Boy, don’t you know that this behavior is toxic?

By Douglas Hardman

“Boys don’t cry”; “don’t act like a girl”; “man up.” I’m sure a lot of men, even here at VWC, have heard these phrases. Whether growing up or even in adulthood, men are always subjected to their gender roles and the constant idea of what a “man” is supposed to be.

There’s this weird relationship society has with gender roles. We use “woman” and “girl” as insults in an attempt to belittle or degrade what women do as opposed to men. This, in turn, creates an unrealistic expectation for the male gender role. Since we assume women to be weaker and more emotional, men have to be stronger and less emotional (since they’re OBVIOUSLY better than women).

When we tell young boys not to cry, or not to show emotions, they become emotionally repressive. This repression has been shown to lead to higher rates of dropouts and suicide in men. And that’s really messed up. When we tell half of our children not to cry, it enables toxic masculinity.

Toxic masculinity is the harmful attitude that describes male gender roles as violent, unemotional, and/or sexually aggressive. This behavior is promoted in society.  We’re too busy telling women how not to get raped. We don’t tell men not to rape. We don’t tell men to talk about their feelings. We don’t tell men not to abuse women. Being raped, having emotions, and being abused seem to belong to women, but do men actually get blamed? No, because “boys will be boys.”

We have this super-outdated view of how men should behave. But, at the same time, as we’re enabling toxic masculinity, we’re also attacking it. We say “boys will be boys” and tell them to assume their roles, but once they actually do, it’s a problem all of a sudden. “Men need to be more aggressive/dominant than women because they are the stronger sex” suddenly turns into “He raped/abused someone? What a terrible person he is.”

Yes, rape is terrible and should never happen under any circumstances, but society is literally telling men to be aggressive, emotionally repressed, and dominant. Society is not telling them to rape, but it’s also not telling them not to rape. Do you see what is happening here? Society has literally found a loophole for rape.

Instead of telling men and women how they should act, why can’t we just let people be people and find out who they are on their own? Emotions do not show weakness. Literally every human expresses emotion (and for all you sociopaths out there, I’m sorry). We are all weak and vulnerable at some point — all of us. We should all be able to express ourselves emotionally, comfortably, with anyone.

And why are we promoting aggression and anger? Violence is never the answer, and you won’t convince me otherwise. When we tell people to use their fists and not their words, people end up dead. War and peace do not go hand in hand. When we come back with flags on coffins and say, “We won,” we forget the things we lost.

All the men reading this, pay close attention: your emotions are valid, and you do not have to succumb to society’s idea of what a “man” should be. You are who you are. We’re all flawed; we’re all humans. Never forget that. You are not “girly,” you are not “gay,” and you are not “weak” for showing and having emotions.

And I’m sorry if you grew up in an environment where those ideas were promoted, because I did too. But you can seek help and support. If you were molded into a “man” and are feeling pressured by it, there are people who can help you.

We can stop the spread of toxic masculinity. All it takes is some encouragement and support. Once we stop enforcing the idea that being “girly” and “emotional” are insults, both men and women can come that much closer to equality. Because all humans are equal, emotion and flaws and all.