What do you think about #MasculinitySoFragile? Here's what you said

We asked our readers to tell us what the hashtag means to them, and if they think it's a good or bad thing

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The Independent Online

A debate on what it means to be a man has been raging online this week after the hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile started trending. But what is it actually about, and is it a good thing? Here's what you told us:

Jason Bauman, 31

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"A lot of men assume that #MasculinitySoFragile is an attack on their gender, which it isn't. The problem is that many men in society feel a pressure to act/feel a certain way if they want to be considered manly. To 'suck it up' and 'show no emotion'.

So 1) marketers exploit this insecurity to create gendered products where there's no need to do so, and 2) Men bury their emotions until they either lash out or commit suicide because dealing with your emotions, we're told, is weakness. 

A lot of people are trying to paint the hashtag as a 'feminist attack on men' but I think it's the opposite. It's a message which says 'men are more than what society tells them they should be, and they shouldn't be embarrassed if they like/love something just because someone says it's not manly enough.'"

Follow Jason: @eclectichonesty

Bailey Poland, 26 

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"#MasculinitySoFragile started as a way to lampoon toxic masculinity. This is the idea that men must constantly prove their masculinity via aggression, violence, or sexual domination. In particular, fragile masculinity describes an attitude in which masculinity is rigid and strong, yet at the same time so porous as to be threatened by femininity.

It is the type of masculinity that encourages men to revoke each other’s “man cards”, and use the term "no homo". It also creates products like “brogurt,” “brosé,” “mandles,” and body wash marketed as bathing in explosions and motor oil. It requires constant reinforcement and policing, while cutting men off from healthy emotional connections and expression.

The response from many men to the hashtag reinforces the points made about fragile masculinity – the mere act of making criticism resulted in endless combative comments and even threats of violence."

Follow Bailey: @the_author_

Andrew Griffin, 24 

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"Men know that masculinity is fragile. That’s what makes it so dangerous.

The men who take their own lives because they’re unable to talk about their own mental health know it, one presumes. Men who kill women because they can only understand their gender through the abuse of others must know it too.

But laughing at them is not the way to do anything about it. It’s become just another tool for shaming and mocking.

A better way to understand the way that modern men are negotiating this stuff is to actually spend time with them. But laughing is easier than talking."

Follow Andrew: @_andrew_griffin

Josh Lee, 24 

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"Masculinity crumbles when we question it. In order to heal it lashes out at certain targets, and rebuilds from the remains of what it destroys. And because society values masculinity more than anything, we excuse its outbursts: 'they had it coming'.

Between tweets about 'brosé', tissues 'for men', and man-flu, #MasculinitySoFragile is doing important work to expose the violence that feeds toxic masculinity – and the more people learn how masculinity functions thanks to this hashtag, the better equipped we’ll be to recognise its dangers"

Follow Josh: @J_Manasa

Natasha Devon MBE, 34 

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"My understanding of #MasculinitySoFragile is that it's designed to combat a reductive definition of what it means to be a man – a stereotype of a guy who swallows his emotions and feels the need to subjugate others to assert his status.

This stereotype still pervades our society and doesn't just oppress women – suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK, and two thirds of those seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction are male. These worrying statistics arise at least in part because of the male fear of showing 'vulnerability'.

It is this modern definition of masculinity that encourages insecure men to vent their aggression by mocking women who challenge them, as well as any man who might fall outside their very linear ideas of what it is to be one of their gender.

#MasculinitySoFragile was created, I believe, to shine a light and create debate surrounding a very real phenomenon. Sadly, as many hashtags do, it has become a conduit for ill-thought out hatred (in this case misandry) and general sarcasm. It raised a valid point, but if we ever want to discuss the issues meaningfully we need to take them outside of the realms of social media."

Follow Natasha: @NatashaDevonMBE

Seán Faye, 27 

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"I'm all for anything - even a hashtag - that begins a conversation about the toxicity of masculinity. Although I'm not sure that it's masculinity itself which is fragile - people are. We are all brittle.

Masculinity is terribly strong, holding us like a vice that tightens every time we try and move beyond it. As a queer person who doesn't identify as a man, I've spent my life extracting myself from its clutches. Men need to realise that masculinity harms them too, but they alone perpetuate it. Many women, queer people and children end up fractured in the wrestle between men and their masculinity. Any struggle to free themselves should also consider the impact on those who don't yet have this luxury."

Follow Seán: @glittercrisis

Farhana Khan, 18

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"I think the most important thing that this hashtag contributes is the message, 'Hey, see all this ridiculous shit you guys do? This is NOT what it means to be a man'.

It's not an attack on men, but on the shallow and sometimes brutal ways in which society polices men's behaviour, and how this almost always results in violence. To be a man you just need to identify as one. This gives men a chance to reject all the toxic behaviours they’ve been conditioned to see as masculine, and that can be pretty freeing."

Follow Farhana: @farhanaanisahx

Anna Meakin, 47 

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"My heart sank when I saw this hashtag trending. Some men reacted aggressively, while other men have joined in with the condemnation of their own sex, as a way of virtue signalling the robustness of their own masculinity.

Since I had my son, my view of men has softened immeasurably. All mums of boys know that girls are emotionally much tougher than boys, and this persists, in my view. Once you understand that macho posturing is often self-protective, it becomes far less threatening. For me, feminism should be a collaborative process. We should work together, with mutual respect for gender differences, to shape attitudes. We shouldn't try and bludgeon people into submission through shaming."

Follow Anna: @5Mumsie

Beth McColl, 22 

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"As a child, masculinity was all the things I didn’t think I was supposed to do (act tough, raise my voice, be heard). As an adult it’s why men put their hands on me for saying no. It’s what teaches them that punching someone to the ground is alright, but ordering a drink with a little umbrella in it is not. It’s also what stops them getting treated for mental illness.

What #MasculinitySoFragile says is that none of this can be untouchable. None of this can be sacred. It’s time for boys to cry, yes. But it’s also time for those outside of masculinity to be safe from it."

Follow Beth: @imteddybless

Victoria Richards, 34 

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"The construct of masculinity is fragile and dangerous, but it's important to remember how damaging gender stereotypes in general can be.

'If I don't wear a dress, I'm not beautiful.' So said my three-year-old daughter, while choosing her clothes for nursery this week. She's fed up of being mistaken for a boy, brought about by my careful refusal to dress her in anything that might buy into the insidious stereotyping of little girls. I‘ve tried to stop 'pinkification' in its tracks, but I'm starting to lose hope of winning the war, because it's everywhere. Why do these outdated ideas of masculinity and femininity need to be so rigidly reinforced?"

Follow Victoria: @nakedvix

Compiled by Max Benwell

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