By Shelley Flannery
Don’t cry. Walk it off. Man up.
These common phrases can be heard at the playground, on the football field and in our backyards, and they’re usually directed at boys. But it’s not just men hurling them. In a survey by SheKnows, 76 percent of men and 84 percent of women admitted to using such phrases as “man up” and “you throw like a girl.”
Society is constantly telling boys and young men not to express their emotions in order to preserve a view of what it is to be masculine—strong, tough and stoic. The problem is, of course, that boys have the same emotions girls do, so telling them not to express them is not only unfair but futile.
In order to keep from looking weak, boys and men can keep their feelings bottled up, and when they do come out, they’re sometimes expressed in negative ways.
“Young ladies are trained to be more empathetic and in tune with their feelings, and they tend to express them in healthier ways,” says Joshua Bailey, program manager of youth development at Men Can Stop Rape, a nonprofit organization dedicated to redefining masculinity in an effort to prevent men’s violence against women. But as Bailey points out, many times, boys learn to show emotion through anger, aggression and violence. The key to preventing violence against women, he says, is teaching boys about empathy.
“We believe when young men are more in tune with who they are and able to express empathy and love toward not only women but also their male counterparts, they’re less likely to commit acts of violence,” he says. “Once you understand empathy, you can understand the harmfulness of violence.”
5 Things You Can Do as a Parent
Widespread change will take a societal shift in how we view masculinity and how it’s portrayed in the media, but parents, teachers, coaches, youth worship leaders and other authority figures can make a difference on an individual level. Here’s how: