What does it take to be a ‘man’? Are we really still perceiving ‘real men’ as these emotionless, macho persona’s who never cry, who never talk about their feelings, who never experience anything deemed as weak? I call BS on that.
Some of the strongest men I know are those who openly speak about their feelings – they understand that parts of society still may view real men as cavemen rather than humans with emotions. But they don’t care. They cry, they breakdown, they express any emotions that they are experiencing. Just like they should. I am so fed up of hearing some grown men (and some women) teaching their sons things like ‘don’t be such a girl, ‘only babies cry’, ‘I thought you were a big boy who doesn’t cry’. What is that teaching those children? That males aren’t strong unless they keep everything bottled up inside? That crying is a weakness that men shouldn’t show? I certainly wouldn’t want any children of mine thinking that. Male or female.
Crying isn’t weakness. In actual fact, crying is a sign of strength. It can take a lot to express emotions openly. More so for men because of this toxic ideology that men can’t shed tears.
I’m actually not surprised at the fact that the rate of suicide is higher in men than women. Not at all. Not because men are weaker; not because they experience more mental illness than women; not because they’re more likely to make that impulsive decision to end their lives. It is because women are brought up encouraged to talk, encouraged to share how they feel, encouraged to express all the emotions. Whereas, young boys are taught to be macho, and tough. When in actual fact, they experience the exact same emotions as us women. They experience the same mental illnesses that females do – including post natal depression. Like I’ve said before, mental illness doesn’t discriminate and gender is no exception to the rule.
Someone very important to me was brought up this way. Their father was too. Therefore, the traits he was taught and encouraged to portray by his older generations, he would have passed onto his son. That’s how he was taught men should behave; so he wanted his son to be the same. But it can be so damaging.
My friend was a military man. He fought for this country and was damn proud of that. He had experienced and witnessed things that some of us couldn’t even imagine. Things that we are incredibly lucky not to have seen. He looked after his colleagues; lifted moral when it was needed; and lost someone he loved in the process. Now, I’m sure everyone reading this has lost someone they loved. Its a part of life. But to lose someone in that line of work, in those circumstances, would be horrific.
As a lot of military men that I know have been taught: show no weakness. You just have to get on with it. You’re in that line of work, you know what you’ve signed up for and you have to just deal with it. Game face on; emotions under lock and key.
How damaging must that be? To not even have that outlet of being able to cry. One of the most normal human responses to pain and suffering.
Denied. Frowned upon. Shamed.
Due to this life changing event and the notion of needing to be strong and show face; my friend suffered his own mental health problems. These issues caused him to push people away; to dread the anniversary every year even months prior to the date; to feel immense pain but keep it bottled up. In recent months to a year, he has sought help through a counselor and began the journey of dealing with his mental health problems and opening up. I am beyond proud of the fact that he is doing this, it takes incredible strength to go against everything you’ve been taught and want to share your feelings and experiences. Whether that be to one person, or every single person he meets from here on in. It doesn’t matter; the baby steps are just as important as those great big leaps of faith. Its all moving him in the right direction. And it is proving that your whole world isn’t going to dissolve if you challenge this toxic masculinity that young men are brought up around. It is showing other men that its okay to talk. Its okay to feel sadness; to feel fear; to feel anxious.
It will never make you less of a man by doing so. If anything, you become stronger; you have the freedom to share how you feel without fear of judgement. You can be the role model that all men need from an early age. You can help create the next generation of males who toss this ideology into the sh*t pile. Exactly where it belongs.