Boys Are Pressured To Fit Certain Standards From A Young Age


By Gracie Bowman, Editor in Chief of the North Star

We see it everywhere. In movies, television shows, teen fiction and social media. Mostly everyone at some point in their lives has seen or heard the phrase, “Real men don’t cry.” This is just the tip of the iceberg into the bigger picture that young boys have to face. Whether they are told to “man up” or “be a man,” these small comments have an impact on young boys as they get older.

What is “be a man” culture? Think about the images or words that flood your mind when you think of the word “man.” What are they? Like me, you may see almost a superhero like being. Muscular and built, smart and good with the ladies. This man doesn’t shed a tear, he’s confident.

This picture that seems to be burned into not only my mind, but a lot of people’s minds is that same picture that is detrimental to our boys’ emotional wellbeing. The pressure to be that man we envision in our heads is be a man culture. The mental image of that man a lot of us seem to have has been put into our heads from television shows and movies since we were young kids.

Without even realizing it, young men have an idea of what being a male is from an early age. They want to fit into this mold because they feel that’s how they should be. Society puts them into this small box when really, it’s unfair.

Male leads in television shows and movies show men to be athletic or extremely smart. They may be extremely wealthy or the world’s super hero. No matter what role they play, they all seem to have something in common. Men in television screens show little to no vulnerability. It makes the man look weak-therefore boys think they will look weak.

We don’t just see it in the media. Parents can push their young boys into fitting into this mold as well and most of them don’t realize they’re doing it. We tend to see it more often from fathers than mothers, though it may not be true for every family. Fathers like to see their son playing baseball like they did as a kid, they tell them to “rub some mud on it and toughen up.” These comments don’t seem like a big deal. A father making sly comments about his son being in choir rather than football doesn’t seem like a huge problem.

Then we put the boys into school, where they have to figure out where they fit in to. The pressure is to be the fastest to run the mile in gym class and never be caught crying because, as we all know by now, boys aren’t supposed to cry.

What’s the overall issue here? What are the consequences of all these things? Even if we can’t see a sudden change, over time this desensitizes boys to their feelings. So, when they mature into young adults, they bottle up their emotions, making it harder during adolescence for teenage boys. They contort themselves with their emotions and insecurities to fit into this box that society puts them in. Bottling emotions can create unhealthy habits and be a heavy weight on someone’s chest.

Parts of society have worked on eliminating gender roles, for example, men didn’t play as big of a role in our beauty community as they do now. Activists have also played a role on social media to address this issue. But I don’t think gender roles are our only problem here. I think to resolve this issue, we need to introduce young boys to talking about their feelings at a young age.

We should normalize men having feelings and eliminate the stereotypes in men. Parents should try methods of talking through their emotions with young boys. Make it known from an early age that it’s okay to feel certain ways and it is okay to want to talk about it with someone they trust.

This way, men can feel safe being more vulnerable with their friends and family. Not only will their mental health improve, but so will their relationships. By normalizing emotions, society can change the phrase, “be a man” into a more positive saying.