This guest article from Psych Central was written by Tamara T. Hill, M.S.
The closer I get to the males in my life, both friends and family, I find that my understanding of what I call “male personality,” the constricted and restricted ways that males engage and fail to engage in our society, has been the most detrimental force in our society for ages.
Since the 19th century, males have been pressured by what author William Pollack calls the “boy code,” the outdated assumptions, models, and rules about boys and men that society has developed.
This concrete ideology of manliness affects males’ perceptions of themselves, how to cope with challenges, and how to be true men, fathers, sons and brothers.
Even females have perpetuated this idea by buying into media propaganda, encouraging boys to be “rough and tough,” rejecting (either intentionally or unintentionally) the emotional display of inner feelings, and requiring that boys only respond a certain way to problems. For example, a 12-year-old boy who is constantly being bullied is told by his father to “stop crying and stand up!” This statement implies that this male child is not permitted to display his innermost feelings, but to deny them and fight back, which encourages aggression.
Society influences men and young boys to believe in the social model of maleness, that is, the social construct that says males should be strong, stoic, aggressive, assertive, controlling, unfeeling, and capable of handling their problems alone. In fact, many men fear social marginalization if they reveal their deepest feelings. This can lead to feelings of aloneness, isolation, depression, and even suicidal ideation in severe cases of isolation.
It is extremely important that we share our feelings, receive feedback and support, and gain love and human closeness from those we love and from those who love us. Men are no different. A showing of affection and vulnerability is not a display of human weakness, but of human necessity. I tend to liken the male social model to that of a prison. It is easy to get into, but difficult to get out of. Marginalization and stigma keep our male children, family members, and spouses stuck in a false, preconceived notion of maleness.
Men are taught very early to fit into the social construct of the male gender role. Their nurseries are blue; their clothes are blue or white or black; some parents tend to “baby” boys less; and extended family surround boys with sports, rough and tumble play, and tough male talk. I by no means am against such social tradition; however, it is important that we become aware of how we are influencing our children to view themselves and to view their place in the world.
We must be careful not to send the subliminal message that men are to be uncaring, emotionally distant, and stoic at all times. We must model for our children that men are human beings with feelings, needs, and desires to be loved and cared for. Yes, men can be strong and powerful in our society. But they are also feeling beings who should tap into their emotional side. A man who can utilize both their strong and emotional traits can be very attractive to various areas of life.