It took me a couple of years to dissect the phrase “be a man” despite it always being subtly thrown around at my brother or at some other man in my life. Now that I have understood the true message behind this phrase, I realize that it is complete bullshit. Being and feeling “enough” should not be gendered. Everyone is entitled to having emotions AND displaying those emotions. A man should not be conditioned to believe that he does not have the right to show those emotions.
A big thing that I’ve tried to incorporate into my relationship with my younger brother (who is currently 13 years old!), along with the help of my amazing cousin, is demolishing the gender divide when it comes to being who we are as humans. Arya, my brother, has big emotions. We’re similar in that way. However, I express my emotions slightly more than he does, and that has to do with the way we were both raised. We were raised to suppress all emotions, except for happiness. Little did we know that we can not portray happiness without portraying all the other emotions. In the world that we’re living in, unlearning this phenomenon and relearning how to feel everything is somewhat easier for women than it is for men. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that Arya was not going to enter adulthood feeling numb to all his emotions and succumbing to the ridiculous patriarchal rules attributed to “what it means to be a man.”
I felt like I had truly succeeded when one day I got a text from him saying that he had a sob session after watching some Anime show. I was absolutely jumping for joy. This was a huge breakthrough – he had never expressed his feelings after watching something because he was subtly trained to believe that “men don’t cry.” So for him to allow himself to unlearn and relearn that it is completely valid, okay, and human for him to cry during an emotional time made me feel like I was on top of the freaking world.
Justin Baldoni’s podcast, The Man Enough Podcast, has been revolutionary for me and I’m in love with it. It’s making me cry, unlearn, relearn, and be compassionate. It’s making me feel and see things from a different light. I think we can also use this as we navigate through life and hopefully, one day, get rid of this gendered idea of our personalities.