We’ve all seen it. Parents telling their little boys to “be a man” and suck it up. Not only is this incredibly dehumanizing, but it’s toxic in the long run. Stereotypes like this are pushed upon young boys at an early age and society constricts boys to unrealistic standards. It begs the question: Is there anything we can do to prevent emotional burnout in men? I have many unanswered questions, so let’s deep dive into ways we can help prevent unhealthy stereotypes.
Toxic masculinity creates tension within school and work. According to Harvard Business Review, more agreeable men make significantly less money than those who are more assertive. The public, evidently, punishes men for expressing sadness, empathy, and being more feminine. Furthermore, some people even go so far as to use femininity as a means to insult men, using phrases such as “you throw like a girl.” Some may argue femininity and masculinity must have distinct characteristics, yet in doing so society belittles men who show excess emotion.
There are small behaviors we can change to uplift men, rather than constricting them to a box.
- We should hold toxic men accountable for offensive language. It’s not okay to make fun of boys who show emotion or empathy. In fact, the perpetrators are socially conditioning boys to shy away from being emotional. While ignoring the crude remarks may be more convenient, it is nonverbally siding with the aggressor. Instead, show courage in the face of toxic masculinity!
- Positively reinforce men who chose to be vulnerable around you. It’s important to remind boys that expressing feelings is completely normal. If a friend is struggling mentally, allow him to vent and cry on your shoulder. Simple acts of appreciation can change someone’s perspective on mental health for the better. Let’s lead by example and start being nicer to others to help combat the aggressive stereotype.
- Men make mistakes, yet are often criticized for being unable to display a high standard of success. Instead, forgive the men who made bad decisions in the past and lead with compassion. Humans need understanding from others in order to grow. Sometimes, men judge their mistakes too harshly, resulting in little compassion for themselves and others.
All in all, the conversation about masculinity should be about compassion and understanding, allowing for men to be free of societal expectations. Appreciating a trait about your guy friend will make him feel validated and you could be making someone’s entire day.
I challenge you to act outside the gender barrier, regardless of what society expects. It’s okay to be tough, just as it is okay to be sensitive. It’s perfectly fine to want to paint your nails or display empathy, and most of all, boys, it’s okay to have emotions!