Why I Wont "Man Up"

by GEM Magazine / Aug 08, 2015 / Comments

In recent times awareness has been brought to the oppression women feel and the limits placed on them through gender norms created by our culture. Little attention has been brought to the other side of this coin; the oppression some men feel.

The expectations put on them to “be a man” are often unachievable, leaving many boys feeling isolated, and frightened of coming across as weak.

From a very young age, I personally felt the pressures placed on me by individuals within my personal life, society, and adult figures, all pushing me to fit my pre-determined gender role.

Many of the individuals contributing to these unrealistic expectations in my life were unaware of the implications of their actions. They were most likely doing so unconsciously as our culture has normalized specific terms and qualities for situations such as; “toughen up”, or “be a man”.

We place an immense amount of expectations onto males, in the same way we have placed limitations onto females. If we are to look at the amount of males incarcerated within our provinces and country, it is a blunt reminder of the link males have created between respect and violence.

When I was growing up, the act of bottling up my emotions due to the fear of coming across as feminine left me feeling lonely and isolated. At times, this resulted in me acting out within my personal life or at school.

Damaging trends within my everyday life were consuming me inside and I knew that I could not live up to the image of a man I had created in my head.

The idea of what it is to ‘be a man’ frightened me. However, I attempted to meet these expectations through observing my friends and other male role models in my life, and deciding which qualities I would portray in different situations through an unhealthy form of masculinity.

I knew who I was deep inside from a very early age but society was telling me to be something different. These internal struggles are what boys growing up within our culture are subjected to everyday.

Especially when it comes to sports. I was never much of an athlete, although I enjoyed playing soccer, I felt as though not being good or particularly interested in sports was a serious hindrance within my life. I enjoyed many interested but they did not align with what was considered to be masculine.

As I grew older and attended university I began to recognize the many different types of individuals struggling with the same feelings I had experienced. Recognizing and eventually escaping the 'norm' of what it is to “be a man” allowed me to truly feel as though I was unique. And that there was a place for my uniqueness within this world.

The fear of coming across as feminine or weak is a pressure many males deal with every day. The fear is that if we communicate our feelings in a healthy manner or seek assistance with mental health issues, we will be perceived as ‘less of a man’.

We need to be more accepting and aware around male mental health and escaping our pre-determined gender roles. The narrative needs to change in order to achieve a healthy outlook for both men and women; the current approaches seem to be dividing and re-enforcing these pre-determined gender roles. A narrative of healthy masculinity needs to begin so that males navigating their way through this complex life are not left feeling isolated, abnormal, or less of a man than the guy next to them.

Be true to yourself and have faith that your unique qualities and skills will eventually be appreciated and recognized in a positive light, regardless of your gender

By Jeriah Newman

Jeriah is an undergraduate studying Sociology and International Relations, his passion lies in bringing awareness to social and political issues as well as advocacy for human rights. Jeriah would one day like to work with the United Nations to bring positive changes to policies surrounding global poverty and underdevelopment.

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