Men are awesome. They are multi-faceted, emotional and loving human beings. But all too often our culture comes along, dragging men into rigid gender stereotypes about what it is to be a man. These stereotypical, rigid gender norms confine men into what we call “The Man-Box“. And when the confines of the Man-Box push men to be overly and overtly aggressive, when men no longer see “First do no harm” as a way of being—well, that’s what we call “Toxic Masculinity.”
Emotions get repressed. Guys are deprived of platonic touch. They don’t get to express themselves in creative ways, to get outside gender norms, to act, to look, to dress however they want.
Except in the stands of a football game.
What is it about football—the culture of all sports, really—that is the one place where men can really open up in ways they are not culturally encouraged to elsewhere? Think of the emotional range in any give close football match—joy, excitement, happiness, anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, disappointment, disgust, surprise. They are all there, over the course a single game. It’s no wonder men love the game. No one shames them for feeling any of those emotions.
In recent years, football has gotten a bad rap. And rightfully so. For starters, it supports White Supremacy and kills people. If you think I am exaggerating, consider first CTE. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, according the the Concussion Legacy Foundation, “is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. In CTE, a protein called Tau forms clumps that slowly spread throughout the brain, killing brain cells.” As bad at that sounds, the reality of how it affects not just professional football players, but boys who begin playing at an early age.
So what’s a man to do? All he wants to do is let loose, blow off a little steam after a hard week’s work, laugh a little, cry a little—and not be reminded that racism and premature death might be be at the core of what he loves so much.
It’s tough to be a man today, right?
— Photo: Getty Embed
Our new Broadcast series will be bringing together activists in the field to discuss CTE and how to solve this growing problem.
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Also by Lisa Hickey
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