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‘You’re a man, so act like one’

| Thursday, March 8, 2018

“You’re a man, so act like one!”

“Toughen up and stop being a baby!”

“You’re acting like a girl!”

“Boys don’t cry!”

“Boys don’t like other boys!”

At the moment that boys begin to decipher English lullabies from their mothers’ mouths, society has already defined who they are meant to be. From the cradle, passersby compliment male babies, saying, “Your son is so handsome and strong,” “He’s going to be a hit with the ladies,” or predict the kid’s future with a, “You see that grip he has. He’s going to be a quarterback. I already know.” But do they actually already know these things? Has society proven infallible enough to make normal civilians into oracles? Or the better question — how are we conditioning our boys to fit this mold that we have created for them?

Parents teach their sons at a young age to “be a man,” but what does this actually mean for this nation’s growing boys? Statements such as “Stop being such a sissy!” or “Men don’t cry” breed emotional repression within young boys. This subsequently forces young men to bottle it in, forcing them to find other outlets to release these considerably harmful emotions. These outlets can come in the form of depression, personal harm, outbursts of rage, violence and even substance abuse. Commands like “Stop acting like a girl” not only inspires hyper-masculinity to compensate for any sign of sensitivity, but promote a mentality that women are inferior. The constant enforcement of these heteronormative commands are the exact ingredients that birth homophobia and force gay men to hide behind facades in deep closets with sections and drawers where they hide all of their pinks and pastels from the world.

A friend of mine, who happens to identify as bisexual, explained how someone they knew completely assessed his sexuality due to their perception of his masculinity. This person came to him and said, “When I first met you I thought that you were gay because of how soft spoken and gentle you were. After I met you for a little while longer, I pinned you as more bisexual than just gay. Gay people tend to pay more attention to detail … Your clothes gave you away! You dress too well to be straight but … not well enough to be completely gay. So that’s how I knew!” After being left completely confused on how to take the comment, he asked “Do you think that other people know that I am bi for the same reason?”

What if masculinity weren’t so black and white? What if, masculinity and femininity operated in a similar way to the Kinsey Scale? If that were to be the case, the wardrobe doors would be open to the realization that there is no man who falls on either side of the spectrum. This would allow generations of males to grow up without having to worry about whether their voice is deep enough, posture straight enough, hair short enough, how many phone numbers they can get from girls at Domerfest or if their clothes are in considerably masculine colors. Men would be able to develop into the man they perceived themselves to be. They would no longer feel the pressures from society to “be a man” and just be … be a man.

Selwin Wainaina is a junior. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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