Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Man Up

I recently saw a video that warned against the three words you should never say to your son - “be a man.” The expectations of how men should behave that our society puts on even the youngest boys are absurd. As a mother to an especially sensitive little boy, I definitely have strong opinions on this topic.  

My sweet, sensitive Q, who likes to
"play yoga" and would never hurt a fly.
Quinn (who just turned three) instantly cries when another child takes his toy away, or won’t share a toy with him, or is in any way physically aggressive with him. Even if the other child doesn’t hurt him, Quinn’s feelings get hurt, and he cries as loud as he would if he were gushing blood.

I see the way some men look at Q when he gets emotional. There’s the eyebrow raise or the eye roll, maybe a knowing look shared with someone else who gives a slight nod as if I won’t notice. I try not to assume the worst about people – especially our friends and family – but I think I know what they’re thinking: “That kid needs to toughen up. He’s going to be a p**sy.”

Then the scruff on this Mama Bear’s neck stands up a little and my nostrils flare. I take a deep breath and try not to care what those men think. But I do care. And worse yet, I know Quinn cares, and he will easily pick up on their scorn within the next couple years.

If these men saw a little girl acting the same way Q does, they might think she’s a bit annoying, but they would never attack her character. Yet, when my little boy gets emotional, suddenly his future manhood is on the line?

I follow my cousin’s eleven-ish year-old son on Instagram, and I see the chest-thumping banter between him and his friends. They bust each other’s balls and call each other “gay.” They post pictures of Maxim models and leave disgusting comments, like that they want to take her to “condom city.” First of all? EW!! Second, ain’t nobody takin’ anybody anywhere. These middle school boys are all virgins and they all know it, but they already believe that’s how real men are supposed to talk. Hence, the rejection of homosexuality and the dehumanization of women begin at a young age.

I remember when my parents divorced, someone told my two year-old brother he was "the man of the house." Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? Don’t even get me started on how insulting that must have been to my mother – a perfectly competent adult who is assumed to be so weak just because she’s female that her two year-old son now has a duty to protect her? I was only thirteen at the time, and I was insulted. But all that aside, what kind of pressure does “man of the house” put on a little boy?

What exactly does it mean to “be a man,” anyway? Does it mean to never cry? To be physically aggressive? To intimidate? To show your anger but keep all other emotions well hidden? To watch porn, have lots of sex and disrespect women? To never let anyone disrespect you? To take what you want? To take control? To feed on power no matter who you have to take it from? I ask because it seems that when a male – regardless of age – acts counter to the above behaviors, he’s told to “be a man” or “man up,” or he’s at least laughed at by other males who think that’s what men do.  

When adults whom a young boy loves and respects negatively feminize crying, caring, etc., he quickly figures out that most of his emotions are not acceptable male behavior. And we wonder why we live in such a violent world. We’ve all met grown men who push their emotions down, deny their own pain and act tough, and those men are usually assholes. And I’m doing my damnedest not to raise a couple of assholes.

image credit
I love that Quinn is compassionate, empathetic and affectionate. I’m proud that he vocalizes his feelings and is learning to stand up for them. He rightly believes that his feelings matter! Yes, I know my son is emotional and sensitive, probably to a fault, but I can think of worse faults for a man to have than being “too sensitive.” In fact, I think this world could use a few more sensitive men. 

Pouring my heart out with Shell over at "Things I Can't Say."

Related Posts