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“Boy… You’re going to carry that weight,

Carry that weight a long time…”

-The Beatles, Carry That Weight

You realize a few things when you bring a baby boy into the world. Your mind swirls with emotion and awe and fear and joy. You start to dream immediately of the kind of life your son will have.

And somewhere in the midst of the love and elation and the dreams there are a few wishes. Please let him be healthy. Please let him have a happy life. Please let me be a good parent. Please let him always feel safe and loved. And also… please let him be tall and strong and bold and athletic. You don’t really say any of this out loud. In fact the last part is said quickly in your head as you rush to tick off the superficial qualities that you only care about because society cares. Because possessing these qualities will make his life a little easier… actually, a lot easier. It will afford him more respect and privilege. It will give him a leg up and an advantage on the playing field of life.

Yes, many of these traits were at one time vital to survival. They used to be desirable in searching for a mate who could provide food and protect the family in a world of man against beast. But now? They are just superficial.

Society still cares. Society still deems these as qualities that all boys and men should strive for. Society still rewards height with higher pay and more leadership positions. Society and the media still perpetuates the idea of men settling deputes with violence. Society still gives a side eye to the man who takes a different path than the traditional “Honey, I’m home” role.

Our world has evolved. But we as a whole are still stuck in Neanderthal times.

I think it’s time for us to grow up.

I think it’s time to talk about boys and men and feminism.

Because boys are a victim of the same system (culture, mindset, tradition) that denies rights to women and the LGBT community, and tries to strip away their value and their worth. Because underneath the blatant misogyny in this system?

The boys and men are losing out.

They are being mislead and mistreated.

They are being told that they have to be tough. That they have to be big and tall and strong. They are told that their job in life is to have a job. They are being taught that their role in parenting is secondary.

They are being boxed in. Into a standard, a stereo type. They are being taught to stuff down feelings and to squash emotion. Unless it’s anger. They are being told that to fight is to prove your manliness. To dominate, to be aggressive, to be tough is the epitome of masculinity.

And it’s all bullshit.

It serves no one.

Not the shy little boy who doesn’t want to fight.

Not the stay at home dad who wants to raise his children and still be respected by his friends and his community.

Not the women or men who fall in love with and share a life with and raise children with these men.

We don’t talk about it much. And it’s understandable. Men make more money than women. They are afforded certain privileges, especially and primarily if they are white straight men. They are almost always the ones in positions of power. But that doesn’t minimize or negate the impact that our culture and society – and in fact most of the whole damn world – has on them.

It shapes their concept of who they should be. It puts undue and unnecessary pressure on them. They are being taught to conform and to look and act and feel a certain hyper masculine way. But rarely do we think about how the system affects men. And that is exactly why I think it needs to be said:

Feminism is for boys too.

Beyond #HeForShe, beyond the battle cry for men to join the movement. Feminism is for boys and men too. To benefit them. To lift the burden they carry from the moment they are photographed in their first “Lil Slugger” outfit.

What if we took these expectations off of boys and just let them grow and evolve organically. No preconceived ideas about who they should be or how they should play or how they should feel. What if we decided that whatever lies within them will lead them exactly where they are supposed to be one day. What if we didn’t have to worry about society bumping up against them violently for not adhering to the plan? Antagonizing them with jeers of being left out or left behind or left hooked?

What if… what if we took the gender ideals – from what colors boys are allowed to like to what types of activities they are expected to engage in – and threw them out with with the grunts and the knuckle dragging.

What if…

What if we stopped expecting or encouraging or allowing boys to settle disputes with violence?

What if we stopped belittling or laughing at tears or emotions when they ripple across a boy’s face.

What if we valued sensitivity in a boy as much as we value a good arm or fast feet?

What if we allowed and encouraged men to talk about and deal with and get help for depression, anxiety, PTSD and any and all emotional and psychological ailments without shaming them or making them feel less than masculine?

What if we took the rape and sexual assault of boys and girls more seriously? What if we took the shame out of it for all victims?

What if we (in the U.S.) gave men paid paternity leave and put changing tables in men’s  rooms and treated dads as vital and crucial in their role of parenting as we do moms. What if being a Stay At Home Dad was just another job?

