When we talk about gender equality or gender oppression, generally we think of the female experience and rarely do we address nor consider the male experience. When we think of hypermasculinity and the patriarchal narrative that exists in our society, we don’t think that it could negatively affect the men that are subject to it or expected to uphold it but it does. In general, hypermasculine behavior contributes to the preservation of rape culture, especially when society constantly resorts to victim blaming and the overuse of the “boys will be boys” rhetoric. Not to mention the role it plays in domestic violence, self esteem issues, mental health disorder development, and the perpetration of hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals.
Men of color, however, are the men who are most intensely affected by this stereotype. Black men are held to a very dangerous overly masculine standard where they are told at very young ages not to cry, to man up, or not to be a “pussy”. They are expected to be tough as stone and are never allowed to feel intimate, effeminate emotion lest the validity of their masculinity would be questioned. They are not allowed free expression of self. especially if this expression somehow aligns with anything deemed “feminine” or “gay,” such as dyeing his hair any color outside of neutral tones. This overly masculine stereotype, especially amongst black men, can be traced back to slavery when slave owners viewed their black male slaves as resilient machines, incapable of human emotion and once slavery was abolished this hypermasculine stereotype continued resulting in the dehumanization of black men. Possibly as a response mechanism black mothers and fathers felt they had to continue to instill this overly masculine, tough-as-nails behavior in their sons so that this harsh world would never hurt them.
However, when we encourage our young men to be emotionally impenetrable, hard as stone, and so forth we are also telling them that it’s okay not to be in touch with themselves or their own emotions. Their only option was fortitude, we never provided a space for them to be vulnerable or emotional. This later results in the development of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, which is often masked as overly aggressive behavior and far too often ends in violence, jail, or death. This inflammatory system that we continue to operate is an archaic method that is no longer in tune with the progressive dynamic of this generation. It’s time that we stop telling young boys that they aren’t allowed to cry or that they are weak for being sensitive to intense emotion. We can no longer tell black men that they aren’t allowed to feel both feminine and masculine simultaneously or separately. Finally, we have to stop implementing this suffocating culture and allow black men to be creative, to feel and express emotion, to be themselves, and to live freely and not be judged, ridiculed, or feel emasculated for doing so. It’s time to lift the burden and let them know that it’s okay to cry.
Peace, love, and light <3