The Big Lie: Real Men Don’t Cry
Have you heard of the term hypermasculinization?
It’s a fancy term for an extreme gender role that has developed in our society that makes men feel that they need to be extremely strong, show no emotion, and only do things considered masculine such as cooking meat, lifting weights, hunting, or fighting. This has created a culture of men that fear emotions, bottle them up, and have no healthy outlet for the negative energy generated by trauma, sadness, and loss.
When a boy is raised with the notion that real men don’t cry, they are taught to suppress their emotions and act as if they are not feeling them. They become a stranger to their own selves and develop a double identity that they live with often for their whole lives. It makes it hard to communicate with anyone of any gender, and it breeds explosive tempers and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
One of the biggest lies that has been socialized into men to get them to subscribe to a certain lifestyle and thus buy all the products that support said lifestyle is that real men don’t cry. Yes, you heard me right: hypermasculinity was created by corporations to drive sales. Along with this emotionless identity, men are told not to do or like “girly things” like fashion, baking, yoga, or bubble baths.
It’s as if men have been asked to stand with only one leg — the key component for balance has been removed, so they cannot walk in a straight line but merely in circles. Here is how this lie has infiltrated our culture and how it is shifting.
As children, boys are given trucks, blue clothes, and aggression inducing toys like war figurines and toy weapons. They are immediately introduced into society’s preferred idea of masculinity before they can even speak. They start playing aggressive contact sports, becoming competitive and are celebrated for that violence and aggression.
Alternatively, those that show more of an interest in human emotion, the arts, and aesthetics are made fun of and ostracized from most social circles. The lifestyle of most young male children involves asserting power from a young age while being called a ‘pussy’ for showing emotion. They are discouraged from expressing their feelings and led to believe emotions make them weak and feminine, and this leads to behavioral issues and mental health problems later in life.
Men often feel like they have no one to talk to about their feelings, a natural part of themselves. The human body has emotions, it’s a part of life. Not having a healthy outlet for emotions can lead to countless adverse affects, like heavy substance abuse early on in life. Boys can develop aggressive, territorial behaviors because they feel unsafe and uncomfortable in a world where they are told to compete to survive.
As men are told that emotions are a weakness, it automatically leads to them view women as weak. In many older cultures, emotional accountability and self-mastery is viewed with great reverence and respect. Yet in our young and arrogant culture, we bash sensitivity as if it’s a cheap and disposable and a practice for the less-evolved.
This has developed a huge gap between men and women where relationships become full of miscommunication, resentment, and power struggles. It has made sexism so much worse, and it hurts everyone. The images we are shown about what a “real” male identity is from a young age are all about big muscles, tough personalities, and fighting. This means that a man has to shut down his emotions in order to be accepted in society and it makes having empathy challenging because it is systematically sterilized from the point of inception.
Subcultures Shifting Hypermasculinity
There are roots reaching into the deep soil in pursuit of a shift in what “masculinity” really means. With social media, we are able to share our stories and our truths and see trends on a global scale. More yoga studios have men attending, more men are participating in the beauty industry, and more men are speaking out about openly discussing their feelings safely with other men. This shift is taking place through a collective culture that has found how detrimental it is for men to suppress and deny their feelings.
The way that men have treated women as sex objects is shifting as a result of this deconstruction of gender roles as well. Men are less inclined to value just the physical appearance of women and more interested in treating women as equals. We are maturing as a culture and we still have a ways to go. There are now more men speaking out about doing whatever they want as far as style and femininity goes, which is not surprising after the extreme suppression their consciousness has been subjected to.
This pushback against hypermasculinity (sometimes referred to as toxic or hegemonic masculinity) is similar to what feminism looked like in the early days of the movement, when women first started really speaking up for equality. More than likely in our lifetime we will see a continued trend towards androgyny and more open conversations about gender identities and roles. With the onset of more gender neutral fashion brands, gender neutral toys, and gender neutral bathrooms, we are only seeing the beginning. But it sure is bright.
In some European cultures, they are making it a point not to push boys into masculinity. Instead, people are letting boys find what they enjoy organically, discovering what colors and activities they like for themselves and not automatically trapping them in one limiting category just for having certain body parts. New gender neutral pronouns like ‘hen’ and ‘ze’ make it possible not to divide children into men and women in some gender progressive schools.
We can all take steps to help men feel safe sharing their feelings and help them realize that it’s healthy to cry. We can shift the momentum of hypermasculinity through our purchases, our fashion, our communication, and our expression. The future in a world like this can expect healthier relationships with greater depth and self-awareness.