“There have been so many times I have seen a man wanting to weep but instead beat his heart until it was unconscious.” — Nayyirah Waheed
What a disservice we do to our boys and men by favoring strength over compassion, by teaching them with fists instead of hugs, by leaving them teeming with emotions that make them feel disempowered, confused and less “manly”.
We leave them on their own to deal with bullying and molestation by disbelieving, dismissing and even ridiculing their trauma. Few services and even less understanding is available to men in abusive relationships.
We then act surprised when they take their overwhelming emotions, their aloneness, and the messages of “be a man”, (that have been drummed into their beings since birth), and turn to violence, bringing tragedy to themselves, their families, and their communities.
As a society we must do better.
Women can stop supporting the macho stereotype, can stop expecting only strength and courage from men. Women can support their sons, brothers, partners, and friends by encouraging them to express emotions and feelings, and by not equating fear with weakness.
Men can help other men to address anger issues and can give each other permission to have feelings that have been deemed “unmasculine”.
Together we can establish programs to help men deal with past trauma and can fund youth programs that offer boys a safe space to explore feelings and fears. We can lead companies brave enough to redefine their marketing campaigns to depict men in non-traditional ways. We can celebrate our strong male dancers and our compassionate male nurses just like we do male athletes and doctors. We can write books and give presentations that help men and women understand the cultural conditioning that continues to take place and to offer solutions.
We don’t live in a vacuum, each of us is choosing to support or hinder the healthy development of boys to men, with the movies and shows we watch, the books we read, the podcasts we listen to, the clothes we wear, and the toys we buy for our children.
It is our duty, as a society, to cultivate healthy, well-adjusted men by accepting and validating the feelings and concerns of our boys.