Breaking the Boys Code of Masculinity

maninbox “At a young age, boys learn that to express compassion or empathy is to show weakness. They hear confusing messages that force them to repress their emotions, establish hierarchies, and constantly prove their masculinity. They often feel compelled to abide by a rigid code of conduct that affects their relationships, narrows their definition of success and, in some cases, leads to acts of violence resulting in what many researchers call a “boy crisis.” (
When asked, ‘‘How do you feel?’’ many men respond, ‘‘About what?’’

Cultural masculinity is the pressure to behave and experience the self in ways that the culture defines as sex-appropriate . However, an individuals reactions to this pressure are widely variable. There are many men who do not like sports and many women who do. Likewise, there are many men who are emotionally expressive and many women who are not.
“Masculinity is culturally defined as anti-femininity . Men sometimes fear that the counseling process will ‘‘feminize’’ them. In most of the mainstream culture, the worst insult for a boy is to say that he runs, throws, looks, or acts like a girl . Thus boys learn from an early age to avoid any behaviors that are culturally de fined as feminine because displaying such behaviors can lead to social punishment from male peers, parents and other adults, siblings, and even from female peers. Avoidance of the feminine is also reinforced by media images that often portray socially attractive men as being unemotional, hyper-independent, and violent. These same images portray feminine-acting men as weak, neurotic, and deserving of punishment.
Because women stereotypically act in ’’in response to psychological conflict (e.g., by cry-ing, worrying, and talking about sad feelings), men are encouraged to do the opposite: remain stoic, banish thoughts about their problem from their consciousness, dissociate themselves from their emotions or convert vulnerable emotions to anger, and take action in response to their feelings. Because it is socially acceptable for men to express anger, they may often convert less socially sanctioned emotions into anger.
In summary, a better understanding of cultural masculinity and the application of this knowledge to the health setting will result in increased sensitivity to problems associated with a disguised form of depression.” (Source:Depression in men by Christopher Kilmartin)

 Study after study has shown that social isolation is a risk factor for development of disease. It highlights the importance of social connection for mental and physical health, yet the stereotype is that men are less capable of emotional connection than women, notes McKelley.
McKelley suggests otherwise. Studies show when men's physiological responses to emotional stimuli are measured, their internal experience is similar to that of women.
McKelley wants men to do away with the mask. Sometimes emotional restriction is necessary, but it doesn't need to be the default mode, he says. He challenges men to eliminate phrases like "man up" or "stop acting like a girl." They should understand that opening up and being vulnerable is courageous. Taking small risks to open up will give them a broader experience of all of their emotions and allow them to make deeper connections.



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