By now, most of us have heard the term, “Man up!”, but if you haven’t, it is a term used to very strongly encourage boys, young men, and adult males, to show more so-called “strength”. It is a term commonly used to shame boys and men, into acting the way past generations feel they should act; with little emotion, and a lot of bravado. But what does this term- among many others- do to the psyche of young children? And how does society’s false ideas of manhood and womanhood influence children today?
How Gender Roles Influence Young Children
Another even more widely used phrase that has negatively affected young boys is, “be a man.” This is one that has been used through the ages and many adult men speak on what this term actually meant to them as they were growing up. Unfortunately, “be a man,” is often used during times when young boys are expressing their emotions; dealing with sadness, disappointment, even grief. Men are not supposed to cry, so too many fathers and mothers have instilled a sense of shame in their sons over outward expressions of emotion.
“Stop crying, stop whining,” is heard by many boys in their childhood, who are really just seeking support and closeness, and a way to release the energy of emotions. Being tough, insensitive, and dominating women are taught as good strong male traits and being sensitive to your own feelings and those of others are considered weak or “female” traits. And it is undesirable to have any “female” traits. This idea of the dominant male, who never cries or shows emotion, has emotionally destroyed many young men today; and sadly enough, is still being taught to the current generations of young boys.
The Mask You Live In, a documentary attempting to rewrite the story of how gender roles influence children, is taking on these outdated and ineffective ideas of how men and women are supposed to be and respond to life. Many know today what they may not have known decades ago; that a society that reveres hardness and insensitivity in men, and promotes a dominant male- over- female attitude, will never create a global community where our feelings, and relationships are valued. It will only turn boys into men, who are ashamed to feel, and express those feelings, and will soon end up in need of psychological help. A society without these values can only create men, who see violence as a form of manhood, and women, who see themselves stuck in very limited roles in the world.
A rewrite of the gender story is necessary if we desire that our children grow up in a caring and engaged world, where people are open enough emotionally to live healthy lives, and care enough about themselves and others, to continue to build a better and more balanced world, than the one we live in today.