Fellas. Dudes. Bros. Guys.
I hate to break the news to you, but you’re not as masculine as you think. I say this because your idea of masculinity is rooted in insecure dehumanizing behaviors. The reality is that you’re not even to blame for behaving this way. Because it’s what we as men have been indoctrinated with. The social script of males and masculinity is laced with aggression, ridicule, abuse (disguised as power). I mean when you really think about it, we’re told more often what we’re not allowed to do/be rather than being fostered into healthy masculinity.
Men don’t cry.
Men don’t share their feelings/emotions, they must be stoic.
Men aren’t supposed to be weak.
Men don’t embrace or hug one another outside of organized athletics.
Men aren’t allowed to suffer from illness, especially mental illness.
Society is so backwards that we actually praise a man who drinks at a bar every night to escape his problems as being more masculine than the man who admits having to go to therapy. When men hit their spouses, it’s simply because boys will be boys and aggression is part of the package. Why is it that we high five the guy who says he slept with 4 women in the past month?
Which brought into question: what will I teach my son about what it means to be a man?
I wouldn’t want him thinking that being man is defined as the opposition to being female. Healthy masculinity shouldn’t be judged in its difference to femininity but rather in its unity with these things. I don’t want my son to hurl slurs like: Bitch, Pussy, Sissy, Gay, Homo, or any other soul piercing things. I won’t teach him that it’s ok to be possessive of his girlfriend or boyfriend, because jealousy is not manly. I won’t tell him that being cool and masculine is all about being aloof, emotionless, and tough.
Instead, I will teach him that the strength of a man is measured not by his ability to benchpress 250 lbs, but in his ability to listen. I will teach him that he should embrace all people, regardless of gender, with handshakes, tears, happiness, and hugs. I will teach him that when a friend is hurting, and upset that he should comfort them and cry with them. My son will learn to praise men who identify as gay, transgender, or transsexual. He will commend them on their strength to be loud in a community that pushes for conformity. He might even be one of them, and I hope he would be unafraid to do so. Because regardless of whether he chooses to wear makeup and a dress, or be the all-star quarterback, my son will be my child. And my children will know no greater love, or acceptance than that of their parents.
Healthy masculinity is about being in tune with humanity, not running away from it. It’s about strength in the form of asking for help when it’s needed. Being capable of expressing vulnerable thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Being tough when the situation calls for it, but not exerting power as a means to an end. Because people who rape, who abuse, who attempt to dominate their partners are not men.
It’s time the ideals of masculinity change. In fact we’re overdue, fellas. Our sons, our peers, our colleagues, we all need change. For a healthier future where young boys don’t commit suicide from being bullied for being ‘different’. Where men learn that sex isn’t about power, or coercion and that love isn’t about ownership. Take your stand, now. Starting now. Starting. Now.