Boys With Nail Polish

Welcome back to the  Point-of-View series, in which I chronicle my opinions and ‘points of view’ about various topics.  

I take real issue with the phrase boys will be boys. They will not. They will be what we create and expect them to be because we socialize, enforce, and reinforce behaviors that are termed manly. Even when those very actions are damaging to boys self-perception and relationship to women.  The expectation that men act in a certain way and are punished by their own sex, as well as the alternate, is called gender policing.  This term is often used with women to enforce behaviour that keeps some in ‘their place’.

The culture surrounding modern manhood affects boys from birth through adulthood.  Expecting men and boys to display aggressive behaviours, be tough, and virile are expectations that can cause harm later in life if not balanced with the ‘feminine’ aspects.  Overly aggressive men do not learn how to relate to non-aggressive men or women.  Tough men and boys are often encouraged to be cruel, hit like a man, don’t be a pussy.  Using the feminine as the opposite and therefore the bad version of a man to be.

This can be broken down into four main ways that it damages men highlighted by Alternet, they are:

  1. Emotional Regression

  2. Encourages Violence and Aggression

  3. Perpetuates One-Dimension Relationships

  4. Damages Relationships

Emotional regression occurs when emotional maturity and understanding do not develop as they should. Instead men and boys are shamed from expressing emotion.  Often men develop a mask of masculinity that they put on and express as their true self.  This mask includes the necessity of violence as a form of gaining respect.

Violence and Aggression and encouraged as the way that men should express themselves.  The phrase Be A Man is damaging in its expectation of male posturing.  Violence is seen as strength instead of harmful.  Beyond the physical harm that this unrealistic requirement proposes it can lead to negative personal opinions of black-listed cultures.

One-Dimensional relationships.  Men aren’t shown in a multi-dimensional way when they’re limited in emotional presentation.  The leading man will always be emotional unavailable and strong, while the beta character pines after a woman that appears to only want the distanced and casually cruel leading man.  Commercials for men portray them as one-dimensional sex-crazed or irresponsibly stupid. (beer commercials???)

All of this damages relationships.  Men are more likely to act out or be aggressive, but this is an expression of depression, frustration, and loneliness.  When men are not allowed to express their emotions their feelings and are given shame and humiliation as the reward they learn to wear the mask and not develop deep relationships.  Men must be competitors with other men all vying for women as a prize.  How can a relationship grown in that environment. The sexist and macho environment skews the way that men and boys see sex and women. Women are also seen as one-dimensional, and weaker.  Femininity is not weak.  But this is what is implicit in a hyper-masculine culture be when respect is linked to violence. 

Much of this can be changed with choices in language, in understanding the effect of gendering children, and in conscious reflective changes in our own preconditioned minds.

Ponder that.


Additional Resources

Raising Boys Without Men – By Peggy Drexler, Linden Gross

9 Ways To Subtly Raiser Your Son To Help Destroy The Male Gaze – Jamie Kenney

The Link Between Shame and Bullying – Globe and Mail

Hypermasculintiy Is Ruining The Men In Our Lives – Brown Girl Magazine


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