What if we accepted that our boys might not like sports. That they might like to dance or draw or act or write or cook. What if we took the pressure to fit into one lonely little athletic box -that can’t possibly hold all the boys anyways- off their shoulders?

What if it didn’t matter how tall a man was? That his height was as inconsequential as a woman’s thigh gap or lack thereof.

What if we took pressure off of men to be the sole and/or primary breadwinners in a family? What if we accepted and respected that there is no shame in their wife or significant other making more money?

What if we eliminated the false notion that boys are inherently more violent. What if we realized that nurture (by way of a society that expects it of them) has led us to this false belief?

What if we stopped expecting boys and men to dominate women, to rack up the conquests? What if we allowed and encouraged men to focus on the romance and the emotional connection and appreciate true intimacy?

What if we let boys be whoever the hell they are and didn’t require anything of them other than to grow and learn and to be a good person? What if we did this for all kids?

What if we stopped assuming that men are not able to control their lustful urges and must be protected by covering the female body in school or in the science lab or on the street?

What if we stopped reducing men to bumbling idiots with no self control?

What if we gave boys and men a little more credit?

What if while fighting the good fight for women’s equality and LGBT equality we also acknowledged and focused on how the system affects the mentality of a young boy and consequently shapes the mind of the man? What if we recognized that these very issues that boys deal with as they grow into men are intertwined with the very things that Feminists are trying to achieve?

What if we were all in it together and fought the system together?

What if one thing lead to helping the other. The vicious cycle of misogyny and hyper masculinity ground to a halt by the refusal of men and women to participate in the perpetuation of an ancient myth for one second longer?

What if we eliminated this pressure and instead created a place where boys could express emotion. Could cry. Could deal with anger or fear or sadness without embarrassment. And could grow and mature in a world where they could be their authentic self. What if this trickled down to less violence in our world?

What if it is that simple?

What if inclusivity is truly all encompassing? Women, Men, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders… all doing it together to just be who we are. Without expectations and parameters and shame and judgement.

What if changing our mindset and calling out pressure and expectations and bullshit for everyone was the thing that finally took down the system.

Maybe there’d be a little less anger in this world. A little less confusion. A little less hate. Maybe there’d be a little more understanding. A little more acceptance.

Maybe boys need to be a part of the feminist cause too.

Tell me what you think. Do you think that changing our cultural mindset about boys and men will have an affect on other feminist causes? Do you think that men are tired of the pressure they feel to fit into these roles at a young age? Or do you think this is a non-issue? 

 

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“Welcome to the inner workings of my mind
So dark and foul I can’t disguise,
Can’t disguise.
Nights like this,
I become afraid
Of the darkness in my heart…
Hurricane”

-MS MR, Hurricane

This has been a crazy year. At the dawn of 2013 I declared that it would be “The Year of Not Learning.” The previous year had been kinda tough. There were revelations, there was a touch of drama, I learned a lot. So I decided that for 2013 I was going to just coast. I had done some work on myself and my relationships already, it was time to take a break and just “be.”

It’s funny how the Universe doesn’t always listen to me. Maybe it’s because I’m not a walking Chinese Calendar. But it’s such a reasonable request. A little blissful ignorance is all I was asking for. I guess starting therapy for the first time in my life probably didn’t help. Therapy makes you think. A lot. About stuff you really don’t want to think about. That’s why you pay someone else to make you do it. Like a trainer at the gym. You could go do 500 sit ups and 500 lunges on your own, but you won’t. Sure, I could sit and think about my life, think about my thoughts. Work through some issues. But I won’t. I’ll half ass it the same way I do at the gym. I won’t really dig deep and feel the burn.

So, therapy and all that. It makes you feel stuff. Stuff you purposely have avoided feeling. It makes you (if you’re doing it right) take the lid off of the stuff you had so carefully put in a box, buried in the back yard and placed a giant boulder on top of. That stuff.

Sometimes life calls you out.

I started this blog the same month I started therapy. Coincidence? Who knows. But the things you learn about yourself when you start sharing your thoughts and your writing with the world- it’s fascinating. The things I’ve learned from reading some talented writers on their blogs- some of those things have been moving. Profound. Touching. Some of these things have knocked me off of my feet.

