Masculine gender norms promote aggressive behavior



Standards of masculinity discourage boys and men from expressing emotion.

Dana Ebralidze, Contributing Writer

Violent actions being associated with masculine strength often leads to men acting out in extreme ways to fit in. By the time they are finished with elementary school, it will be drilled into young boys’ heads that in order to be worthy of being called a man, they must be aggressive and tough.

Along with this, there is also an unspoken societal “rule” saying that it is unacceptable for men to express emotion in any way other than physical violence. The stereotypical image of masculinity should not be forced onto boys, letting them instead express their emotions in a healthier way.

The Mask You Live In is a film directed by Jennifer Newsom specifically about the stereotypes and generalizations of masculinity and the effect they have on boys and men in the United States.

Throughout the film, several men spoke about their experience growing up and being told what it meant to be a man. The majority claimed that they were put down for expressing emotion and praised by coaches, friends and even parents for acting out aggressively. It follows that a large number of boys grew up with unrealistic gender expectations, causing emotions such as anger and pain to build up.

Throughout her opinion piece titled “No Donald, It’s Not Just ‘Locker Room Talk,’” advisor for LGBT Policy and Racial Justice at the Center for American Progress Danielle Moodie-Mills makes several points explaining her opinions on men committing sexual violence.

Moodie-Mills writes, “Boys will be boys indeed, until they turn into boys and men that rape.” “Boys will be boys” is a common statement used to justify mens’ violent actions, which implies that it is natural for boys to constantly act out in an aggressive manner. However, it is very likely that boys would not act this way had they not been told it would make them more of a man.

Moodie-Mills connects this to Donald Trump’s disrespectful attitude towards women and the phrase he said that was deemed “just locker room talk.” Moodie-Mills writes, “Donald Trump’s dismissal last night of his revolting behavior is just another thread in the quilt of rape culture and violence directed at women.”

Because it is seen as natural for boys and men to be aggressive in their actions and words, they are often excused when they do these things in a serious manner. Similar to Donald Trump’s situation, many men do not experience punishments for their actions because of the generalization that it is completely normal for them to act out that way.

 Society and politics should work on not associating masculinity with violence by letting boys know that it is healthy to show emotions non-violently. Instead of telling boys to “man up” and be aggressive, they should instead be taught the repercussions of violence for the victim and perpetrator.

If boys and men do not have to grow up with unrealistic expectations for masculinity, there would be more room for them to embrace empathy and caring and the world of brutality may face an overall decrease.