S/O to my girl Jordan for segueing me right into the next piece!
You might already know that we’re raising awareness of Men’s Mental Health through the Movember Foundation this month. For the last day of November, we decided it would be interesting and enlightening to further explore the topic of masculinity and emotions.
- Make survey for men.
- Gather intel from said men.
- Attempt to intelligently discuss from a female perspective.
Firstly, I used Survey Monkey to come up with a short, anonymous survey. The link was sent out over Twitter, Facebook, etc. for all the men in our lives to answer! (Thank you to all the participants, whoever you are!) I ended up with a sample size of a little less than 50!
I wanted to do it this way to ensure that I get real life answers to our questions about the role that emotion plays in the male sphere, instead of trying to get all of my information from some grad school paper or textbook. Or worse, trying to come up with answers myself. Turns out, I don’t know sh*t.
Actually, the struggle between the two topics wasn’t even on my radar until recently. My boyfriend and my male friends would make comments about their struggle with portraying their emotions or being ostracized when they did. As a woman who cries more often than most, I had to know more in an effort to understand.
Jordan touched on the issue in her latest post on Examining Gender Roles.
Essentially, it seems as though securing masculinity demands ongoing, constant effort from boys and men. I wanted to see just how deep this went in an effort to better understand the struggle.
The questions on the survey went as follows:
1. Was there ever a time you were told being overly emotional wasn’t “manly”? Give details.
2. Do you feel like you have to “stay strong” or “bottle up” your emotions in order to maintain your masculinity?
3. Do you feel as though this line of thinking has impacted your life/relationships/etc. in any way, positively or negatively?
4. I find it hard to express my emotions as a man in this society. (Agree/Disagree/Neutral)
The survey was enlightening. Many men who participated reported in their childhood that they had been told crying wasn’t “manly,” or that “real men don’t ____.” One participant reported that they were raised to believe crying was for girls only. Even participants who weren’t told these things directly, by guardians or parents, claimed they quickly picked up on the social stigma that being overly emotional was frowned upon as a male.
Interestingly, one participant said that they felt it hard to express emotions because, as a straight white man, he acknowledges his privilege. He believed that being emotional earned him less leniency in the eyes of the public, which is filled with people that go through much bigger hardships and suppression than he.
One participant even reported that when a family member passed, his own girlfriend told him that his crying made him less attractive to her. Now, when he dates, he says it’s “more for looks and convenience.”
“I don’t find myself emotionally connecting because it’s hard to let someone in lest you be judged.” – Anonymous
The overarching theme was that many of these men felt they needed to bottle up their emotions in the face of a society that tied stoicism to masculinity.
“Showing you care in many instances feels like a show of weakness. It matters less if it’s strong emotions that are more associated with masculinity – like bravado, boasting, or even anger, but anything that portrays a lack of confidence or even just caring about people is seen as weakness.” – Anonymous
“Whether it was being disappointed in losing a baseball game, or getting too excited about a new Star Wars – I was often told “real men don’t _____”. Eventually, it just encouraged suppressing all emotions in order to be a ‘real man.'” –Anonymous
And as for the last question, whether or not these men found it hard to express their emotions in this society, about 56% answered “agree.” 13% were “neutral.” 31% answered “disagree.”
Clearly, some people on the survey didn’t seem affected by the social stigma. Their answers were largely, “No, I don’t have trouble with emotions or feel like society changes the way I express them.”
And that’s great.
But, I think it’s also important to note that in this survey the majority of men were affected.
I don’t have solutions. I really don’t. The only thing I can do is play my part in changing the stigma of masculinity and the expression of emotions. I like to think that part of this change is simply making others aware who maybe weren’t before. I know I wasn’t before this survey!
It’s the year 2018. I think we are all becoming a little more aware of our mental health needs. Take any one of our amazing ManCandy Monday guests as an example. I think we are finally pushing back on society and changing the way people think about or view certain topics. I looked to the internet to see what other mental health advocates had to say:
By balancing notions of strength which tend to be thought of in a binary way, as either feminine or masculine, people might be much healthier. A world without sexism would be better for everyone. Not only would women be respected, but men might be better able to appreciate more feminine traits and strengths, in others and in themselves. – Tom Ogier
With all this in mind, I often ask myself what can be done to help. I do not believe any man wants to feel emotionally closed off, lonely and isolated, and I know they don’t want to be taking their own lives at the rate they are. By looking at the most sacred commandment of alpha masculinity, I believe it is possible to start to allow many men to address what they truly value, ask whether they are living according to their own standards and hopefully in this way begin to form a healthier relationship with their mental health. – Chama Kay
This one’s for the men.