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Gender stereotypes and expectations have been in the news a lot recently. But while the focus is often on women and how they can achieve equality, less air time is given to men and what we can be doing to make the world a better place too. Everyone should be investing in gender equality, no matter how we identify.
So what can men do?
Well, for a start, we should all be looking at what it means to be a man. While some people might assume that machismo and recklessness are intrinsic to masculinity, the idea doesn’t ring true with all men. In fact, there are several myths about what it means to be a man that could do with unravelling.
You Have to Take Risks to Prove Yourself
If there is one trait that is common amongst young men, in particular, it is the idea that they must prove themselves by taking silly risks. For some this means drinking and fighting; for others, it means doing stupid stunts on a bike without even bothering to get motorcycle insurance. Even grown men continue to measure their worth by how successful they are and some take ever increasingly daring risks to try and get ahead.
The remedy here is to show young men that their value is in themselves, not in daring acts. If your 20s will show you anything, it is that there is time to learn and, boy, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Emotions are Off-Limits
One of the predominant myths about the difference between men and women is that we have different brains and therefore think differently. However, more recent studies have suggested that these differences are made, not born. In other words, men can be just as emotionally intelligent as women – they just aren’t taught in the same way.
From a young age, we should all be encouraging boys to experience and come to terms with a wide range of emotions. While being happy all the time might appeal, the reality is that life is more complex. Teaching boys to accept that they are feeling and encouraging them to find outlets for their emotions is the only way to help them grow into emotionally mature men.
And it’s never too late to learn.
Muscles Are Everything
One of the great things about superhero movies is that they are a kind of escapism where the good win over the bad and the world is saved again. But unfortunately, the men who star in these movies are all of the same type: their abs are more important than their acting.
When the only role models available to young men are mainly abs, it is no wonder that so many men feel weak and insufficient by comparison. In the same way that women are pressured to look as though they just stepped out of a salon, men are pressured to spend 90% of their time in the gym.
To promote equality between the genders, it’s important to see how stereotypes damage all of us. Only when we men can see the problem with masculinity can we start to truly empathize with women’s issues with femininity.