The #MeToo campaign is for Men as well
The hashtag #MeToo is giving people a platform to speak out on sexual harassment and assault in the wake of several allegations made against Harvey Weinstein. However, it was not only women who shared their experiences, men also took part in the powerful social media campaign. That is why I am heartened to see so many men responding #MeToo. I believe, an extremely brave display of both vulnerability and solidarity with women who have suffered in silence for far too long.
In our patriarchal culture, men’s and boy’s self-expression is extremely limited. They are not allowed to express fear; they are not allowed to express pain; they are not allowed to express vulnerability.
‘Boys don’t cry’ and other damaging conventions we are teaching our sons
All parents have the privilege of bringing up the next generation of boys and girls; it is often a difficult and challenging endeavour, but ultimately the most rewarding. Many parents read books or get advice from their parents about how they should bring up their kids. Can some of this advice from generations past, have a negative influence? Are there damaging conventions we are teaching our sons? Many children are taught from a very young age what to think, feel and do in various situations.
‘Boys don’t cry’
Many boys from a very young age are taught to ‘man up’ or are told to stop crying. Some may disagree, but this can be extremely harmful to the child, preventing them from expressing their natural emotional reactions. That in some way by not showing any emotion, you are preserving your masculinity.
By pushing down or ignoring emotions and embracing the typical male stereotype of a ‘strong male’ could be affecting the mind and body, putting themselves at risk for certain mental, social and health conditions. Boys too have emotions; they too require empathy and encouragement so that they are able to deal with situations positively and constructively. By telling a boy not to cry or show vulnerability, you are negatively affecting his understanding and the need for relationship. This could result in isolation, which could produce anxiety and depression, later on in life.
Sadly, these man rules, even apply with sexual abuse. As a result, males tend to keep their sexual abuse secret and living in denial about what happened. So instead of talking about their trauma, they take it to the grave or delay disclosure, often for years on end. The man rules tell us that guys are not allowed to be abused, and if they are abused, they are not allowed to admit it, and if they do admit it, they can expect to encounter no empathy and no support.
Boys need the comfort of their parents (not just their mothers, but also fathers) just as much as girls do. The home should be a safe place where there is emotional freedom and not a place where a person is shamed for showing their feelings. Bottling up all the emotion can later manifest in other forms of expression, including anger, violence and even substance abuse. Teaching people at a young age about emotional development and allowing them to express themselves naturally is important.
Social media has also been linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep.
The Me Too campaign,men have stepped into the spotlight to say #MeToo applies to them too, as victims of sexual violence, they have sometimes been welcomed and other times less so.
The Time Up campaign
When Oprah Winfrey took the stage at the 75th Golden Globes to accept the Cecil B. DeMille award, she delivered an inspiring, powerful speech about the importance of speaking out against harassment and assault.
The Time’s Up’s mission statement includes several answers to the question of “What You Can Do”:
Check out our #KnowYourRights campaign and see what you can do as a survivor of sexual harassment and abuse.
Are there other damaging conventions about boys out there?
“Boys will be Boys”
Boys are active and boisterous and in some cases this statement is true, but sometimes the phrase is used to make excuses for the child’s bad behaviour. An example would be:
- Hitting or pushing another child
- Being destructive and breaking things
This type of behaviour should not just be ignored.
When boys hit girls, it means they like them
No form of hitting, hurting or even teasing somebody to gain their attention, is acceptable behaviour. In no way, is this how you show somebody that you like them. This is a selfish way to gain attention as they put their own desire for attention before the feelings of the person they are hurting.
You should never ask for help
Boys, who become men and have been brought up with strong masculinity principles, find it a lot more difficult to ask for help. It might just be stubbornness in some that don’t ask for help, but others may see it as a weakness.
Should Boys be in the kitchen?
Gender stereotyping is deeply ingrained into our society. Many still see cooking or cleaning the house as a woman’s job. But with the increase of both parents having to work, household responsibilities should be shared equally. Boys should be taught from a young age that their responsibilities include changing diapers as well as work. Knowing how to cook and to sew a button is not a bad thing, it’s just a skill you can learn to help you be more independent.
Teaching boys at a young age and building up their emotional intelligence, can help the child grow up to lead a happier and balanced life. There have been studies that actually prove that people who are more in touch with their emotions can form stronger and closer bonds with people. This in turn helps them to become emotionally and physically healthier. These skills should be learned at home, but if this is not possible there should be more empowerment programmes and role models available to help them become the men they want to be.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think Margaret Mead”