REDEFINING MASCULINITY IN BOYS

Picture this — A baby girl rides a bicycle past mommy and daddy, then falls. What happens? One of them (mostly the mum) or both runs to the girl and says, “I am so sorry pretty baby.” She gets her off the bike, embraces her then says, “Tell me where it hurts.”

Now let us imagine the same incident for the boy, he rides his bike and falls; you can already guess the outcome — Daddy expresses less emotion and tell him; “Get up, Big boys don’t cry.” He might watch him get himself up and give more “Big Boys” sentiments that hides an expression of pain or anything related to it.

This incidence teaches both the boy and the girl a lesson; A LIFE LESSON.

In the hope of teaching the boy STRENGTH, he learns AGGRESSION, VIOLENCE and above all, EMOTIONAL CLAUSTROPHOBIA. While the girl learns COMPASSION, CARE, GENTLENESS and MOST IMPORTANTLY, EXPRESSION OF FEELINGS and EMOTIONS. 

This tells how parents, even the most well-intentioned ones, teach boys how to communicate like “boys”, how not to express pain from a very young age. The aggression can go on and be expressed even in violent ways. For an instance, when two boys are fighting or being stubborn, people are quick to say -“boys are gonna be boys.” An enculturation that boys are expected to be “aggressive” which mostly translates to being “violent”.

Men are not so good at talking about MASCULINITY which over time has been defined as just a Man’s outlook; mostly strength. The female counterparts are being empowered and challenging the conventional, they are taught to see beyond their body. We need to start teaching the boy child not to base his strength on his masculinity – being aggressive and less expressive.

Tony Porter in his (2010 TEDx speech) talks about The Man Box. He mentions the collective socialization of men, what he calls the Man Box. It sets out the idea men have of what men and boys should be. It includes things like: men should not cry, show weakness, not to be “like women”, be heterosexual, be tough and athletic, stand alone, see women as objects among other things.

Where do boys learn these things in the Man Box? In our introductory blog to this Blogspot, we mentioned that clergy, fathers, teachers, parents – the well intentioned – teach these boys societal yardstick for being a man. How then do we solve these issues? Clearly, our boys are growing alone, without the right role models to help them through issues in life. It’s clear that more boys are being raised without fathers, leaving so many wandering the streets and learning unconventional behaviors, some are learning the wrong things via the internet and movies… All these are a construct of their Man Box.

We need to create safe spaces for boys and begin constructing ideas of what masculinity should be, in line with the demands of the 21st Century. Joint discourses between boys and girls need to be initiated so that we are at par with each other ideologically concerning the male-female perceptions. We need to show the boys a realistic world with practical approaches to life.

We have to deconstruct some of the components of the Man Box and give directions to our boys on what masculinity is. – Andrea Otieno

The renewed MANE is a project by Imeyreach Foundation to empower the MAN, most importantly the BOY CHILD on how to be a better person for themselves and their community.

 

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