For a few days, there’s a song stuck in my head. It is a man’s world, the voice sings over and over again. And I have to admit that, indeed, it is, still, a man’s world. However, this is not a title of pride, though, but a great responsibility.
Because, as a man’s world, the man also must help others. To protect them and ensure them that they can live safely on his watch. And this is a neverending task.
But there is, as always when it comes to sensitive matters, a catch. And here the catch is the fact that men are, in the beginning, boys. And boys have families. And this is the real catch: long before men have power and independence, they are boys that have families. And as a family member, you learn.
Because men and women don’t get born men and women. They become men and women as they grow up. What kind of men and what kind of women they become, that’s an answer to be found in their past as boys and girls. In their families and in the core values of those times when they were children learning.
I can’t stress enough how important family is in the journey of a boy towards manhood. It teaches him a lot. There’s a special kind of mission being a boy’s mom. You have to be always mindful of what you put on display. Of what you accept and you don’t, of what your boundaries are and how much of them are you respecting.
As a boy’s mother, you teach him how many things a girl or a woman should accept in the name of love. And that’s a terrific lesson to be taught, no matter what side of it are you.
Because there might be his father the one to teach him what you do and don’t do to a woman, but will always be the mom the one who teaches him what will a woman tolerate from a man’s actions. A woman will teach him that love can and must at times be tough, to remain healthy.
In my experience, the worst men have broken moms. Moms who were not able to do more for their sons than to reinforce old stereotypes about what a man does and, more important, what a man does not. These are the men who won’t talk about themselves. Won’t share feelings. The ones that will feel bad for seeing them crying. It is not because they don’t have any, or that they don’t care about you enough to share. It is because the little boy was punished for doing so, and after that was told that it is not manly to act that way.
There are a lot of men, of young, capable men, struggling. And they struggle hard with things they were taught that is not manly enough to talk about. Things like depression, anxiety, perfectionism, and pressure. A lot of pressure.
Because not only women have to face social pressure, it goes the same rocky way for men too. It only changes the narrative, that’s all.
If a girl is told that she has to have household skills, they’re asked to be good providers. If she has to be pretty, he has to be charismatic. And so on, until the great delusion and the burnout come to visit.
Then it comes the day when things get out of hand, and the man starts to see. He looks at himself and sees all the lies he took as truths. Every little flaw is now a sharp line, cutting his eyesight. Every little thing that pushed him further from being the man he hoped to be. Every moment when he felt like not being good enough, not man enough.
And every little thing is taken as a sign of failure. This is how, for most of them, unfolds the entry of delusion, burnout, and mental struggles. It really does not matter what is the starting point, as long as it has the speed of a forest fire.
There are other things that matter, though, and they also embody feminism. As a woman, you don’t have to be a boy’s mother to make a difference. You can be a lover, a friend, a sister, a woman that he’s trusting. We can and we have to help our men cut the struggle’s chord.
I’ve always told my male friends that being manly is just a toxic illusion if the definition of it doesn’t match the definition of being human. That men are human beings, with human needs and feelings and they should accept and embrace them. That they don’t have to always be self-confident or to own the situations they find themselves in. That is wonderful that they are empathetic. That being insecure about your body, your skills, your career, your strong points is not something that depends on being a man or a woman, it is just part of what makes us human. All of us.
And it is also our shared responsibility to understand that, men and women as well, we’re being put in front of the same struggles. It is the time to make from this circle a safe space, where no man is bullied for being honest about how he really feels, and no woman is bullied for putting on display traits like ambition, determination, self-confidence, or other once-known-as-manly traits.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worthy because, at the end of the day, there is our shared territory, our common traits, the ground we build our foundation on. So let’s draw a circle around our people, men or women, and allow them to feel their feelings, talk their minds, express their real selves, without fearing judgement. It is, after years and years of keeping harmful stereotypes for unwritten norms, the least we can do for their becoming. Maybe we did not, in the past, know better than this, but now we do. And we owe it to our childhood selves to do better. Because what we allow is what will continue, and what will continue will be our real legacy, not what we wished it would be.