Andrew Reiner writing on his research into the emotional struggles of men:
They receive very mixed messages: Men are too soft. Men are toxic. But one thing is clear: traditional tropes of masculinity — the tough guy who swallows his feelings and solves his own problems — no longer serve boys, men or the rest of us.
One of the tropes I see constantly from many (especially older) people is that "boys will be boys" or "men don't cry" or "men are tough" or any variety of those sentiments. The gist: men are different from women, and they don't feel as many feelings, and they certainly don't talk about those feelings. When I was a kid, showing emotion as a boy was guaranteed to get you called "gay" or other terms that are not fit to print in 2023. And not that it makes my generation look great, but being called "gay" as a kid in the 90s was about the worst thing you could get called by someone.
Not to get too political in this one, but Donald Trump is the quintessential version of this vision of what "a real man" is. But I digress…
What encourages me is the younger generations, Millennials and Gen Zers, seem to be shifting those trends. I had this article cross my path this weekend as well and there are some cool numbers in it:
- In 1982, 43% of fathers said they had never changed a diaper. Today that number is down to 3%.
- A 2017 study showed dads spend 30 minutes more per day helping around the house than their dads did.
Current studies show moms still do about 60% of the work raising kids and managing the house, but it's far more even than it used to be.
I think there are a million things to be discouraged about in the world, but I do think that the progress being made on "what it means to be a man" is moving in the right direction. It's clear men can be terrible, and the last decade in particular has had several movements root out some of the worst offenders, but I truly think all of us no matter our gender are more alike than we've historically thought, and the more we recognize that the better off we'll be.
I was recently listening to the radio and heard an ad for something called "therapy for men". That may not have been the exact name, but that was the gist; it was a therapy service for tough guys. The ad was read by a guy with a tough guy voice, and the message was clearly intended to appeal to people who think therapy is for weak people or girls only. On the one hand, I think it's dumb we need to package therapy like this, but on the other hand, if it leads to more men being comfortable feeling their feelings and talking to someone about them when they don't feel they have them managed how they want: that's good in my book.
I'll leave you with this excellent clip of Macho Man Randy Savage's best late-night moment.
It's okay for macho men to show every emotion available, right? You know because I've cried a thousand times i'm gonna cry some more. But I've soared with the eagles and I've slithered with the snakes, and I've been everywhere in between, and i'm gonna tell you something right now. There's one guarantee in life and that's that there are no guarantees. Yeah, and I understand this, nobody likes a quitter. Nobody said life was easy, so if you get knocked down, take the standing eight count, get back up, and fight again and you're a macho maniac.