“The three most destructive words that every man receives when he is a boy is ‘Be a Man.’”
– Joe Ehrmann, Coach & former NFL player
“No homo.” “Man up.” “Stop acting like a girl.” “Men don’t cry.”
These phrases and many others are constantly repeated to boys in our society, and this culture is damaging. Boys are told from a young age to “be a man” because acting anything less than that will cause boys to be viewed as inferior.
Gender stereotypes are toxic towards both genders, but while it is acceptable for women to cry and express their emotions, men are told to “bottle it up” and this isn’t particularly healthy for them. Often men from a young age are told that if they cry, they will be seen as weak or feeble. For as long as I could remember, I have never seen my dad cry once. Upon asking him, he told me that he has only cried twice in his adult life.
Our society also teaches this generation of boys that their manliness is determined on whether they play or show interest in sports, but what about the boys who like to sing or dance? Why are the more athletic boys considered more of a man than someone who wants to pursue a living in theatre? Since the beginning of time, we have been teaching boys that it’s more important if you are able to tackle someone than if you are able to perform on a stage, when that isn’t particularly the case.
In addition, our society teaches boys that aggression is the only valid emotion they have. The phrase “boys will be boys” is one of the most worn-out and overused phrases I have probably heard in my life. It has been very common for when a young male child is being mean to another young female or being aggressive toward her, it means that the boy ‘likes’ her. This is toxic because from a young age, we are already allowing abuse in a relationship. We are telling girls that it’s okay that a boy is acting this way toward them because he clearly likes you, so girls should be flattered. We are also telling boys that it’s fine if they act this way because this is the way they are supposed to show affection.
This matters because men should be able to portray how they are feeling without feeling like they are putting their masculinity in jeopardy. Like everybody else, men are human. They should be allowed to feel emotions other than anger. What our society teaches boys isn’t healthy. The idea to bottle their emotions is harmful in the sense that they have to be aware of your emotions and let them show. If you are just a ticking time bomb emotionally, something is going to happen. You’re going to explode. This explosion not only will affect you, but it will affect the people around you as well.
All in all, toxic masculinity is a real danger to boys. Not only does it affect the men in our society, it affects women as well. Instead of teaching or boys to hide and keep their emotions to themselves, and don’t let anything show, we should be allowing them to express themselves in healthy ways.