Anna Sheffer
May 22, 2019 11:00 am

No matter how hard we try to avoid stereotypical gender roles, we’ve all been exposed to them—and negatively impacted by them. Traditional ideas of masculinity in particular can be toxic, causing men to believe that they must be aggressive and suppress their emotions, and even affecting the environment. Now, thanks to a new report from Axe and the gender equality organization Promundo, we also know that toxic masculinity costs the U.S. $15.7 billion each year. Yes, billion.

The report, titled The Cost of the Man Box, examined the behaviors of men ages 18 to 30 who had internalized harmful stereotypes about manhood—such as the ideas that men must be aggressive and act tough.

The researchers then estimated the cost in dollars of six actions associated with these attitudes: bullying and violence, sexual violence, depression, suicide, binge-drinking, and traffic accidents. They selected these categories based on a 2017 Promundo and Axe study, which found that young men who held these attitudes were three to seven times more likely to bully others and three to six times more likely to report committing sexual harassment.

To determine the costs, they first found data on the incidence of each problem and determined the monetary value of an individual case using factors like hospital bills, property damage, lawsuits, and lost wages all caused by these actions. The findings were alarming. The two most expensive categories in the report were traffic accidents (an estimated $7.3 billion yearly) and suicide (about $4.4 billion). The report also notes that these figures are “minimum” amounts due to the restricted age range of the study and the fact that they limited themselves to six categories, among other concerns.

Promundo CEO Gary Barker told TeenVogue that these numbers show how much we need to change our attitudes about masculinity.

Obviously, assigning a monetary value to these intangible issues doesn’t capture all of the emotional and psychological pain that toxic masculinity can cause. You can’t put a price on the lives of the men who die from suicide after suffering from mental illness in silence, and you can’t evaluate how much the trauma of a rape survivor is worth. But this study demonstrates one of the many real consequences of these antiquated gender norms. Clearly, something needs to change.

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