In the past 2 years our society has finally been forced to face the toxicity of masculinity. For men, who have already developed into adulthood, this has been a difficult and sometimes devastating transformation.
Tough love, homophobia, and jock culture, once thought to be the cornerstones of the male identity, have been dragged into the harsh light of reality.
Through the rapidly expanding awareness of the LGBTQ community, and the overwhelmingly broad reach of the Me Too Movement, it seems society is finally ready to start dealing with it’s hyper masculine demons.
With that said, the future is looking inspiringly bright for young boys being raised in the midst of this extreme but necessary revolution.
As a male raised in America in the early 90s, there was no shortage of toxic masculinity in my childhood. Bonds we’re made through violence, emotional repression, and homophobic ideals.
As a sensitive child, I had a lot of issues fitting in. It didn’t take much for me to cry, I had no interest in competitive sports, and I didn’t dress the part either, often choosing bright and colorful clothing that some considered too feminine.
But what does it actually mean to be masculine? To be a man? Traditionally, masculinity is defined as aggressive, stubborn, athletic, independent. But are these really the traits that make men men? Are these really related to gender at all?
TV has changed drastically in the past decade to accommodate these changes in belief. In cartoons especially, we can really observe the shift in what it means to be a boy coming into adulthood. Take shows like Steven Universe and Adventure Time, where we observe our protagonists faced with realistic life issues, such as the complexities of family relationships, puberty, and the tragedy of young love. These boys don’t hide from their emotions, they learn to thrive through honest communication and reliance on friendships.
Steven Universe is especially significant. He is soft, nurturing, emotional, and often physically inadequate to other far more feminine characters.
This provides an alternative template to masculinity, allowing for some insight into a world of spectrum as opposed to a world of binary.
Parental support is perhaps the most vital part of this story. Parents (or parental figures) are the most significant role models in a child’s life, and their behavior strongly steers the experience of adolescents.
The most important thing for parents to do in this day and age is to ACCEPT your child, no matter what that means for you.
We as people do not have the capacity to judge what we are seeing accurately. We have all been raised in such drastically different circumstances, and have had so many different ideas thrust onto us from so many different sources, from the second we enter this world.
We hardly know what is right for ourselves, let alone a child who is coming into themselves in a rapidly evolving world.
It is so important to remember that life as we know it is our creation. The direction we are headed in was decided a very long time ago, by people far less informed than we are now.
We must, as a race, start to truly consider that we do not know best.
That we may know nothing. And that our children, far less weighted with the ideals of the current world, maybe the key to our future. The evolution of masculinity is just the beginning of this journey, and the future we provide for our children depends entirely on how prepared we are to accept it.