For starters, we tell our sons not to cry; to suck it up and be a man. Why do we say that? “Don’t cry”. That’s a basic human emotion we all share and yet “men” don’t cry. Please explain to me how brooding over something for the last decade is more manly than doing the healthy thing and getting over it? It saddens me that we don’t don’t encourage men to seek help when there really is something wrong.
When you look at the rates of anxiety, depression, mental disorders and PTSD at what point do you say “you know what, being healthy is manly?” Sadder still, is that when men do finally seek help, the stigma they face can lead to for instance, a military discharge. You can’t have crazy on the battle field. I get that, but how are men supposed to maintain sanity if they cannot express on any level, the emotions they feel prior to succumbing to mental illness? Wouldn’t it be logical support the person who saw a problem and did something about it rather than hiding it under the rug like a coward? Men are not cowards, right? Or at least, that’s my understanding of masculinity.
Instead, men think they can prove they are not in fact cowards by means of an old school brawl. Someone issues a challenge (name calling, a push) and like magic, everyone shows up chanting “fight! fight! fight!”. Wait. Wait. Hold up. If that same boy throws a punch the day he turns 18, he can very well be picked up for assault. Better yet, if he goes off on the wrong person at work, it could cost him his job. How do you even get a job with a criminal history of violence? Where’s the man who stands up and says “It’s not worth it, man.”
It’d be great if that same friend was there to address a few other things like drugs, alcohol abuse and unbridled promiscuity? Instead, our boys often hear things like “don’t be a pussy.” “be a man.” and “grow some balls”. Be a man and do what exactly? What is manly?
To me it seems so much of what society tells boys is manly is counterproductive. We think of a grown man as someone who works hard, can hold down a job, and knows something about something. You can’t play dumb in the real world and get a head and yet boys knock each other down for appearing too smart in class. What’s up with that?
A real man is someone who doesn’t get sick and yet going to the doctor is not manly. Dieting is not manly. Exercise is manly but so is the remote control, video gaming and marathon movie watching. Filling your prescription and taking it as prescribed is not manly either.
Can we all agree that this is the 21st century and maybe we need to redefine what we think of as manly. Maybe manly should be more about doing the right thing regardless of what anyone else has to say about it. What will you be teaching your son?