Man up. Boys don’t cry. Don’t be such a pussy. Be a man.
From an early age, little boys are conditioned to “be a man”. They are given hyper masculine action figures, put in contact sports, and are scolded for crying. The emotional side of little boys is suppressed while while they are encouraged to be competitive and aggressive, to put on a brave face and have a stiff upper lip.
When we teach our little boys that being emotional is wrong, they grow into men who think that being emotional is wrong.
When I think about they way we condition little boys, I think about my four year old cousin. He is a sweet, old soul who is beautiful, smart, and inspiringly loving. He is blessed with three older sisters and a compassionate mother who emphasizes the validation of emotions. This little boy loves to pretend fish and ride on his quad. He is also very emotionally aware and encouraged to express what he feels. I try to imagine him being told that big boys don’t cry and to be a man and it breaks my heart. What would happen to this loving, affectionate little child is he were told to be a man?
When we operate under strict, archaic gender roles , where men are strong and women are emotional, we don’t just hurt women. When men are constantly being told that they need to act masculine, to be strong, to be the breadwinner, the alpha male, we are not allowing them to live. We are forcing them to act. We force them into this narrow perception of what it means to be a man, we strip them of their humanity. We take away all of the complex aspects of their being, the emotion, the vulnerability, and leave them with a facade.
Sexism hurts everyone. We can make the conscious choice to end the cycle of sexism, to not put the burden of sexism on boys and men. Instead of telling our little boys to be a man, let’s tell them to be who they are.