I think it's easy for parents to worry about the wrong things, sometimes. We show up with our preconceived notions, our own personal hangups and agendas. And then we get blindsided by what our children really need. When it comes to boys, there's one thing they're craving, that they're often told they can't have: Closeness. Why is that? Because we're too busy telling them to do something else: Man up.
The team that brought us the project Miss Representation has introduced a new project: The Mask You Live In. It's all about how destructive it is for us to keep telling our boys to man up. Here's a trailer for their film that may change the way you talk with your son.
Just watching this makes me feel anxious. That's a lot of pressure boys feel to conform to one idea of what men should be. We tell kids of both genders to suck it up and not complain. But what if we really are expecting boys tougher than girls, to hide their emotions more, and to put up that front? There's nothing intrinsic about a boy that makes him tougher than a girl, really.
And then there's everything a boy misses out on when we tell him to man up: Feeling connected to other people. We want our sons to have strong, dependable friendships, right? Because everything kids learn from those friendships will serve them when they're older, and start romantic relationships. If we tell boys to shut off their emotions, what kind of husbands and fathers will that make them?
So I think this is an important project, and I look forward to the film. But I hope they also show how -- how can parents be more aware of the messages we send our sons, and how can we help them access their true emotions, and connect with others better?
Do you agree with the filmmakers that telling boys to "man up" is actually harmful?
Image via The Representation Project/YouTube