Stop Acting Like a Girl

In my life, nothing has hurt me worse than being put down for being who I am. At times my thoughts and emotions were more in sync with those of the girls on the playground. I learned to be ashamed of that. I’ve been bullied throughout my entire life, either for being too smart, too feminine or the latest reincarnation of that same line of attack: “too gay.”  You hear that every day for your entire childhood, from your classmates, from people you considered your “friends” and it starts to eat at you. It hurts your soul. At least it hurt mine, but some of the implications went far beyond how I felt about myself. The taunts definitely shaped how I thought about others.

Maybe you were more athletic than I was growing up, but when I would toss a football around with the guys from school, I was told- “Man you throw like a girl.” I remember at the time being embarrassed, one of my earliest memories of being conditioned to believe that women were inherently weaker than men. They were presumed to be as weak, if not weaker than me…and I was WEAK.  🙂

Rather than being taught how to cope and how to put my emotions into words, I was mocked for my weaknesses. As a result, I learned to mask them. I showed no fear, no hurt, and no pain.  I showed no weakness for fear of being teased, or mocked, or tormented. It went against my very nature. I don’t mind admitting that I get scared, that I get hurt, that I get scarred.

I’m an emotive person. When I’m hurt I wear it on my sleeve. I bawl my eyes out. Countless times in my life I’ve been told to “man up”.  It’s happened when I would get hit and not hit back. It’s happened when I exhibited any emotions that push beyond the boundaries, beyond the comfort level of my male friends. Emotions aren’t masculine. Right? At least they weren’t considered to be when I was growing up. I was taught that crying wasn’t how a boy or a young man behaved. I started to guard myself and keep how I felt locked deep inside.  I was conditioned to toughen up and deal with it. I watched my female friends being encouraged to let it all out when I was being told to keep it all in. I couldn’t understand why it was okay for them and not for me.

One of the things I deal with in my life on a day-to-day basis is living with a mental health disorder. It manifests in many different ways, but starting when I was about seven and until this very day, I’ve been coping with acute anxiety attacks. I recall very vividly, lying in my bed when I would break out into a cold sweat and just lose control. I recall very vividly, panicking and going downstairs to talk to my dad who would be on the couch watching TV. The end result was always the same. I was either ignored or dismissed and I came to believe that when faced with challenges we must overcome them alone.

We hear all the time how men never want to ask for help. I think it stems from experiences like that in our childhood where we were left to our own devices. There is nothing wrong with overcoming adversity alone, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes you need that support. Sometimes you need that person to hug you and tell you everything is okay. Sometimes you just need SOMEONE. I think it’s tragic that there are men who don’t have that in their lives and feel uncomfortable looking for it.

An old friend of mine who is overseas serving in the Peace Corps sent me an email in response to our first post and made a really insightful point:

“As a former sociology major, I’ve studied gender and society in depth.  One of my professors would say to us, ‘Men and women are far more similar than different, but we only tend to focus on the differences.’  After all, as the saying goes men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  As humans, we like to create boxes and labels for things.  It helps us make sense of our world, so as a society we say, “women are like this… and men are like this…”  Being emotional, strong, a good cook, powerful, quick decision maker, sensitive, etc. are all human qualities.  To label a quality as masculine or feminine is to deny a piece of humanity.  To tell a man that he can’t or shouldn’t be emotional is asking him to deny something that makes him human.”

By empowering men to redefine masculinity to fit their own personality, we merely seek to prove that there is no one right definition. We aren’t trying to say that some traits are only for men and some are only for women. We believe that all traits should be acceptable for all people. We simply want to start a discussion. We hope to lease the term and do some renovations on its meaning.

