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It’s no secret that we have been conditioned to suppress our fears and project our confidence as men.
As boys, we are told we should wipe our tears because crying is reserved for girls.
As men, we are told to “man up” when we feel inadequate or insecure.
The culture of toxic masculinity is stifling. It fails to nurture sensitivity in men who are denied the right to be vulnerable. It prioritizes emotional distance over emotional intimacy.
Our boys need to be taught that their masculinity isn’t fragile enough to be shattered by the toys they choose to play with or the clothes they feel most comfortable in.
They need to be reassured that their future income potential does not define the kind of person they become.
We are surrounded by a culture of toxic masculinity today. From a president who reached the highest office in the land by bragging about his ability to sexually assault women to a man who received millions of dollars by spectators who prioritized his boxing prowess over his history of domestic abuse.
There’s nothing I can do about that…you say to yourself.
I didn’t tune in to Mayweather’s fight.
I didn’t vote for this President.
And yet, fostering sensitivity and compassion starts right at home. We have all witnessed casual misogynistic comments gain free passes under the guise of comedic banter. Calling out (or calling in) such intolerance is in our control.
Pigeonholing boys and girls into socially constructed gender norms not only limits the potential for sensitivity and compassion, but also destroys any residual creativity that may be lurking within.
We need to shift the conversation: it is no longer sufficient to refuse personal responsibility by saying it isn’t us who beat our wives and children or who reduce women to sexual objects. We must take charge and actively confront the ways in which we participate in patriarchy and profit from it.
We need to realize that tuning into a fight and promoting a man known for his abuse glorifies and condones domestic abuse.
We cannot foster sensitivity and compassion in young boys and men by simply teaching them to passively avoid harming others. Our children must be taught to actively take a stand for justice and to be critically mindful of the passive ways in which they may be promoting a culture of toxic masculinity.
Only then can we begin to redefine the culture around masculinity.
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