A special thank you to Clayton Koh the author of this week’s blog post. I met Clayton at a friend’s birthday dinner where we had a great conversation about how we are socialized to be male and female. It is always refreshing for me to meet men who are willing to question how healthy “normal male development” really is for men and relationships. Reading this post helped to open my eyes to the new struggle younger men and boys experience hearing the conflicting messages about masculinity today.
In our world, kids are constantly bombarded by ideas about gender. “That’s a boy color, That’s a girly thing to do, Why don’t you do things like your sister?, or Be a man!”
As I reflected on my own childhood and the way that society teaches our boys about masculinity, I realized that there are strong stereotypes relating to what it means to be a “real man.” Society tells boys that they must be stoic with their emotions, risk-taking and rugged, muscular and macho, independent and confident, and never express weakness. The effects of the struggle to fit in (or the inability to fit in) to society’s stereotypical mold of masculinity can be devastating–ranging from depression, serious physical health problems, anti-social behaviors, marital problems, or social group shunning. To make matters more complicated, society now expects men to mirror the traditional “macho” image of masculinity as well as the modern, more sensitive/loving image.
With conflicting messages about masculinity given by parents, teachers, and society at large, it can be confusing for boys to figure out how to be “real boys” and also be true to the unique talents, interests, and dreams they have. How can they fulfill their artistic dreams when their parents are pushing them to master football? How can they learn to express their emotions in a healthy way when teachers and coaches reprimand them when they cry?
To address these issues, I wrote and illustrated a book called I’m a Real Boy. The aim of this book is to open up dialogue between parents and children or teachers and children about what real masculinity is, because I believe that one of the best ways we can help to change the harmful pressures of masculine stereotypes on boys is to help adults (namely parents and teachers) become more aware of the subtle and overt ways in which they are perpetuating some of these stereotypes. I hope that this book will be one of many voices that will be heard to empower boys with the knowledge that being a real man is really the same as being authentic and true to the way they were created to be.
If you’re interested in getting a copy of Clayton’s book I’m a Real Boy please leave a comment indicating your interest. He will contact you through the email address you provided in order to comment. Please note: You do not need to write your email address in the comment.