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Hyper-Masculinity in Advertisement: Effects on Mental Health

Hyper-masculinity, defined as the exaggeration of masculine traits and behaviour, may be harmful to both men and women in society. This may include the desire to display dominance, strength, or aggression (as in being a “tough guy”); as well as hiding one's emotions for fear of being perceived as weak. Hyper-masculinity is particularly noted as displayed traits of violence and misogyny, which may be downplayed as one simply “being a man”. As Vokey, Tefft, and Tysiaczny explain, hyper-masculinity is made up of four main behaviours including “toughness as emotional self-control, violence as manly, danger as exciting, and calloused attitudes toward women'' (p.562).[1] These actions could, as a consequence, harm everyone in society as pressure from social media and advertisements may hamper one's ability to create deep connections for fear of expressing emotion, and may result in more aggressive and reckless behaviour.

Hyper-Masculinity in Advertisement

Stereotypical masculine attitudes

Traits and behaviours associated with hyper-masculinity are continuously utilized in advertisements as a way to promote “manliness” in certain products. Such incidences occur regularly in commercials for tools, sporting equipment and cars; as well as hygiene products such as razors and soap. These products may be purchased and used by all individuals in society, but are promoted for male use by showcasing stereotypes in which a man is supposed to be intrigued and relate to. This may include showcasing a new vehicle as tough and aggressive by splashing through dirt puddles while a muscular man drives, or through slogans such as “boys will be boys”. "Although the main goal of advertising may be to sell goods and services to consumers, it is also a major socializing agent within our culture that influences the development of masculine ideals and norms” (Vokey, et al. p.573)[1]

Noted examples include the fast food and alcohol industries, both of which capitalize on the masculinity  and dominance of men by displaying the sexualization of women or irresponsible social behaviour. Companies including Bud Light have utilized slogans such as “the perfect beer for removing “no” from your vocabulary for the night” illustrating the promotion of intoxicated recklessness (Patrick p.75). [2]Another common example is demonstrated in past commercials for companies such as Carl’s Jr. as barely dressed models promote new products while draped across the hood of a car (Patrick p.58)[2]. As stated by Anne Patrick, hyper-masculine food commercials are “habitually instilling cultural stereotypes of masculine behaviour” (p.5). In a study conducted by Vokey, Tefft, and Tysiaczny, 527 advertisements from a variety of magazines were analyzed and more than half had underlying hyper-masculine messages, indicating that such attitudes are widely prevalent (p.562).[1]

Effects on Mental health

Advertisements that promote strength and dominance, as well as other noted hyper-masculine traits, specifically for individuals to feel “manlier” have been noted to harmfully affect the mental stability of the viewer. Such product promotions may contribute to or worsen an individual's aggressive and/ or depressive feelings and may intensify pre existing symptoms.


Masculine depression, defined by Parent, Gobble, and Rochlen as “pressure felt by men to limit certain emotional expressions (vulnerability, sadness, etc)” is continuously felt by men of all ages for fear of not conforming to societal norms (p.279). [3]This may lead to the escalation of emotions resulting in aggressive outbursts, isolation, persistent feelings of personal failure, and substance abuse (Parent, et al. p. 279).[3] Pressure from society to “be a man” may produce an intense desire to succeed and dominate, ultimately increasing hostility and the inability to adapt (Parent, et al. p.279). [3]Magovcevic and Addis explain how women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression due to “men’s unwillingness to seek help for depression (and) men’s tendency to underreport symptoms”, possibly linked to the societal pressure to conceal undesirable emotions (p.117).[4] Masculine depression can be affected by advertisements that showcase dominance and strength as measures of happiness, as it may reinforce the suppression of emotions, such as sadness, that may equate to feelings of weakness on the part of the individual. Due to this, men tend to battle distress independently by drinking and/ or using drugs to conceal and temporarily diminish depressive indicators (Magovcevic and Addis p.118).[4]


Acts of aggression and violence have been noted as a common consequence of hyper-masculine attitudes in society. Erica Scharrer explains how men are much more likely to display physical aggression when the opportunity presents itself; stating that 87.9% of all homicides in the United States are committed by male individuals (p.353). [5]Hyper-masculine behaviour, such as the desire to display dominance and strength, plays a factor in anger management levels in men of all ages. “Men and boys, more so than women and girls, can learn that physical responses to anger, frustration, or threat may be socially accepted and/or reinforced and therefore they may be more likely to perform physically aggressive acts, including those that constitute crimes” (Scharrer p.354).[5] A boys ability to process emotions may be hampered by the pressure of societal norms to choose physical means to address a problem, as opposed to seeking help. This may as a consequence result in anger issues, defined by Priory Groups as “problems with expressing emotions in a calm and healthy way”, that may include shouting, swearing, substance abuse, and physical violence (“Signs of Anger Management Problems”). [6]Opting to express upsetting emotions through means of aggression is common in modern society and is noticeably present in the advertising industry in order to promote products that may increase one's strength, such as boxing and other workout equipment. This may further affect one's ability to properly handle emotions, contributing to anger management issues, as the showcasing of physical violence as a normal coping mechanism reinforces hyper-masculine attitudes.

Works Cited

Group, Priory. “Symptoms of Anger Management.” Signs of Anger Management Problems | Symptoms of Anger Issues | Priory Group. Web. 30 July 2020.

Magovcevic, Mariola, and Michael E. Addis. “The Masculine Depression Scale: Development and Psychometric Evaluation.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity, vol. 9, no. 3, July 2008, pp. 117–132.

Parent, Mike C., et al. “Social Media Behavior, Toxic Masculinity, and Depression.” Psychology of Men & Masculinities, vol. 20, no. 3, July 2019, pp. 277–287.

Patrick, Anne McNutt. "Where's the Beef? Masculinity, Gender and Violence in Food Advertising." Order No. 10811209 Morehead State University, 2018 pp. 1-105. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 25 July 2020.

Scharrer, Erica. “Hypermasculinity, Aggression, and Television Violence: An Experiment”. Media Psychology, 7:4, 2005, 353-376. Web. 30 July 2020.

Vokey, Megan, Bruce Tefft, and Chris Tysiaczny. "An Analysis of Hyper-Masculinity in Magazine Advertisements." Sex Roles 68.9-10 (2013): 562-76. ProQuest. Web. 30 July 2020.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Vokey, Tefft, and Tysiaczny (2013). "An Analysis of Hyper-Masculinity in Magazine Advertisements". Retrieved July 29. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Patrick. "Where's the Beef? Masculinity, Gender and Violence in Food Advertising". Retrieved July 29 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Parent, Gobble, and Richlen. "Social Media Behavior, Toxic Masculinity, and Depression". Retrieved July 29 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Magovcevic and Addis. "The Masculine Depression Scale: Development and Psychometric Evaluation". Retrieved July 29 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Scharrer. "Hypermasculinity, Aggression, and Television Violence: An Experiment". Retrieved July 30 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. "Signs of Anger Management Problems". Retrieved July 30 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)