“Depression is an inevitable consequence of the vow of male silence.” Atkinson Nige.
Indeed, bottled up feelings of anger, sadness and fear result in mental health problems. Our men have been brought up in a society that considers emotions a sign of weakness. Men are taught and expected to act tough and hide weakness. Men are basically walking pressure cookers, stuffed full of guilt , shame, anxiety, fear and unexpressed emotion. The suffering that men experience as a result of upholding the vow of male silence builds up within them, turning dark and toxic. For lots of men, sooner of later this unexpressed gunk turns into a creeping, malignant depression. One of the most ingrained ideas of masculinity is that “real men” don’t cry and crying, or even sobbing, is only for girls. Men were trained to conceal their emotions and crying in public is often seen as a weakness. This social expectation has made them believe that something as natural as crying causes damage to fragile masculinity and prove how sexist our society can be.
As a man, one is born with a stretch of responsibilities awaiting him. Confined into the Man Box, with expectations and limitations on what he is supposed to be. The man box expects men to be powerful and dominating, fearless and in control, strong and emotionless and the most obvious one, successful – in the boardroom, the bedroom and on the ball field. Men are expected to excel at academics, be successful, get a good job, make tons of money, build a nice big house, buy a nice spacious car (for the ferrying services during shaggz events), support folks at home (from the great grandmother to the recent newborn in the neighbor’s homestead) all this while still being asked “wapi bibi?” and even the parents expecting grandchildren as soon as the man breaks his voice, sigh! Women on the other hand expect men to work out and look like Channing Tatum, provide for them, love them, get intimate more, work hard etc. There is pressure from everyone; parents, teachers, girlfriends, peers, media, all encouraging men to conform to certain models of masculinity, telling them what they should be. The heart can only carry so much weight, so for men to carry all these burdens in their hearts without breaking is a miracle.
Men typically explode when they become angry since rage remains the exemplary male emotion. Men are usually ridiculed if they express the softer emotions, especially in the presence of other men. In an effort to conform to the requirements of the man box, men often express their true feelings by hypothetically joking about their problems, withdrawing from family and friends, working longer hours, spending more time away from home, consuming more alcohol, behaving recklessly and/or violently among other dangerous options. See, the Man Box teaches men that women are objects, the property of men, and of less value than men. The teachings of the Man Box allow violence against women, girls and other marginalized groups to persist.
Breaking free from the “man box” is not something young men can do on their own. It concludes that parents, educators, the media, teachers, girlfriends, boyfriends, and others need to be part of the process of reinforcing positive, equitable, unrestrictive ideas of manhood.
Gender equality should not be a campaign in favor of women alone, it is not a “women’s issue”, men too need caring. Men have body dysmorphia, eating disorders, daddy issues, loneliness, work stress, they experience body-shaming, men are in abusive relationships, men deserve longer paternity leaves etc. All I’m saying is men are human.
As a man, when was the last time you cried? When was the last time you actually spoke about what is killing you inside? Are you bottling up your feelings acting all tough while in real sense you are dying inside? One of the most ingrained ideas of masculinity is that “real men” don’t cry and crying, or even sobbing, is only for girls. Men were trained to conceal their emotions and crying in public is often seen as a weakness. This social expectation has made us believe that something as natural as crying causes damage to fragile masculinity and prove how sexist our society can be. It’s not unmanly to struggle. So many men try to be the stereotypical “man” and would rather suffer in silence than voice their emotions. One of the most unhealthy things a man can do for himself is bottle up his emotions. Find someone you can confide in and don’t be afraid to speak up!!