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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Hypermasculine standards are harmful to men

Today’s society is experiencing an interesting stage of social development. People from every corner of America, especially from the younger generations, are taking the opportunity to fight for the causes they are passionate about: whether that be by marching down the streets of state capitals with signs and chants or simply posting a status update on Facebook. 

Slowly but surely, society as a whole is moving in a progressive direction, with a plethora of dated concepts from our past being phased out entirely. One topic in particular is discussed at length quite often: gender roles. 

However, it is generally brought up mostly from a woman’s perspective, which is entirely justifiable and fine, but the men of America are also held to an unfair standard that deserves to be addressed just as often.

As a man myself, I can attest to the fact that being a man holds a lion’s share of difficulties. Especially by southerners, I am expected never to show my emotions, put forth 90 percent of the effort in beginning relationships and deal with all of my emotional problems by myself, internally. 

It is “wrong” for me to take a non-violent approach to dealing with aggressors. It is “stupid” for me to care deeply about those around me, offering a helping hand in the form of advice and gentle reassurance instead of making jokes and being basically emotionally neutered. 

It is “gay” to address topics such as these and fight for what I believe in in any way other than joining the military (not that I have anything but respect for the LGBT community or the armed forces). I would even be shunned by some for enjoying theater, art or music if that was what I was interested in.  

In short, I am expected to display hypermasculinity, which, as outlined by Psychology for Men, involves three main traits: coldness, sociopathy and hostility. Of course, after a while of being exposed to these concepts, gender socialization begins to set in, and as stated by Boundless Magazine, “leads men and women into a false sense that they are acting naturally, rather than following a socially constructed role.”

This problem starts very early in life, from elementary school for most boys. Barbara Williams, a master’s degree holder in counseling psychology and a mother of three, is quoted by an article on Medical Daily stating, “The problem we see with boys–they don’t have an emotional literacy…” 

What this means is unlike girls, boys are not given the emotional tools to tackle life’s ups and downs. They are shown that it is only okay to be angry or neutral, and that is pretty much it. 

This causes boys, and, by association, men, to deal with their emotions in wildly inappropriate ways. When grieving or just sad, they hit things and yell. When they are incredibly happy, they feel almost guilty that they have not maintained their all-important stoicism. 

This leads to a buildup in unexpressed emotions, which can very well cause major emotional and mental problems in men. At the least, it causes many to become emotionally unavailable. 

They have no idea what to do when they witness tears, and their attempts at consoling someone, however genuine, are often flat and unhelpful. In some men, this inability to deal with feelings can even cause depression, and in others still, violent outbursts ensue once too much emotion has been locked away inside. 

With all of this being very plain to see for most, one would think the logical thing to do would be to stop attempting to fit everyone in a proverbial box based on whether or not they have a Y chromosome. These boxes cause much more harm, for all people, than they do good. 

Allowing women to attend college and undertake careers of their choice has led to huge increases in personal fulfillment and has added a myriad of new, skilled professionals to the workplace—this once was seen as unacceptable.

Allowing men to be sensitive or artsy or stay-at-home dads without judgment can only lead to a better world. Happiness is one of the most important things in any person’s life, and being able to be one’s true self is the very foundation of the happiness. 

I understand that it might be hard for some men and women to understand that some men buck the gender stereotypes because they are not like those people breaking down gender barriers. 

I, for one, am not entirely different from what a man is “supposed” to be. I take pride in protecting those around me, I feel that I am a strong individual both physically and emotionally and I love athletics and action movies. 

On the other hand, I also love to have long, deep conversations with my friends late into the night about a lot of emotionally-charged topics. I also do not mind watching a romantic comedy from time to time. 

The point is that while I might fit into a man’s “role” in some ways, I do so because I want to, not because I am told I must. 

I may not be able to personally attest to having a love for flowers or a keen interest in “50 Shades of Grey,” but if I were to meet a man who did, I would simply address it neutrally—the same as I would treat a woman who liked those things. 

We are all human, and we are all born differently. Men do not have to be exactly like me or anyone else to live the correct way, and that is okay. All that is left if for the rest of us to recognize that. 

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Hypermasculine standards are harmful to men