Thanks for reading,

Marc

MasculinityU Co-Founder

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15 thoughts on “Stop Acting Like a Girl

  1. Wow, I could say so much in response to this…
    I’ll try to keep it short though. Thank you for writing this, took courage and as a fellow human I am very proud of you, you know for what thats worth from someone you don’t know at all…

    I always felt that we just went the wrong way with evolving after women started demanding rights. As you said we all have WAY more in common than we do in difference, and only due to cultural/societal engineering have we deemed certain traits, which we all have and some may have more than others regardless of sex, to be either “masculine” or “feminine”. Of course those traits deemed “masculine” (again, though that is just a societal concept, as your post points out) are what became sought after because they were afforded respect. And so things like being able to beat people up, domineering conversations/groups, immodesty, climbing to the top of a ladder etc. are respected, as much today i think as any other time. In the meantime, traits that are foolishly deemed “feminine” (i.e. nurturing, peace making, lots of communication, modesty) are things that are not seen as “strengths” but rather weak or non respected traits (think “she never can say no” or “hen house” when women get together to talk). Just in case I have to again clarify, we all have traits that have been categorized falsely as masculine or feminine, when they are just human. Some of us are more caring, more in touch with that side, and some of us are more in touch with a power hunger etc.

    So my thing with the wrong direction with women’s rights; well it seems weird to me that once we finally stood up to men, instead of demanding they respect the qualities attributed to women and learn to develop those qualities within themselves as socially acceptable for men, we have gone out of our way more for women to be able to be respected by being the tough one around the office, not being so nurturing etc.

    But maybe thats what women had to do to start anything, i.e. the only way to get respect was to act like them OR rather more to the point, maybe women were sick of being put in a box of aligning with traditional “Feminine” values when they just don’t feel akin to nurturing etc. Which makes sense, the only problem is, in the end, man or woman, it seems this world in general and the humans in the world in general could do with embracing those values long deemed worthless and “feminine” and so not respected : peace , love , nurturing, communication. Aren’t those just good values for use to strive for in general? despite sexes? how do we change it so that those values are respected whether they are evident in male or female ?

    I hope you don’t mind my long comment, I’m on this journey too and am here to learn 🙂

  2. Perhaps your writing style is merely an artifact of gender studies classes, but in most other disciplines you are trained to at least address obvious counter arguments. But, since you haven’t, I suppose I’ll bring them up for you:

    There is virtue in keeping your emotions in check and not bawling your eyes out every time you get hurt. Not that crying doesn’t have its place, but 9 times out of 10, it’s not only unproductive, but counterproductive.

    Emotion, generally speaking, gets in the way of logic and clear thinking. If you cry whenever you are sharply criticized, it becomes harder for you to learn from the criticism, and others will soon learn to stop offering it, making it much harder to improve yourself. It also takes you longer to recover and get back to work.

    If you’re driving through Kansas late at night in the early Spring and an ice storm hits and your car starts skidding all across the road, going into hysterics is going to make the situation more dangerous. Keeping your cool means not running your car off the road and keeping everyone inside alive.

    There is virtue in traditional masculine qualities, like honor, and bravery, and manning up to get the job done. When you argue that masculinity should mean whatever you want it to mean you gut the entire concept and it no longer becomes an aspiration people can use to better themselves.

    If I got to redefine masculinity as being a mooch on society that does nothing but get drunk, eat Cheetos and play Madden, we’re not going to be a better society for it. I’d be content rather than actively working to improve myself.

    Do some people take it too far and instead of simply not crying over every little thing, they pick fights over every little thing? Of course. But, that doesn’t mean we should completely redefine masculinity, it just means we need to work on reining in people who overshoot the mark.

    And, simply saying that you shouldn’t cry every time you get hurt isn’t the same as saying men aren’t supposed to show emotion. Go watch the interviews in Band of Brothers. Those are probably the most traditionally masculine men you will ever see, and they are also probably some of the most openly emotional people as well. They just express their emotion at the appropriate time, such as during an interview about the War, and not when the Germans are shooting at them. You’re allowed to show emotion as a man, you’re just not allowed to be a wimp about it.

    • I’ll attempt to do better at addressing counterarguments. However, I totally reject your premise of “gutting masculinity”. You view as redefinition as replacement. I view redefinition as inclusion. There is a very real difference there. I agree with you that there is a difference between crying and being hysterical, but I’m simply saying that in my personal experience neither tends to be acceptable behavior for men. I do not think that emotion gets in the way of logic and clear thinking. I believe that emotion should be inform your views and if you become too detached from something then all the logic in the world isn’t going to help you. Please tell me where I said that I do not believe that honor and bravery as masculine qualities. I have no problem with you commenting on what I write. In fact, I encourage it. I do, however, request that you refrain from putting words in my mouth or assigning a position to me which I do not hold. I’ve done my best to base my responses to your critiques on what you say and not what I think you mean. I’d appreciate the same respect.

