Ridwan Madon

How can I combat toxic masculinity by creating a safe space for men to exercise their emotions?



Toxic masculinity stems from stereotypical masculine gender roles that prevent men from expressing their emotions. The research shows men are thought to be the dominant ‘alpha male’ and to limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.

While there are men who can express their emotion, many are taught to suppress it. I was brought up in a household where I could not express my emotions. It was always a constant battle between what I felt and what I was taught to feel.

I was also a part of a deeply misogynistic, male-dominated space where my male friends behaved in a sexist way, verbal abuse was common. I witnessed how they internalized the societal message that sexual objectification is innocuous. They lack empathy toward women and feel entitled to objectify women. They disturbingly see issues like harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and violence as normal. Their ignorance is an affirmation of their masculinity.

But there are men who want to speak out against misogyny. However, because they feel isolated and alone in their discomfort, they do not say anything. Their silence, in turn, reinforces the false perception that only a few men want to engage in conversations around gender politics.

Rakan, which means ‘companion’ in the Malay Language, is a wearable chatbot that allows men to express their emotions. Users navigate open-ended questions designed to help them exercise their emotional intelligence. Because Rakan is a mobile wearable, users can also interact with it at their own time.

In conclusion, Rakan is the first step for men to exercise their emotions without social pressure. By giving them an intimate space to navigate through conversations, men can build their empathy, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills.