Back in my other life I worked as a children's bookseller. I was good. Very good. I knew my books and loved being around them. In the young adult section we had quite a few books for girls that dealt with feelings and emotions. Actually, we carried a lot of titles published to ideally 'help' girls and young women muddle through the muck that is junior high, high school, body image, and bullying. We had one title for boys. One.
I remember thinking that if only we raised our boys to be comfortable with their emotions, to be comfortable enough to be sad or to cry or to simply be sensitive or even themselves we might not need all the books we had for girls. I was in my mid-twenties and boy, was I naive.
I do believe that if we could redefine what true masculinity is to allow our boys and young men to be firmly safe in their skin, to know without a doubt that they are boy enough, man enough no matter how "sensitive" they may be they would be stronger. We would all be stronger. Humans tend to be afraid of what they do not know or what they perceive goes against what is socially acceptable as defined by their peers and family; as influenced by television and films, and now our vast network of social media sites. All those influences tell us that a masculine man is strong, physically strong...ripped is the word we use today, handsome in a Hollywood way, a vocal and loyal sports fan...he sets cars on fire, chest bumps other fans, destroys property and picks fights with whomever is in their way all in the name of sports. Speaking of fights, a true man is an ass kicker, has a hot wife and drives an expensive car. A true man does not garden or use a crockpot, does not enjoy grocery shopping or brewing the perfect cup of tea. No, a true man only cooks exotic foods in his sparse and steel kitchen and drinks alcohol. A lot of alcohol.
Television, film and more importantly video games portray masculinity as aggressive. Aggressive, masculine men are powerful. Powerful men have the world at their fingertips. Powerful men are revered. Powerful men are not bullied. Powerful men do the bullying. And hey, it's okay because that is how it works...according to our media.
But this is wrong. So very wrong.
The most wonderful and astounding thing about people is that we are so very different in our abilities. We learn from each other, we lean on each other, we help, we buoy, and we make the world stronger. We also refuse to learn, we stand alone, we scoff, we bully, and we make the world a sadder place. The power we have within ourselves to hurt frightens me. The power within ourselves to help and heal is astounding. So astounding. A person who feels alone might carry a smile from a stranger for days and feel less so. We are all on this planet together. We all have hearts that beat. We are humankind. It shouldn't be difficult to care. It shouldn't be difficult to love. Yet for some reason it is.
To cast judgment, to scoff, to ridicule a person because of who they are is a manifestation of self-loathing or fear. I'm not speaking of dislike. Dislike happens and if all you do is think you would rather not associate with that person than you are not doing anything wrong. But, if you choose to entangle yourself in a hate-mongering campaign simply because said person drives a car you don't like, is not as tall as you or maybe taller, grows their own food, reads the bible, doesn't read the bible, makes minimum wage, has a stock portfolio or some other thing that you deem unacceptable then you need some reflection, you need to figure out how to like yourself, you need to be called out, you need to be stopped, you need to be loved.
Life is hard. Really hard. Life is especially difficult for our young men working on their ideal self on who they are. How can anyone be their true selves when their talents or desires are ridiculed? Life is also hard for our young women trying to make their way as well. I know I am leaning to the love, love, love mantra and I know that all of our children are important (girls as well as boys) but I want to really focus and put out there that our boys need our love and support no matter where their interests lie. Boys need to learn that to be manly, to be truly masculine is to be yourself. To have confidence in your abilities, to be proud of your quirks or your intellect. Stand up for yourself, stand up for others.
True men love.