      Two other things- 1) I’ve never taken a gender studies class. Ever. This is work I do because I’m passionate about it. I do not come at this from an academic standpoint. I come at it from a concerned citizen standpoint. I believe that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and that too often we’ve abdicated that responsibility. 2) Since you have offered useful advice to me (the counterarguments piece) I wanted to return the favor, some of the arguments you make carry with them a level of validity. When you add things like “you’re just not allowed to be a wimp about it.” You take what could be a convincing argument and turn people off to your point.

      As always, thanks for commenting:

      Marc

    • Wow, it appears you totally misunderstood Marc’s post. My thoughts:

      Why should honor, bravery and “manning up” (which is sexist in itself, kind of like “grow some balls”) be attributed to men at all? You’re right in that those are qualities for PEOPLE to aspire to — but you’re wrong in associating it only with one gender, which, I think, was the whole point of Marc’s post.

      Secondly, I don’t think Marc was in any way implying that anyone should “cry every time you get hurt” — that was obvious and unnecessary hyperbole on your end that only hurt your argument. And “9 out of 10 times” crying is unproductive and often counterproductive?? WHAT?! Oh my god I LOVE crying! I cry all the time — 95% of which is done in isolation while watching some sappy show or what have you, but crying is pretty much the most cathartic thing in the world! It releases a lot of tension, anxiety and/or just plain sadness. I would argue that crying is very often PRODUCTIVE.

      Lastly, I 100% disagree that emotion gets in the way of logic and clear thinking — maybe in the case of a panic attack or extreme anger/jealousy, but I think emotions are essential to making good decisions. Otherwise, we’d just be robots — or Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network who ends up with no real friends (I can’t resist movie examples). That dude was full of logic and rational thinking, and sure, he ended up with billions of dollars, but he was being sued by his best friend and his new closest friend was the coke-snorting, company-jeopardizing asshole played by Justin Timberlake. His behavior was rarely motivated by emotion, and his character ended up lonely. My absolute best stories/opinion columns have been the ones I’m crazy-passionate about, and that’s because I had so much emotion fueling them. It actually had the effect of making me think MORE clearly.

      And finally: Why is Kansas having an ice storm??

      • Saying that traits like honor and bravery are part of masculinity does not mean they cannot also be part of femininity, just like saying democracy is an American ideal doesn’t make it any less a British ideal.

        The two are not polar opposites. Just look at the image of the momma grizzly. It very naturally combines strength with nurturing. Talking about masculine strength does not mean there isn’t also a feminine strength.

        Also, saying that emotion gets in the way of logical thinking doesn’t mean that we should strive to get rid of emotion. It just means that you need to make sure you can control your emotions when you need to. You need to learn not to panic when a situation calls for control, just as you need to learn to not get angry when a situation requires you to keep your cool.

        And Kansas is having an ice storm in that example because when I drove through Kansas it was having an ice storm. There were no hotels to stop at (filled up for March Madness and the Special Olympics) and so the only option was to keep driving at about 25 mph. If I had let emotion get the better of me and became distracted with fear over getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, I probably would have ended up driving my car of the road.

      • Paragraph 1: Exactly! They’re traits of BOTH genders! So it’s not necessary to associate them with either. They’re just traits of people in general.

        Paragraph 2: That’s definitely not what I was implying. Both genders are capable of being strong — and not one more than the other. So again, that trait has nothing to do with gender whatsoever. It’s just based on the individual.

        Paragraph 3: I don’t think Marc was talking about panicking in situations that call for control. He was just talking about expressing emotion in normal situations — not extremes.

        Paragraph 4: Exhibit A of an “extreme.” I don’t think this was what Marc was referring to.

