Atlas Masculinity color

No room for vulnerability with manhood

“Be a man.”

That statement has defined entire generations of men and governed their whole outlook on life, yet this archaic definition for the requirement of a man, such as maintaining a stoic perspective on life, has endured decades of change. Gender normalities have changed significantly, and yet, a “man” has to live by this outdated code, which emphasizes absurd qualities, such as the suppression of emotions. What does it take for the world to see that men are human too?

The human race is distinctive as a species based on our ability to handle and express emotion across multiple mediums. Yet, in today’s society, a man is meant to be a being with a singular focus: to be devoid of emotional expression. It is baffling to think that a specific subsection of a race is expected to act differently on a massive scale compared to its counterpart. Despite biological differences in both sexes, it is still unrealistic to expect that men should be able to sever nearly all emotions, burying a portion of our humanity. Even then, there are still emotions that are specific to men.  

Emotions are generally seen to be an unmasculine thing, except for anger and passion. Those two emotions have been associated with masculinity since they had been understood in the 1830s. The term “male aggression” is a distinguishing factor between genders and among specific males. The stereotype that men should only privately convey emotion can be attributed to the need for  a tougher mentality in the past decades, as it was required because of a persistently hostile environment — as men were expected to work and be the breadwinners of the family. Both environments have calmed significantly and are much more accepting than they used to be, yet men are still subjected to their old ways of life through shameful judgement and social harassment such as belittlement in the face of adversity. 

Even though social environments have calmed through rallies and political enlightenment to accept that emotions deserve to be expressed in men as much as they are in women, there is still a social stigma present in societal treatment of “over-emotional” men. If a man has a breakdown in public, there is immediate ridicule, shame and confusion. Prominent feelings that should be present such as sympathy and empathy, are not present, at least at first. Yet, when a woman has an emotional breakdown, immediate feelings would be of concern or sense of security. Granted there are exceptions in which a man will be comforted, but not nearly enough to balance out the lack of acceptance. In today’s society, such reactions to a man simply showing raw emotion is unacceptable and does not match the progressiveness that both men and women had fought for since the late 19th century.

“It’s so easy to be a guy.”

A friend once said that to me. Looking back on my life and how I was raised, I believe that statement to be from a one-sided perspective. Her statement assumes that socially, the expectations are less for men. By not taking into account what a man actually experiences or feels, it too quickly and easily minimizes the struggles that men may face.

Growing up, I shaped my moral code and personality around these prescribed values that could be traced back to my parents’ upbringing. It baffles me that something that predates the 2000s is governing the ideals of men. According to a study by the Greater Good Science Center from the University of California, Berkeley, it was found that children who denied emotions altogether were found to develop harmful tendencies such as substance abuse. As they grow up, these men who suppressed their emotions grew to be more prone to physical violence and at greater risk for clinical depression. 

Which part is easy: the emotional blank space or the assumed steel skin of every man? Or is it the crippling fear of failing to live up to the outrageous presumption of what a man should be? Maybe it is the constant insecurity stemming from what people think about our masculinity. Granted, some men find solace in the fact that they are exempt from showing emotion in public, understandably. Yet, not every man can keep emotions, an essential part of what it means to be human, under lock and key. From my personal experience, no boy, or man has been able to withstand showing even the slightest hint of emotion in their masculine persona. And a persona it is, especially since every human should be able to express emotion, and the reality is that men are expected to in private. Society desires for men to be less than human, to be shadows of what humans are as we “should not” express emotion. In reality, if you suppressed what makes us human, then essentially, what are we?

By Tristan Gonzalez, Photo editor-in-chief
Photo by Isaac Le
Photo illustration by Tristan Gonzalez and Ashley Liang