Men have a huge responsibility, and just like women, they're working against a stigma as well. They're interacting with a hard world that demands hardness in return. Gender socialization prohibits them from being soft, and that has huge implications. Men struggling with depression, trying to escape an abusive relationship, and pursuing artistic careers are often stripped of their masculine identity. Boys who are smitten with their girlfriend are "whipped," and boys who express their pain are "pansies."
These men are our fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, uncles, and friends. I've had the pleasure of knowing many incredible boys in my life, boys who have respected me and protected me, boys who deserve to be spoiled. Women aren't the only ones who should be doted on and specially cared for. Our men need to be intentionally valued and validated, too. They're strong, but they're not always going to be the type of strong that society wants them to be.
I recently attended a girls' dinner fully prepared and served by a team of boys making a conscious effort to value women. During this dinner, a few of these boys sat on a stage and answered our questions. At one point, they were asked if they felt threatened by strong, powerful women. The boys said in return strength and power are the most attractive qualities a girl could have. Why? Because they're going to need someone to lean on, too. In fact, they claimed a smart man only aims for strong, powerful women.
They can't always be the rock; that's a ridiculous standard. Strong men need strong women, and vice versa. We strengthen each other in the face of negative stereotypes and crushing hardships. So remind me why a girl shouldn't spoil her boyfriend? He's got things that make him happy, too. He needs to be cheered up sometimes, too. He wants to feel loved just like she does.
So to the men in my life, I respect your battle and I recognize your struggle. I hope you let your heart be soft (it has nothing to do with your biceps). I hope that you're in relationships where you're fully valued, and I thank you for continuing to give in a world that relentlessly takes. We love you.