  3. First, let me apologize, I had you confused with Sacchi and his gender studies degree.

    “Please tell me where I said that I do not believe that honor and bravery as masculine qualities.”

    “By empowering men to redefine masculinity to fit their own personality, we merely seek to prove that there is no one right definition.”

    If you believe that we are allowed to pick and choose whatever qualities we want to define masculinity, then masculinity has no inherent traits, including honor and bravery. It’s only included if it ‘fits your personality.’ If you’re a dishonorable coward, then that’s masculinity for you.

    “I agree with you that there is a difference between crying and being hysterical, but I’m simply saying that in my personal experience neither tends to be acceptable behavior for men.”

    Emotional sadness, and yes, even crying, has always been acceptable behavior for men. Maverick cries in Top Gun after Goose dies. Mr. Miyagi cries after his father dies in Karate Kid II. James Ryan cries at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan. David Mills cries at the end of Se7en. Rocky cries after Mickey’s death. Will cries after his father abandons him on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Pretty much everyone cries in Dead Poets Society.

    We’re not just talking about obscure figures here, but really giant cultural icons, all of whom cried and aren’t considered any less manly for it.

    John Boehner cried on national television two nights ago, and while it was certainly a bit awkward, it wasn’t really a big deal.

    I can’t recall any time I’ve seen a proportional emotional reaction being deemed unmanly. What’s considered unmanly is crying over small things, especially to the point where you’re unable to otherwise function. No one is going to think you’re unmanly if you cry after breaking up with a long time girlfriend, or when the mom dies in Forrest Gump. But, you probably are going to be looked down on if you cry in your boss’s office after getting reamed for doing a sub-par job and are unable to get back to work until your secretary brings you a cupcake to cheer you up.

    But what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with encouraging people to not overreact? Sure some people overshoot the mark and end up becoming unnecessarily aggressive, but that doesn’t mean we have to encourage people to cry over small stuff, it just means we need to make it clear that aggressive over-reactions are also unmanly. Fighting over a game of pool should be considered just as unmanly as crying over something small like, I don’t know… South Carolina defeating Alabama.

    • “Emotional sadness, and yes, even crying, has always been acceptable behavior for men.”

      Did you go to high school?? I heard guys accusing guys of acting “gay” for expressing more emotion than society’s “norm” on practically a daily basis. To be clear, “expressing more emotion than society’s ‘norm'” does not mean having a crying fit over a B- instead of an A on an exam. I’m referring to things that girls don’t get judged for because we’re expected to be emotional. (That’s the whole reason it’s unacceptable for men to be emotional; women are supposed to be emotional, and for a man to be accused of acting like a woman is an insult, because we’re considered the weaker gender.) For example, a high school (or even adult) guy attempts to share with another guy his current battle with depression. I wouldn’t be shocked to find that this wouldn’t always be well-received. Guys are expected to “tough it out” or “man up.” Emotion is often perceived as a weakness in men.

      However, depression is also kind of an extreme. On a lesser scale, an example might be a guy getting teased for talking in-depth about how much he cares about his girlfriend. Said guy might also filter his descriptions of his relationship with her so they sound more emotionally detached. I grew up with all guy friends — this is ridiculously common, especially in high school, but even as adults. I can’t imagine you have experienced or witnessed this type of behavior.

      • Just because men are more highly criticized for showing emotion than women doesn’t mean we need to be softer on men. Maybe it means women also need to be taught to toughen up.

        And sure I’ve seen men ridiculed for showing too much emotion (and women ridiculed for the same, though it’s usually behind their backs), but I’ve never seen anyone ridiculed for showing an appropriate amount of emotion. It’s not reaction that’s criticized, but overreaction.

        Sure, there are some side effects to being too harsh on people showing emotion, like people may be less likely to be treated for depression. But, there’s also a lot of negative side effects that come from not telling men to toughen up. For instance, it’s a fact of life that there will always be bullies and people who try to push you around and take advantage of you. If we don’t teach young boy (and girls) how to stand up for themselves, then they won’t have those skills when they become adults. They’ll end up whining to their friends in the office about the mean boss and the impossible workload they’ve been given instead of just telling the boss that no, you’re not fluent in the language he needs you to translate a document in to (actual real life example, a coworker of mine was too scared to tell a partner that she wasn’t fluent in a language she never claimed to be fluent in).

