What makes a man? The qualities associated with men always include words like power, strength, aggressiveness, and lack of emotions. From a young age, boys are taught these standards and are expected to follow them or else they are ostracized and looked down on. Men are pressured to conform to society’s standards of masculinity in fear of being rejected by their peers even if they do not believe in what they are doing. Where do they learn their behaviors and perceived necessary qualities? Boys learn from other men as they watch males in their lives like dads or older siblings and watch characters in movies such as superheroes and buff boys. On the other hand, the female role is much different than the male’s. They are seen as weak and having unpleasant qualities such as excessive display of emotions, lack of physical strength, and represent vulnerability. But with the rise of feminism, women are becoming more important and powerful in society. Their roles in society are shifting and men are becoming scared. The males in society feel trapped and pressured by societal standards and as females rise in power they are becoming more confused about their old role in society and are losing their identity of a “true man.” But, instead of focusing on becoming better men or women, society needs to focus on becoming better humans.
In Michael Ian Black’s, “The Boys are Not All Right”, he states, “the man who feels lost but wishes to preserve his fully masculine self has only two choices: withdrawal or rage” (Black). Boys do not show their emotions, they hide it away and shove everything down because being emotional or speaking about your feelings is seen as a negative feminine quality. Vulnerability is a weakness and boys do not want to be seen as weak. Instead, they hide their emotions, or they will take it out in the form of violence including fighting or even violence against women. This is where school shootings come into play. The equation is simple, boys, excessive buried emotions, anger, and now guns are added. This all leads to the new popularity of school shootings. The boys in society do not have a model on how to deal with anger and grief. Maybe if society was more accepting of vulnerability in men, boys could share their emotions in healthy ways and heal together. So, until vulnerability is normalized for boys, violent behavior will continue, and people will continue being hurt.
The idea of men needing to be aggressive and violent needs to come to an end because society is past following stereotypes and standards. People break their backs and hurt themselves trying to put themselves in boxes that are forced onto them. People do not have the freedom to be themselves because of stereotypes and are unhappy as a result. If the stigmatism against vulnerability in men stopped, men could express their emotions in healthy ways and get the help they need. Boys are hurt, and they will continue to hurt in silence until society allows them to show their fear and pain. Having emotions makes individuals more human and should not make men less masculine.
In Jerry Rockwood’s, “About Men; Life Intrudes”, he tells an anecdote of the time his son got into a fight with his school bully. Rockwood himself was always a very quiet and non-aggressive boy which is the complete opposite of societal standards of men. He passes these qualities down to his son who is quite similar to his father in the way that he “shrink[s] back or turn[s] away from unpleasantness” (Rockwood). It is not until his son gets into a fight with his bully at school and loses the fight that he reevaluates whether teaching his son to shun aggression was a good idea. Rockwood asks, “If we can’t train the street fighters to be gentlemen, must we train the gentlemen to be street fighters?” (Rockwood). This shows that the stereotype of men needing to be strong and aggressive is a big issue for boys because whether they want to or not they feel the need to fill their expectations of masculinity.
Aggression and violence have always been the answer for men. These qualities are often encouraged because society views these as typical standards to measure masculinity. In order to prove ones’ masculinity, he must assert his strength because strength is associated with power and men are supposed to be the power holders. Boys feel the need to show this strength and power through physical engagements using violence. Even if a boy is not naturally inclined to be aggressive, he still feels the need to live up to the expectation in order to feel validated. If a boy cannot fight, he is called a girl but why is being a girl such a bad thing? Violence should not be part of the equation to masculinity. Masculinity is focused on hurting rather than helping and what society needs is the helping and to stop the hurting.
In Justin Baldoni’s, “Why I’m Done Trying to Be Man Enough,” he mentions he wants to become “not just a good man but be a good human” (Baldoni). This is a topic that needs to be discussed. Men are focused solely on becoming better men, but what they do not think about is trying to become a better person in general. They strive for qualities that are considered masculine like competitiveness, strength, and aggressiveness and they avoid traits like compassion, humbleness, and kindness. These traits are stigmatized as feminine qualities and men contemn them. But these are qualities everyone should have in order to make society a better place. Kindness and humbleness are needed and should not be looked down on or left to the female population. The male population needs to put their ego’s aside and strive for greatness in other ways. Stop promoting so called “masculinity” and start promoting human kindness.
Men need a “safe space” for vulnerability. Men need to be allowed to show emotions and without the fear of becoming less of a man as a result. They need to be taught that it is okay to be open and be honest with their emotions because at the end of the day, everyone has emotions just not everyone has the “freedom” to express them. Emotional vulnerability is a right that everyone has, it just needs to become a norm for men to start using it. Men need to use their strength and bravery to step outside of their stereotypes and branch out into more feminine qualities. When we stop negating feminine qualities and seeing vulnerability as a bad thing, then we as humans can start embracing these characteristics. Vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s a strength because it allow people to be truthful and be honest with themselves without fear.
What the world needs are better people, not better men. Femininity needs to be encouraged not discouraged. Masculinity does not need to be abolished but needs to be looked at in a different light. Boys can still be seen as the protectors and the strong ones, but not every male has to follow that path. Females can take on masculine roles and males can take on female ones. The line should begin to be blurred and gender roles need to be abolished. People should be who they want to be without the boundaries of stereotypes and roles. Society needs to focus on becoming better people not instead of following old molds. Individuals should focus on what makes them happy not what societal standards expect from them.
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