Gender roles and their damage to men

The Portly Dyke, at Shakesville: Robbing the Hearts of Men

Think about this the next time you hear someone say the words: “Be a man!”

Actually look at the situation in which this comes up, and think about what is being demanded. In my experience, it usually means: Shut up about your feelings. Grit your teeth and bear your pain and don’t let anyone know you’re feeling it. Don’t show it on your face, don’t talk about it, square your shoulders and your jaw and carry on like everything’s OK — hide it however you can.

That, to me, is unbearably sad.

Little boys who cry are “sissies” (aka — “girl-like”).

This wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be a problem if being a woman, or being like a woman, wasn’t a very bad thing — and training a human being to devalue someone else on a basis that truly, logically makes no sense at all (women by virtue of their physical anatomy, people of color by virtue of their skin color, queer people by virtue of their choice of who to have sex with) requires deep and continuous programming.

Boys cry. They cry from the moment they are born. If they didn’t cry as infants, you’d worry about this.

The indoctrination required to train a human being out of one of the deepest human responses (emotionality) is a staggering task when you really think about it — yet it is done, systematically and thoroughly — male children are taught to control and suppress any emotion which falls outside the acceptable stereotypical range for “real men” from very early on — and I believe that it is these stifled emotions in men which so often erupt in the only emotion that is consider “gender-appropriate” — anger.

After all — if you’d been denied the right to express the rest of the human emotional range (sad, bad, scared, etc.), don’t you think you’d be a bit pissed off, too?

Read the whole thing.

Categories: gender & feminism

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5 replies

  1. I’m trying not to teach my son this. I do tell him not to cry – for example when I’ve said no to popcorn and he cries, but when he cries because he’s hurt I comfort him rather than worry about his crying. Unfortunately this is one of those things he’s more likely to learn at school through his peers. At the very least I hope he learns that when he’s with his Mum, he is safe and secure and can cry if he needs to.
    Mindy’s last blog post..Is this a Lemming frock or some freaky coincidence?

  2. I just finished reading Raising Cain, which discusses this at great length, and which makes me despair to think of what my son will learn when he goes to school.

    AJ has started Reviving Ophelia, and tells me he is despairing of what will happen to our daughter.

  3. The weight of constraining gender roles can be demoralising, can’t it? That’s why I like Melissa at Shakesville’s motto: teaspoon by teaspoon.
    Every little bit of subverting rigid gender expectations counts. It all adds up, in the long run.

  4. Portly now has a follow up post up at Shakesville.
    I haven’t commented on either post yet because, as usual, Portly has summed things up so well that I can’t add anything.

  5. That’s what I tell myself Tigtog. If my son has children then I hope he can pass it on to them as well. I of course will be too busy spoiling them rotten (any possible future grandchildren that is).
    Mindy’s last blog post..Well, it sounds like they’ve got the ladies covered…

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