      • “Maybe it means women also need to be taught to toughen up.” WHHATT?? You are the reason we even need blogs like this.

  4. Hey, Now I don’t have a ton of time to be overly articulate but I’ll like to comment upon this discussion.

    I feel like BL1Y, has taken this article into the wrong context. Marc in no way was saying you can’t be proud of being a man… good on you if you think there is a correct way to being a man and that you are 100% living to such a standard. The key problem is, you THINK there is some appropriate way to be a man. How can you say this? Times change and thus our standards for what is manly has also changed. Do you think it was manly to have your cell phone? Do you think it is manly to talk to your buddy about your girlfriends problems? Classically I think one might conclude that it probably isn’t. Thing is, today many “manly” men do these things that I might feel counter the classical notion of manhood.

    As for myself, I’ve been a part of many very MASCULINE endeavors, from Navy SEAL to Division I Football player. I have leader like abilities, my experiences have also brought about a lot of stress and introspection. Through this there were tough times and crying seemed to help relax my mind. I would cry for more than 4 minutes and then wake up to reality and think…why am I crying? And realize me being happy was more important; I would now be more clear of my rationale. I would be a more focused person.

    I feel like I am a stand up guy because I can relate to a very diverse array of folks. I am a man because I can admit to vunerablities as well as egotistical “manly” thoughts. I know when it is appropriate but sometimes you can’t control the issues and feelings. It’s okay to not be perfect, show me a perfect claimant and I’ll show you a liar.

    Marc’s point seems to be of more appeal because he is considerate, where as you points seem to be close minded, unfortunately.

    He would like feedback from your counter arguments but I don’t feel his essay was a matter of convincing you but just topically informing the audience. It’s his opinion. Do you think scoring his 20,000 point then crying in an interview after the game, that Paul Pierce is no longer as manly?

  5. BL1Y,

    Perhaps we actually are getting to the same points in this struggle but maybe our / your thoughts are being misunderstood.

    When we talk about redefining masculinity, that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to “start over” because let’s be Frank.. its not realistic and as you’ve pointed out… there are VERY GOOD aspects of “Mainstream Masculinity”.

    So I think I agree with you here. What our passion is simply taking that concept, and attempting to disrupt some of those aspects that perhaps can be very problematic.

    I really feel that we’re seeing the same issue just not from the same place… which is completely fine. So I think in trying to makes things more clear, I guess i’d just like to point out that our views aren’t that men are evil… i mean we are men…

    So, this doesn’t mean men aren’t victims and i hope you can understand that we actually want to offer that as a discussion to have with others. Men hurt too and our take is that since there are systems in play, there are certain forces keeping men from being more “free”. I would actually make the argument we as men are way too limited. So part of that exploring how were socialized as men ought to reveal how we as men are so limited and that there is this whole other side that we can consider.

    Thanks for readings and critiquing.

    Sacchi

    • If you do acknowledge that there are very good points in mainstream masculinity, then why aren’t those virtues mentioned anywhere in the topics you address?

      Your site portrays mainstream masculinity as only being about sexism, homophobia, and violence. If you set out to redefine masculinity and only address negative traits, you’re painting masculinity as an entirely negative quality.

  6. This is such a great post. People are complex.
    It reminds me of a favorite quote, “Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Get over it.”
    To attribute human traits/emotions to only one people group is to dehumanize all the others.
    We can be proud of our identities, and we have much to learn from each other. But our primary identity is human, all other identities spring from that. If our definition of identity denies humanness, or puts all our least favorite qualities of humanity on the shoulders of some other group of people we see as outside of ourselves, then that identity is harmful and ultimately mistaken.

  7. I really enjoyed this article post. You have a great way with words. I recently was told that I was too girly and a faggot by my own father! I am having trouble coping with emotional events and cry often as well. Your post though has made me feel better about myself. Thank you so much for your words of inspiration!

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