As a middle school teacher, I have the privilege of being witness to some of the most ridiculous acts and conversations. There is one that replays regularly, and troubles me frequently. It goes something like this.
Student 2: “Yeah, stop being a girl.”
Okay, hold up. We’re talking about middle school here, so let’s remember that at this point in time, many of the girls are still bigger than the boys. The boys tend to tear up just as much, if not more, than the girls. These statements don’t hold any water in this environment because “manning up” would literally mean shrink a little, run a little slower, and cry more.
It’s crazy that, even at this age, our traditional gender roles are perpetuated. I watch how uncomfortable and unnatural this is for kids on a daily basis.
The article “7 Damaging Lies We Teach Boys About How to Become a Real Man,” on Identities.Mic, shares some of these perpetuated stereotypes. The three “lies” below really got me thinking:
1) Real men always “Man Up.”
2) Real men know fighting is important.
3) Real men aren’t gay.
Young boys and girls have picked up sayings and ideals from older siblings, parents, and the media. A lot of the conventional lessons we teach our boys about being men and our girls about acting like ladies are based on time-honored wisdom that encourages young men to stifle emotions and young women to be submissive. We give kids a tight range of acceptable behaviors and interests. The pressure to fill the proper gender role as we grow up can be overwhelming and leads to many of the perceived gender roles and actions we see later in life.
Our “real men” and “true ladies” should be emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy and given permission to pursue their interests, even if those interests do not conform to customary masculine or feminine values. Beat poet Guante, shares his fantastic responses to the phrase “man up.” This short video hits home the struggle of “manning up” beautifully.
So, let’s be sure to pay attention to the potentially sexist jargon we throw out without even thinking about it. You never know who may be listening.