|My name is Christian Herrera, although I prefer to be called Andres. Andres is my middle name, and this preference has surfaced from my becoming Atheist in the winter of my seventh grade. Since then, I've undergone many changes that have made me into the person that I am today. |
Growing up as the only male in my house for most of my life has taught me to indifferently respect both men and women. As I discovered alternative sexualities and gender preferences at a young age on the internet, I learned to respect the way people identify themselves. I've also learned to understand my privileges as a cis-gendered, able-bodied, male in 21st century America, and I use my awareness to provide allegiance to those who need it most.
In the scene above, from the Hollywood classic The Godfather, Vito Corleone "consoles" his son by telling him he should fix his problems by acting like a man. Top comments from the video feed online include
- "Don Corleone could have saved Bruce Jenner with this talk"
- "I was taught at a young age never to cry. To always control my emotions, never let your loved one see you break when they need you the most. Now a days people encourage other to wear their emotions their sleeves, and that irks me the hell out."
- "Classic stuff... Real men. I remember when men crying was stigmatized. The good old days."
These teachings of not crying and being an assertive person take center stage in Paul Kivel's "The Act-Like-A-Man Box," a short article that critiques the unhealthy morals we are taught as boys. As "men," we often experience emotions just the same way "women" are expected to. We go through sadness, happiness, depression, excitement, arousal, self-loathing, and just about any emotion you can think of. Because we are "men" however, we're not supposed to display the fact that we process emotions the same way "women" do. In being taught to act like "men," we inadvertently learn homophobia and a lessened respect for females. But why?
The "Act-Like-A-Man" box is so rigidly built that it can't seem to support the idea of mutual respect: instead, there should always be an Alpha-figure and that figure should always be a male. So how can men break out of the "Act-Like-a-Man" box? As men, it is unfortunately easier for us to garner respect and demand authority. So when a man wants to cross-dress, display emotions, or be anything but a straight cis-gendered male, the best thing he can do is "act like a man" for a little bit, and assert that he has the right to behave the way he does. We can, at times, tip our hat in favor of hegemonic masculinity for attention and acceptance and then, as soon as we do, break out of these scripted roles and show a deeper humanity. It is only an interim, individual and short-term solution, but it is a place to start if we can remain conscious of those times when we are performing and benefitting from the "Act-Like-A-Man" box.