We are born into a system of twos. One of the first things children are taught is good from bad, right from wrong, and left from right. They are also taught the difference between male and female. This distinction defines our lives and shapes our personalities. For boys, being told to “be a man” can have multiple meanings, and not all of them are good. Men have many expectations and masculine roles pushed upon them by society, telling them who they should be and how they should act. However, this can have negative effects and even affect men’s health. Men need to be aware of these pressures and demands so that they can fight damaging stereotypes and overcome the binary.
What does it mean to “be a man?” People especially have been wondering, who has it worse, men or women? Results have shown that both genders have their own difficulties to contend with, and that as much as women face, men do have a lot of societal problems of their own. From a very young age, little boys are told to be “little men,” with all of the pressures and expectations that comes with. Many are forced into sports and stereotypical “boy” pursuits that they may not want to do, but are expected to because of their gender. Boys are told not to cry or show emotion, and thus “be a man” or “man up.” Men are forced into a set of expectations from birth. No man can be the perfect husband, be CEO, have the perfect body, be beautiful, athletic, intelligent, political, assertive, and rough at the same time. Our society still upholds this ideal and it is evidenced in our media, advertising, and merchandise. Magazines and TV show how to change diets, workouts, and sex lives to try to sell a version of this ideal to the "regular" man. Movies try to model their own versions of this in the form of James Bond, Indiana Jones, Rambo, and Prince Charming. Some of the most important gender roles exemplified in this archetype is being strong, aggressive, confident, sexual, and unemotional.
Hyper-masculinity is dangerous for men because it creates tension in themselves and can lead to harmful behavior. Men are risk-takers. They are more likely to die of occupational deaths and not wear seat belts and die in accidents. It becomes "cool," especially for young men, to put themselves in harm's way to show off and prove themselves. There is also less attention called to men’s health issues, such as testicular cancer and prostate cancer. Many people are unaware that men can get breast cancer, too, even though there is so much awareness now about women getting it. They also self-repress. Men are just as emotional as women; they are just told not to show it. Men are told that they are supposed to be cold, callous, and inept at understanding feelings, and this makes them suffer in important relationships in their lives such as with parents, lovers, and children. As the dominant sex, men are expected to do everything -- to provide, to fix problems, to be CEO, and to answer questions. This puts a lot of pressure on them. This could be why they have more frequent heart attacks, high blood pressure, and die earlier. Men also stratify themselves, based on where they fit in the gender binary and how masculine they are. So many pressures are put on men that this is often called "toxic masculinity," showing how dangerous it is for men's mental and physical health.