I recently had a blogger respond to one of my blog posts. This is a writer I have a lot of respect for, so when she said she could relate to what I’d written, I was honored. I felt gratified, like maybe I’m doing something right. Maybe if my writing connects with at least one person then it’s not totally indulgent. When I started writing in response to what she’d shared with me, I started to feel like a fake. I felt like I had touched on some things I was feeling but I kept them on the surface. Because that’s what I do with the really hard stuff. I keep it on top where I can see it and keep an eye on it and control it. And this writer, she doesn’t do that. She’s hilariously funny, some even say she’s snarky. But when she’s real, she’s gut-wrenchingly real. She’s the kind of writer I aspire to be. And her comments to me were more real and had more depth than my 1000 plus word blog post. I felt like a fraud.

I don’t know if I would have realized this without therapy. It doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is I’m starting to feel. What I’m allowing myself to feel isn’t fun. It actually kind of sucks. But I know it’s healthier than keeping it buried and pretending like it doesn’t exist. There’s a lot of stuff buried in that box. It can be overwhelming at times. If this was an anonymous blog I’d write about it here. What I will say is that I have realized that anger and grief are the two emotions I don’t allow. These are the two emotions I have shoved away my entire life.

Grief.

Fourteen years after losing my brother, I’m realizing I never grieved. I’ve had sad moments, I’ve cried, I’ve missed him so much it hurts. But I haven’t grieved. I got married 10 days after he passed away. My new in-laws stayed at my house for two weeks after my wedding. Then a few months later I was pregnant with my son. I never had time. And the truth is, I didn’t want time. I wanted to dive back in to work. I wanted to stay busy and preoccupied. But over the last few weeks, I’ve felt it. The only time I truly fell apart was at my brother’s funeral, at the grave side service. I collapsed in tears and wept uncontrollably in front of everyone as we were walking to our cars. But I gave myself about 45 seconds of tears before I pulled myself together.

Last week was the very next time that I cried like that over my brother. I wept uncontrollably, I didn’t try to stop it. I let it happen and I felt it. I wrote through my sobbing. I could barely see the computer screen but I wrote. And it helped. I don’t know if I’ll ever post what I wrote, but it helped writing it. It felt like purging. I was pretty sad for the next few days and my husband knew something was up. I kept brushing off his questions. Then Saturday night as we were putting together the kids’ Easter baskets, I started crying uncontrollably again. I had to explain to him through my sobs why I was crying, what had happened a few days earlier. He got it. Thank god he got it. He held me and let me do what I had to do. I wish that was it, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. Two good cries aren’t going to get the job done. But I now know that I can allow it to happen. I will try to loosen my death grip I’ve had on all these feelings.

Anger.

This emotion baffles me. When I feel it, I don’t know what to do with it. I usually don’t even know why I feel angry. And then I decide that if I don’t know then it must be unfounded, so I squash it like an annoying little bug. But lately, I’ve been really feeling it. Not often. But for someone who doesn’t usually operate in anger, I have had some random fury building up inside of me. And I do mean random. I shouldn’t want to throw a plate across the room because one of my kids forgot to put it in the dishwasher. That’s not a normal response I would have to such an offense. I haven’t actually thrown a plate yet but it’s been real hard to resist. Like I’ve had to pry my hands off the plate and walk away. So obviously I have some work to do there.

I want to be real here. I am walking the line between writing about what moves me and what’s on my mind and keeping some things private and respecting the privacy of the people I love. Sometimes it blocks the flow. What I am yearning to write about I can’t. Then I have to try to get creative and pull something else out that still feels real. It’s an uneasy push and pull and I’m really hoping I don’t fall on the wrong side of that line. I’ll write through some tears I’m sure. And when I’m feeling angry I’ll find something, some issue, some place where someone’s being an ass. Someone that is putting people down, stifling progress or passing judgement. And I’ll write about it. I’ll exorcise some demons through words. I will transfer all that rage onto some unsuspecting prick and I’ll love every minute. Or I’ll throw a plate… damn you, feelings.