In celebration of International Men’s Day, we bring to you a new definition if Masculinity, to help you understand that it’s not that men or masculinity is toxic, it’s just the socialisation around these things. Break out of it, and you’re no longer part of the problem.
Defining Healthy Masculinity
What defines healthy masculinity? This is a hot spot question lately and for good reason. The roles and ideals of a “man” have been under question off late, and for good reason. As feminism challenges the roles of “women” it is only fair and natural to do so with the other side. You cannot call yourself a feminist and accept masculinity as it is. So before we define healthy masculinity, I want to first talk about where we learn ideas of toxic masculinity and how they are affecting our boys & men.
Starting when we are small children, boys specifically hear and learn over and over that it is unacceptable for them to have “feminine” characteristics. They are barated by fathers, grandfathers, teachers and other boys/men if they exhibit emotions like sadness or compassion. They’re called a baby, wuss, pussy, mama’s boy, a girl, or gay for these displays. These boys and men may even be physically beaten or assaulted, leading to the vast majority of males following along with toxic masculinity in order to be safe, even if they do not believe in it. Research actually shows that most men believe that showing more “feminine” emotions should be more accepted but believe that most men don’t feel the same or, as stated before, worry for their safety or being bullied. We certainly aren’t helping to bring down statistics that show that males are more likely to commit suicide than females.
When we force others into following ideals like “men don’t cry”, we are teaching all humans that it’s not normal for boys and men to show emotion, to have feelings or to want different things than being the captain of the football team, the CEO of a company, or the breadwinner in a family — we are stunting them emotionally. Instead of saying that men mature at a slower rate than women, we should allow all people to be individuals. Fostering all boys to take care of themselves emotionally will lead to more mature men and men who can feel safe about pursuing the lives they dream for themselves.
Authenticity is Key
So how do we create a space for men to be themselves? We can encourage them to ask for help when they need it, to show emotions like sadness, fear, compassion, kindness and love rather than aggression, possessiveness, jealousy, anger, or being generally cold and unavailable. Doing so allows boys and men to develop healthy self-confidence, communication skills, and relationships. Not to mention feeling free and encouraged to take on different roles besides what we have been taught is acceptable for men. We will also create confidence in others to come forward and call out people who encourage & engage in behaviours that are aggressive and disrespectful to others.
Let’s encourage boys and men to be their authentic selves by allowing them to show compassion towards themselves and others and creating a space for them to come forward when they are hurting or need help. If you see or sense this need in them, reassure them of the safe space you have created and watch as they begin to flourish.
We all deserve to flourish, our men are no different.