by Madison Marko – Staff Reporter
Let’s discuss the fragile rules of masculinity.
These are rules that state: A boy cannot wear a dress because that is what girls wear, and that piece of cloth can be gendered. A boy cannot cry because crying displays certain emotions and weaknesses that boys are not allowed to have. A boy’s aggressive behavior will be excused because “boys will be boys”.
This is what Dr. William Pollock, the Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School describes as the “boy code” in his book titled “Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood”.
The “boy code” is a society established set of criteria that all men are subjugated to. Society instructs them from an early age to uphold the standards, and if they do not, they risk bullying, teasing, and they struggle under the weight of a restricted freedom of expression.
Boys learn of the consequences of defying the “boy code” at young age; society tells them to “man up” when they cry, a reaction different than when a female cries. For a girl, it is socially acceptable to cry, and they are treated with compassion and empathy when they do. Boys this platform to share their emotions openly.
Boys are guided towards the action figures and fake guns in the toy store after they smile and point out a beautiful doll with curly black hair. Their creative expression is limited just because society insists “boys can’t play with dolls, only girls can play with dolls”.
It’s no wonder that men tend to get very defensive when their masculinity is called into question. From a young age society forces them behind a stoic mask of what is perceived to be “manly”, and it becomes a risky and daunting task to defy these constraints.
This facade may be doing more damage than we think. A study conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that men die by suicide three and a half times more than women. What is one, seemingly insignificant thing that women have and most men don’t? A safe place to share their feelings. Those feelings build up over time, and they stay there if they aren’t shared, leading to sense of overwhelming helplessness.
This has to change. Society must collectively decide to raise boys and girls the same way on an emotional and expressive level. Boys, just like girls, should be allowed to have safe and private discussions about feelings and other beliefs, be encouraged to express themselves in different ways that may defy the stereotype, and have their thoughts be considered genuinely. Society shouldn’t decide what it means to be a man—each individual should determine that for themselves.