Though it’s difficult for us to speak on this topic without writing a novel, we’ll keep it brief because we know that you, like us, have shit to do.
So here it is:
As mamas of boys, we’re in the business of raising men. And the kind of young men we raise has a lot to do with how we communicate with them (“we” being ALL OF US, as a village). The words and actions we choose (thoughtlessly or purposely) to convey these messages about how, in fact, to “BE A MAN” can be forever damaging.
We recently watched THE MASK YOU LIVE IN, with pits in our stomachs, because guess what? We’ve heard it. In our own homes, and among the very closest people in our lives.
While we both identify as proud feminists, and while we’re glad to see a change in the rhetoric we use in reference to and in conversation with our girls, we can’t help but wonder: Where does that sense of awareness go when addressing our boys?
Why is it okay to tell a boy not to cry, to “man up”, and what are the deeper implications?
We ask you, PLEASE THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK.
What you may not know are the repercussions of the messages we’re sending boys daily by telling them things like “You’re a tough boy” – “Don’t be a pussy.” – “Emotions are for girls.”
This kind of language creates feelings like fear, pain, shame and anger that without being expressed can turn into suicide, rape, and murder. Not exaggerating here, folks.
We are talking about culturally learned behaviour that not only comes from our TVs and laptops, but our very own homes and schoolyards, teaching boys that suppressing their emotions is just another part of “being a guy”. Whatever that means.
So what CAN we do? Well here are some tips for starters:
- Provide guidance and support so they can embrace their masculinity in a positive way
- Create a supportive environment where they are encouraged to open up
- Give boys an emotional language and help them decipher one feeling from another
- Lead by example and show them what kinds of behaviour are acceptable and what’s not
- Let them know it IS okay to let their emotions out, and even cry if need be
- STOP THE BULLSHIT when we see it
The research into the epidemic of depression, aggression, suicide and criminality amongst boys and men is fairly new and as such, there are a lot of people who are still in the dark about the massive repercussions of their seemingly harmless use of the typical “tough guy” rhetoric. Because of that, we strongly believe that those of us who are making an attempt to educate ourselves on the topic have a duty to share our knowledge with others.
Maybe you’ll feel like you’re stepping on the toes of the old guard – but we urge you to consider that maybe you need to step on their toes to awaken them to the possible detriment their words can have to the psyche of the male children they love so dearly.
We encourage all of you – parents, aunts, uncles, friends – to take the time and watch this documentary (THE MASK WE LIVE IN) that will hopefully start a movement in the right direction, change our narrative, and bring a little more humanity to our sons’ lives.
Some may say the film is sensationalized and not all boys are the same, or “here come the moms to baby the boys” but until the kids are okay, we’ll be here… not so quietly revolting against society’s request to MAN UP.
Let’s change the dialogue and help boys stay true to themselves, without having to live up to the ridiculous and narrow-minded definition of North American masculinity.
Let’s not just raise men, but amazing human beings. The responsibility is on all of us.