Ever Been Told To “Man Up?” How Men Police Masculinity (And Why It Hurts Us All)

71c4eb90d4439b66df6857256ddb15b2-originaIt’s Time to Flip the Script
Image courtesy of apasciuto.

By Jared Cline. I remember when the other kids started saying, “That’s so gay.”
I was in elementary school. I encountered it like kids do any other word or phrase that makes them feel “cool”: through friends and fellow students not interested in polite conversation.
From a young age, I was never bothered by “foul language.” If it didn’t hurt anybody, why self-censor? Using curse words was a thrill, and my friends I seized every opportunity to show off our new “vocabulary” when adults weren’t around. 
For some reason, the word “gay” was different. I never kept a running tally, but I don’t remember using it with friends. The one place I did use it was at home.
I must have been testing the word out. I can’t remember the specifics —my brother, who was my constant companion growing up, was probably involved—but I remember how it felt.
It felt wrong.
If you’d asked me then, I doubt I could have put that feeling into words. But what I know now is that using the word “gay” in a derogatory manner is an example of internalized homophobia in straight men. It’s one of the ways we “prove” our masculinity, while policing the behavior of others.
Growing up, we’re very sensitive to words or phrases that help us “fit in.” Even as we get older, we have to remember to step back and take a hard look at our communication habits. Words reflect workplace culture and can undermine men’s ability to be authentic at work and effectively partner with others in creating inclusive workplaces. 
Here are a few examples of how to flip the script for men. To learn more, check out Catalyst’s new tool, Flip the Script: Men.
Phrase: "Suck it up and be a man." 
Impact: Suggests there is only one “right” way to be a man—ignoring the diversity among men, and making men feel forced to conform.
Research says: Pressure to fit masculine norms, including those that demand displays of strength to mask vulnerability, can negatively affect mental health and relationship-building.  
What to do instead: Allow men to be true to themselves without imposing external expectations based on gender norms and stereotypes.
Phrase: "You're so emotional. Stop acting like a woman." 
Impact: Polices behavior based on gender. Being emotional or otherwise not fitting traditional ideas of a “manly man” is labeled unacceptable or emasculating. Negative stereotypes about women are also reinforced.
Research says: Increased risky, antagonistic, exclusionary, or even violent behavior can result as men attempt to prove their masculinity or recover their standing among other men.
What to do instead: Show empathy. Provide support, not ridicule. Use questions or statements such as “help me understand what you’re feeling,” or “what do you most need right now?”
Phrase: "I can't tonight; I'm babysitting my kids." 

Impact: Dismisses the role fathers play, categorizing parenting as an isolated chore. Calling a dad a “babysitter” undervalues men as fathers, pressures them to minimize perceived or actual family roles, and assumes women are default caregivers.
Research says: Stereotypical gender norms, particularly around caregiving and the division of responsibilities between men and women, can inhibit progress toward equity.
What to do instead: Be transparent about work-life priorities and family obligations, and encourage other men to do the same. Use caretaking responsibilities to role-model work-life effectiveness.
Have you used or heard these expressions? What impact have they had on you?

f3c223e56ea53d74eb3dd4cda12dcbfb-huge-weJared Cline is the Community Manager of MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), an initiative of Catalyst. Get in touch if you have any questions about the community, would like to write a blog, or are looking for ways to collaborate. He can be reached at jcline@catalyst.org.

Posted by MARC Catalyst on Oct 31, 2017 12:03 PM America/New_York

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