20 Mar Real men DO cry
When boys are told not to cry it causes a natural emotional response to be shut down.
Whilst working with groups of boys over the past 4 years I have discovered that this is unhealthy. They seem to lose touch with many of their feelings and it has long term, lasting effects on their mental health and their relationships.
So, when we played the skittle game in class earlier this year the boys were forced into a place they were unfamiliar with. The rules are not hard, you simply select a skittle from the pack and are then asked a question corresponding to that colour.
The first question was ‘share with us a memory from your past?’.
To you or I, we could easily come up with some childhood memories like getting that first bike, winning a basketball grand final, scoring that first try in footy or making a new friend. But when I asked that question to a group of year 9 boys I was met with questionable looks, and a statement of ‘are you for real Miss I have to answer that?’
So I ask what are we doing to our boys? Boys are being told to live up to a singular image of what it is to be a man. This is an ancient image that demands boys be strong, fearless, and deny their emotions. Every day boys work to build this façade and present an indestructible armour that lives up to the expectations of the men and the boys around them. Through the Links to learning program we endeavour to change this thought process by creating an environment where boys are comfortable talking about their feelings with a view to sharing their problems.
This starts with a simple conversation in classrooms about why it is okay to cry, and boys, who don’t always fit in, must be told that it is okay to be yourself, they need to know that they are not defined by their gender.
So why don’t men cry? Because that would rust the armour, the mask of masculinity.
We need to tear the armour off our skin and look to using different resilience methods, identify, accept and change.
Now is the time to cry, this could be a win to tackling bullying head on, reducing teenage suicide and lead to acceptance of ourselves.