As we are approaching the middle of Mental Health Awareness week my thoughts lie with what I hope for my son for the future; because although the gender divide is closing, it is still prevalent in various areas, emotions is one that needs to be addressed.
Us women may have to put up with earning less for working identical jobs as males; and then be expected to do the majority of house work and childcare, leaving us utterly exhausted which obviously can have negative effects on our own mental wellness; but the gender divide I pray closes soon surrounds emotions.
As women we are allowed to be sensitive and emotional (although not too much, or we risk getting called crazy by the very men that struggle with their own emotions); whereas society only really allows men to feel one emotion – anger. Everything else is deemed as a weakness; and although there is a positive movement in men opening up about their experiences of depression and anxiety, men are still much less likely to ask for support.
I read some research about the “man box”; this is the box that society pushes our boys to grow up in, these are the rules;
Do not cry or open up about emotions, other than anger
Do not express fear or weakness
Express control and power
Do not be “like a woman”
Do not be “like a gay man”
Be tough, athletic and display strength and courage
We drill our little boys to “man up” and “don’t be girl” if they cry over something we deem inappropriate; we teach them to harden up so they can fight the bullies in the playground. We teach them if they cry they lose, if they cry they are weak, if they cry they are fragile, if they cry they aren’t real men.
That is why so many men in our lives struggle to express themselves; because we teach them if they do they are not masculine, and if they are not masculine, they are not worthy.
Suicide rates in men is four times high than in women, and the single highest cause of death in males under 35. It surely is time to face up to this, perhaps society have got it wrong, perhaps men being “strong and silent” about emotions is making them ill, and perhaps real strength, real courage and real bravery comes when a man acknowledges his imperfections and his troubles and speak out.
Perhaps we need to stop de-masculating emotions and start empowering them?
Perhaps we need to give our brothers, husbands, partners, sons and friends the space to feel, the space to cry; and when they do, we need to hold them tightly.
For a long time, my son’s only role models have been females; he is now nine and a very sensitive soul, just like myself, that laughs hysterically when he is happy and cries hysterically when he is sad. I have been told of numerous occasions that I need to toughen him up, by guess who – men; but I do not believe it is not my job to toughen him up to face this cruel world; I see it as my job to raise a child that will make this world a little less cruel. I don’t want him to be the “strong and silent” type, I hope for a different future for him …
I hope that when his mate says he is ok, but doesn’t look ok, he asks again just to make sure.
I hope he finds someone that he can share his pains, fears and darkness’ with without fear of judgement.
I hope he feels ok not to be dominating or powerful or controlling.
I hope he feels unashamed to ask for help when he needs it and offers help when he can.
I hope he continues to have the strength to cry when he is sad.
I hope he sees women as equals and not objects and speaks up when his mates disrespect them in the locker room.
I hope he is brave enough not to run from painful situations but to acknowledge, heal and grow from them.
I hope he realises that he can be both resilient and vulnerable, strong and gentle, powerful and compassionate.
I hope he chooses being kind over being right.
I hope he understands that not every day will be a good day, but tomorrow is close by.
I hope he feels liberated as a man in the liberation of females.
I hope he has the courage to say “I love you” when he falls, and reminds them every single day.
I hope he supports his friends though their personal struggles with pride and affection.
I hope he sees his own vulnerability as a way to freedom.
That is what I hope for, for my son.
Live life fully