How Boys Suffer: the Boy Code and Toxic Masculinity
Here's why the documentary 'The Mask You Live In' is critical for parents, tweens and teens
How Boys Suffer: the Boy Code and Toxic Masculinity
By Laura Kastner, Ph. D. / parentmap.com
Sep 20, 2016

I’ll never forget a family session in which a father berated his son for crying about not making the basketball team. “Get over it. Don’t be a sissy,” the father said.

The boy was clinically depressed. I tried to explain how corrosive it can be for boys to stuff their emotions. It didn’t go well. After all, the father said, I was biased as a female shrink.

Then there was the time I conducted a school in-service training about gender issues. The male coaches ridiculed me for not “getting boys” when I discussed the importance of supporting boys in discussing feelings of vulnerability. That was rocky, too. And I’m not sure a facilitator from the NFL would have fared much better than I did — because he'd be a guy wanting to give a gender-bias in-service. Suspicious, huh?

In 1998, William Pollack wrote a book entitled Real Boys: Rescuing Our Boys From the Myths of Boyhood. He described the boy code as the requirement that boys should be stoic and independent, macho and athletic, powerful and dominant, and phobic of anything close to feminine (e.g. warm, empathetic or sensitive). If they aren’t, they are wimpy losers.

Not much has changed.

A recent analysis of the Orlando nightclub shooting tragedy described toxic masculinity as a specific model of manhood geared toward dominance and control. Boys and men are supposed to be in control and invulnerable, and when they aren’t, they are ashamed. The shame turns into resentfulness, hate and self-loathing — a toxic brew, especially when guns and social media get into the mix.

A new documentary, The Mask You Live In (trailer below) films boys from every kind of background who describe the way they suffer from our culture’s narrow definition of acceptable masculinity. A viewer can’t help but be impacted. Given the long-range effects of this public health crisis, everyone should see it.

The pressure to be constantly strong means that boys learn to wall-off feelings. Because a huge part of life experience is hurt, sadness, disappointment and other forms of vulnerable feelings, boys lose the opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence.

Feelings guide us. They steer us to seek help and consultation. They motivate problem-solving and informed decision-making. And most importantly, they drive connection with others.

What happens to this pent-up frustration when boys inevitably come up short in the manhood-code department? It can lead to depression, conduct disorders, isolation, problematic relationships and even violence.

Problems abound with toxic masculinity just as they do with the gender-typed pressures on girls. Girls are supposed to be pretty, skinny, perfect, accommodating, and never aggressive or angry. Gender straightjackets on both males and females can strangle, and try a gender identity that isn’t binary and you’re really in a bind.

What are the solutions? Busting out of those gendered straightjackets is a start. We need to validate boys’ feelings when they experience negative emotions. We need to trust that if we show compassion for boys’ tender sides, it won’t make them fragile; it will enhance self-acceptance.

Supporting boys when they struggle and suffer enhances self-awareness, which is the first step in their developing a full repertoire of social and emotional skills.

Successful people are able to articulate feelings, show empathy for others, cooperate and negotiate conflict amicably. When they connect effectively with others, people want to work with them and love them. Who doesn’t want this for boys?

 

 

3.5 ·
1
Trending Today
Revolution and American Indians: “Marxism is as Alien to My Culture as Capitalism”
Russell Means51,377 views today ·
15 Powerful Quotes From the World's Most Humble President
Hyacinth Mascarenhas18,629 views today ·
MP Says Government is Intentionally Making People Destitute to Prevent Organised Opposition
2 min10,154 views today ·
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small4,833 views today ·
This Short Film Plays Out Like an Epic Movie That Will Shake Your Soul - But the Movie Is Real, and We are The Actors
6 min4,712 views today ·
Why We Can and Should Abolish the Police and Prison Industrial Complex
2 min4,569 views today ·
Every Town Needs a Remakery
Jeremy Williams4,217 views today ·
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min3,829 views today ·
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min3,764 views today ·
Load More
New
Why Did Activists Chain Themselves to the Runway at Stansted Airport?
Plane Stupid
Rosie the Riveter for the 21st Century: You Dreamed, We Drew
Jennifer Luxton
Meet The Woman Rescuing Fruit and Feeding Her Community
2 min
Debating the British Empire's 'Legacy' Is Pointless - This Is Still an Imperial World
Ibtisam Ahmed
9 Times Video Games Were Great for Mental Health
Marijam Didzgalvyte and Jish Newham
What is Populism?
6 min
5 Things You Can Do To Help Immigrant and Muslim Neighbors
Lornet Turnbull
Why We Can and Should Abolish the Police and Prison Industrial Complex
2 min
Break the Chain - Fortnight of Action Against Fracking Supply Chain Begins
Andrew Butler
Load More
What's Next
Are You Raising A Boy Or A Toxic Man?
Avital Norman Nathman
'Boys Send Me Rape Threats, So I Tell Their Moms': Meet the Woman Fighting Online Harassment
Kali Holloway
Wrestling With Manhood: Boys, Bullying & Battering (2003)
5 min
Like us on Facebook?
How Boys Suffer: the Boy Code and Toxic Masculinity