“Be A Man”

I recently watched a documentary for a class called The Mask You Live in, and it opened my eyes to some of the reasons why men are the way they are. It is an amazing documentary and if you’re interested, I definitely recommend it! (It is available through JMU libraries on Kanopy!) https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/141116?vp=jmu

This documentary talks about how boys and young men are trained at a young age to hide their emotions and about the toxic ways our society tells them to behave. It goes into deeper detail about how they are trained to be this way and the lasting effects.

I felt like this was an important topic to discuss because when speaking about men, their actions are often excused because as some people say, “boys will be boys” and I just don’t accept that. Just because they are men, they’re allowed to act a certain way that women are not? I do not agree. Men are allowed to be more sexual; they’re allowed to be angrier; they’re allowed to be more opinionated and for no other reason other than the fact that they are men. Anyways, I am not here to bash men, I am here to talk about how after watching this film I realized why so many men are the way that they are in this society.

Be a man.

Don’t be a pussy.

Stop crying.

Are you going to keep crying like a little girl?

Don’t be a sissy.

Get money and get laid.

Grow a pair.

Men and young boys are basically taught that masculinity is anything that is not feminine. These phrases encourage the idea that anything feminine makes you less of a man. This is taught through popular culture, parenting styles, and education styles and is completely embedded in our cultural norms. If they’re not “man enough” they are bullied and pressured by other men. Sometimes even physically harmed for expressing any kind of emotion. Because of this, many boys stop expressing their feelings at a young age and instead try to fit in to be “one of the guys”. As they show different age groups of boys throughout the film you see the gradual change in how these boys express themselves. One young boy stated that “it feels like I’m not supposed to ask for help” which should never be the case for a growing child. This little boy really broke my heart. It is not surprising that many males believe that violence, drug use, or suicide are the only ways to put an end to their mental suffering because they lack healthy outlets for doing so.

“Young men ages 20-24 are seven times more likely to die from suicide than women of the same age”.

This fact is so ignored because many people see mental health issues as feminine issues. This is not at all true. Everyone and anyone can suffer from mental health issues, but men are trained to ignore these feelings and suffer through the pain. Relationships, emotions, intimacy, empathy, vulnerability, and more critical aspects of normal life have been labeled as feminine by society. Because of this, boys begin to devalue the relational parts of themselves, their relational needs, and their relational desires in an attempt to uphold this unhealthy idea of masculinity.

I have seen my own friends suffer through mental health issues and refuse to get help because of the toxic ways men are expected to be in our society. This breaks my heart, and it needs to change.

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After watching this I have noticed the extent to which it affects so many men. I always try to encourage everyone in my life to express how they are feeling male or not and it is so frustrating to hear the way some men process their feelings. I asked a few of my guy friends when the last time they cried was. Some of them didn’t even know the answer because they couldn’t remember, some had cried last because of a recent death/traumatic event, and some most likely lied because they are ashamed of crying. Crying is a very normal thing, and it actually releases endorphins and toxins and can relieve your stress. But crying for men is like this forbidden thing that no one can ever know about. Crying is only a tiny factor in all of the unhealthy ways men view emotions.

This documentary taught me that this is an issue that is not an easy fix. Toxic masculinity ideals are so embedded in everything we do, and it will take an enormous amount of effort and time to change this unhealthy stereotype. It’s not only men that push this stereotype either, but women and people of all genders also play a role. Because it has been so normalized even women criticize men when they are emotional because it has become the norm for men to be “tough”.

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Expressing your emotions is healthy. Having feelings is healthy. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than others because of the way you feel. Normalize talking through your problems and allowing yourself to feel no matter your gender.

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