5 Reasons Why Dads Should Stop Teaching Their Sons to "Man Up"
Toxic masculinity is a narrow understanding of what being a real man means. Here are five reason why dads should put a stop to this
“Man up”— this is not an uncommon phrase many parents use when raising young boys. As early as possible, little boys learn that “being a man” means toughening up, being brave, and asserting themselves.
Though these are admirable qualities, they often discourage them from enhancing their “feminine” side such as being gentle and caring. Take, for instance, the story of the young boy who went viral for secretly hugging their neighbour’s dog. He was caught sneaking these gestures of affection through CCTV. But, why did that young boy feel the need to hide in the first place?
Is it, perhaps, because this act of tenderness embarrassed him?
Parents—father, especially—need to rethink the concept of masculinity they teach their sons.
Dr. E.J.R David, a dad and Psychology professor at the University of Alaska, shared with Psychology Today why he believes that many fathers have contributed to the widespread toxic and dangerous understanding of what being a man means.
“Yes, my fellow fathers,” he writes. “Through our endorsement of toxic masculinity, we are largely responsible for the troublingly high rates of violence against women, as well as the epidemic of sexual assaults against children, women, and men. And yes, my fellow fathers, we are also largely to blame for the massacre in Orlando.”
To drive his point further home, he cited research which states how toxic masculinity can lead to substance abuse, depression, suicide, and other health problems that are destructive to society.
This “distorted” and harmful understanding of masculinity should not be allowed to continue being the norm.
Dads, he believes, have to nip this sort of harmful thinking in the bud.
Here are some of the most interesting points Dr. David raises.
A distorted view of masculinity reinforces hate
Though fathers cannot be blamed for the Orlando shooter’s actions, Dr. David believes dads with wrong perceptions of masculinity are largely, although unintentionally, responsible for the culture of hate which raised him.
“Fathers have played a role we have played a big role in harnessing, reinforcing, and harbouring the hate which led to the carnage in Orlando,” he writes. “No, we are not the shooter’s father. But many of us fathers have taught our sons to be grossed out when they see two men kissing. We have taught our sons that it’s morally wrong and sinful and abnormal for two men or two women to love and marry each other.”
Adding that, whether they want to or not, dads have taught their sons to fear LBTQ people as “mentally and morally ill, as threats, as paedophiles, as sexual predators.”
By doing this, dads have inadvertently taught sons that it’s okay to see them as inferior and unworthy of respect as human beings.
A distorted view of masculinity leads to violence
Furthermore, he says, this culture of hate and fear has taught young boys that it’s funny or appropriate to use derogatory terms against LGBTQ people.
“We have taught our sons that being called ‘gay’ is the most powerful, insulting, and devastating attack on their masculinity – an attack that will necessarily call for a “manly” response, which most likely means violence because that’s how we ‘handle things like a man’.”
Dads teach them boys to toughen up because, one day, they’ll grow up to be the heads of the household.
But, teaching them this sense of entitlement and dominance can be a dangerous thing.
“We have taught our sons that the best and most effective way – the most ‘manly’ way – to handle conflicts and disagreements is through violence,” writes the dad-of-two. “We have taught our sons that they can and should overpower people.”
A distorted view of masculinity encourages discrimination against women
By teaching them gay men aren’t “real men” we have taught them that effeminate people are weaker and inferior.
“We have taught our sons that possessing and displaying what this society considers to be ‘feminine’ characteristics is a bad thing for a man and that they need to fight, resist, hide, ignore, and get rid of those feelings, tendencies, and behaviours. And if they can’t, we inflict “tough love” on them, to make them less ‘soft’,” explains Dr. David further.
A distorted view of masculinity promotes self-hate
This culture of hate and discrimination also translates to how they see themselves.
“Through all of these, we teach them to be violent toward themselves. We teach them to be ashamed of and hate parts of themselves that make them who they are, parts of themselves that make them complete human beings,” he explains. “We teach them to be violent toward human beings who we have convinced them to see as inferior. We teach them to be violent toward others who might remind them of their alleged inferiority.”
He then urges his fellow fathers to “step up and do better”
Though fathers have been part of this growing problem, Dr. David also believes they can be part of the solution.
Dads should teach sons that they are not entitled to have power or control over any human being and that their destiny is not to have dominance in society.
“Let’s teach our sons that crying and being sad, soft, tender, affectionate, caring, kind, and loving do not make them less masculine or less of a man.”
“Let’s teach our sons that crying and being sad, soft, tender, affectionate, caring, kind, and loving do not make them less masculine or less of a man,” he urges his fellow dads. “Instead, let’s teach them that such traits and emotions make them a more complete human.”
He adds, “Let’s teach our sons that women and LGBTQ people can be powerful and strong too. Let’s teach our sons to love.”
He ends by encouraging his fellow dads to stop talking to their sons about simply being ‘manly’ but to become a more complete human being.
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