Men. They have constantly been told to ‘man up’ through the decades. It seems strange growing up in the 21st century hearing this. As a man you should hold your emotions in, you should be the working parent, you should wear certain clothes, no makeup, you should have a deep voice, you should be protective, you should be tall, you should have muscles…All of these standards, but why? Well, in the past being a man was seen as very superior (and I must say, it still mostly is), when men were to act weak they would be told to ‘man up’ as a way to tell men they should stop acting so feminine and so woman like. From there the term evolved even more, and has become one which haunts many men today.
I find it appalling we as women are seen as the weaker gender, but aside from that huge factor, that phrase has been a killer for many years. In our society today, we are much more accepting, much more educated and understanding of the different gender norms and of homosexual relationships. That phrase is used often by parents, grandparents, people with a lack of understanding to tell their son, grandson, friend to be their ‘normal’, to stop being so feminine, to stop acting ‘gay’, to like women. The problem is, this isn’t easy. Just as a woman can’t unlove her husband when being told not to. It isn’t simple. Not only for men who identify as gay, but for men who are more open, more emotional. It’s viewed as almost a sin for a man to ever cry or to ever express any fear or sadness, which is why it has become such a widespread issue.
Men have the highest suicide rate. But, no wonder. They have to hide their emotions, and pretend everything is fine when really that may not be the case at all. The stereotypes of men are almost a virus; a global pandemic killing off anybody who isn’t within that category. Men are taught to dress a certain way, and that makeup or the colour pink are not to be displayed on their bodies. This is toxic masculinity.
This toxic idea that men have to fit a certain stereotype, and cannot branch out to new or more ‘feminine’ routes for their clothing, hair or makeup. Although it is a problem, it is starting to be talked about more often, and the stereotype broken more by people (especially those in the public eye). I want to describe the stories of some incredible celebrities who have broken this ‘rule’ by making a more quote on quote ‘feminine and weak approach’. Harry Styles. Harry has worn skirts and dresses on multiple occasions, as well as pastel and floral decorated suits despite repeatedly receiving hate for it. He views his vulnerability and openness in his music and his style is so vitally important to his new feeling of freedom in his identity. Another celebrity example is Tom Holland (who is best known for playing spiderman). Tom Holland was featured on a popular TV show ‘Lip sync battle’ where he openly dressed as a woman and danced in a ‘feminine’ style. He had no shame doing so. Many other celebrities who challenge the toxic masculinity in society are: Terry Crews, Tom Felton and very famously Freddy Mercury, Prince and David Bowie. There have been so many men with the bravery to face up to what is our very toxic society.
However, I hope we can get to the point in which it is no longer considered an act of ‘bravery’ or considered as ‘coming out’ but it can just be normal. We shouldn’t be challenging gender norms, because there shouldn’t be any. Fortunately we are lucky enough to have these men (and women) that are setting new gender norms, and I am truly inspired by it.
If you are a man reading this, I want you to know that wearing pink, wearing nail polish or wearing a dress doesn’t make you any less of a man. Your masculinity lies in your respect, and isn’t about your appearance. Wear what you chose to. Be who you chose to.
Article by Young Reporter Grace Trippett.
First published in Grimsby Telegraph 2nd February 2021