You’ve likely seen, heard about, or experienced this yourself. You’re enjoying BTS or there’s a fun announcement concerning them, and some man (family member, friend, husband, or stranger) decides to confront you about it, misgendering BTS members as “women” or “girls” and angrily attacking their looks, behavior, and identities as men. They then go out of their way to remind you what “real music” is, often holding up heroes who were either outright abusive toward women or treated them like sex objects and not people.
These toxic overtures towards men like BTS who make music that women and girls enjoy is hardly new. Many men feel entitled to not only police what women and girls enjoy, but also to constantly remind us that everything we are is terrible and that our exuberance is more harmful than anything else on Earth.
And I imagine, for this reason, BTS is utterly terrifying to those people.
But first, what is fragile masculinity?
Fragile masculinity can be understood as the social pressure many men feel regarding the need to adhere to whatever behaviors and goals the status quo says makes them”real men.” This pressure is often relieved through acts of toxic masculinity, where the person does or says things that are harmful and hurtful to themselves or others in a bid to prove their masculine identity to society.
As Raymond Buscemi, Psy.D., a core faculty member with The Wright Institute Master’s in Counseling Psychology Program, explains, masculinity is often treated as a challenge to expel from within everything that is perceived as feminine and woman.
“We have a history in this culture of a creation of an identity that hasn’t really amounted to being much of a statement about what we are, but rather reflects what we are not. ‘We are not women. We are not like women. We don’t do things that women do.’ You have this kind of development of an identity, a deep culture-social identity of being a man. But at its heart, you have a profound emptiness, a lack of what it actually might be to be a man whose manhood is not defined by the fact that he’s not a woman.”Buscemi
Buscemi, whose career is based in Jungian Psychology, also notes, “a lot of men […] who are in touch with their own sense of loss, like loss of opportunity or loss of privilege, those moments aren’t experienced as opportunities for developing consciousness, they’re just experienced as an attack.“
So from this perspective, BTS by its very existence is likely perceived as a kind of attack. The members are likely viewed as a menace that threatens to upend traditional gender behaviors and perceptions. And, most importantly, dare to get women to feel loving and accepting towards themselves, which is something traditionally (toxic) masculinity cannot abide because it exists in a polarizing space where womanhood must be perceived as inherently inferior to manhood.
So BTS often get attacked because they are perceived as an attack
In BTS, you have a group of young men who are open about their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It’s not just anger. Here are seven men who hug, laugh, cry, communicate tenderly, hope and dream together. Yet, here is the all-important kicker:
BTS’s comradery is NOT based on the exclusion and hatred of women
BTS stands as a challenge to fragile and toxic masculinity because they unapologetically engage in behaviors that defy traditional forms of masculinity. (At least from a Western perspective, I’ll leave it to Asian ARMY to define their behaviors from an Eastern perspective.) Moreover, BTS shows no signs of abandoning their position to gain the respect and approval of Western males.
More than once, men attempted to get them to put down ARMY, a mostly women-led fandom. And every time, BTS refused to take the bait. I’d even argue that attitudes towards BTS in the media became MORE negative as it became clear they weren’t going to cave to these anti-women perspectives.
BTS is no doubt frustrating for some, as they perfectly demonstrate that there are no negative consequences in accepting masculine and feminine energies as equal. Moreover, without having to constantly prove yourself through constantly limiting the scope of your identity and emotional range in truly harmful ways. I suppose it’s like anything where you live in a specific truth your whole life and the very idea that another way exists leaves you with a choice between examination and chaos…and you choose chaos because self-reflection is more terrifying.
While some fear BTS and cling to their fragile concepts of masculinity, others embrace them as role models for shifting away from toxicity.
One thing that makes me very happy is how many young men and boys are getting exposed to BTS as artists and people, and seeing for themselves that it’s possible to have healthy professional and emotional relationships with other men. And that such relationships do not require exclusion and denigration of women or gay men to justify that closeness.
This is a world away from generations of male celebrities, creatives, and influences to whom boys looked up who communicated that the only way to be the best versions of themselves was to be terrible to women and to each other if they failed to conform to very harmful and stunted perceptions of what it means to be a human being.
Thanks for reading! For similar perceptions on BTS and misogyny, please read:
“At the Intersection of Racism and Misogyny Sits a Paralyzing Fear of BTS – Here’s Why”
“BOY WITH LUV” & The Subversion of Toxic Masculinity and Harmful, Anti-Woman Tropes In Entertainment”
FEATURED IMAGE: BTS “Dynamite” music video/Big Hit Music/YouTube