. Unfortunately, the men who suffer most greatly from toxic masculinity, are likely least receptive to it. I believe the reason for this is that, ironically, the term “toxic masculinity” doesn’t sound masculine enough.
Many phrases that have come out of feminism, or have been embraced by feminists, take on a certain tinge that brings feminists to mind. This isn’t inherently a problem, but whether it’s due to association of just the word choice, it can come across as something concocted in a feminist lab (whatever that might be); perhaps it’s a little too clinical and, well, “feminine.” Part of coming across as a “man’s man” is one’s vocabulary, and I believe that the perceived feminist quality in “toxic masculinity” as a phrase prevents more men from using it.
On some level, I want to say, “Get over it and just embrace what the term is trying to say,” but I also understand that it’s not always so easy. Masculinity, toxic or otherwise, is tied to one’s identity. That being said, I think there already exists a phrase that embodies much of what “toxic masculinity” implies that is, for better or worse, more palatable to men concerned about maintaining their image of manliness: “When keeping it real goes wrong.”
Coming from an old Chappelle‘s Show skit, “When keeping it real goes wrong” is used to describe people who refuse to back down in even the most trivial or disadvantageous scenarios, which then leads to dire (and hilarious) consequences. Essentially, it communicates the idea that trying to be “real” 24/7 is a recipe for disaster because the need to have the world see oneself as a proper man who won’t take guff is going to, at some point, end in tragedy.
Do I think “When keeping it real goes wrong” should supplant “toxic masculinity” as the dominant phrase to describe the harmful aspects of male performance? Not really, as it’s kind of unwieldy and doesn’t match 1:1, but I think it has its place. The irony would be that using it could help more men understand the notion of toxic masculinity while also subtly reinforcing it.