Male Gender Stereotypes Are Ruining Boys' Futures (2023)

“Be a man,” “suck it up,” and “don’t cry” are only a few phrases handpicked from a plentiful basket of ego-damaging constructions built into today's society. Reinforcing rhetoric that feminizes emotional expression and masculinizes violence has the power to stunt empathy, drive dominance, and connect respect with fear. Boys are born loving creatures, but at a very young age they are taught the traits, diminutive language, and mindset that aligns them with society’s concept of what it means to be a man.

The United States has designed an unrealistic definition of American masculinity. Every single day, there is a boy who feels inferior because he is unable to fit the standard. For some that manage to, it is only an exhaustive façade covering the truth of his likes, dislikes, emotions, priorities, and passions — he is constantly putting on a show for the rest of society. In the case of young boys, this happens in school, the ultimate microcosm of our country. School is a time in a child’s life when he postures himself by finding a group of friends, a favorite class subject, sports, hobbies, and musical preferences. Ultimately, it's a time to discover who he is in the world.

Feminism only speaks of one lopsided perspective in the gender inequality story.There is a common misconception that men are a gender exempt from burdening expectations, stereotypes, and societal pressures; free from glass ceilings and slut shaming. But in truth, boys may be faced with a force entirely different, more complicated, and more painful — being told to fit into a hyper masculine and misogynistic mold. They must mask their emotions. If boys have a natural love for art, theatre, or singing they are immediately categorized, boxed up, and put on a shelf where children are called “gay” and “fag.”

“There were perceptions about males in theatre and up until about 10th grade — I was a pretty quiet kid,” 26-year-old Thomas Policastro of Long Island, N.Y. told Medical Daily. “I was hit with a couple of mocking jabs along the lines of ‘real men don't do drama’ in grades 7 and 8.”

Policastro reflects back to middle school and high school theatre, when kids brought their stereotyping jabs along with their book bags to school. But he attributes his happy childhood to being surrounded by an accepting support system of family and friends who disregarded the ridicule. It’s difficult to tease someone who doesn’t care for the negative and embraces the positive.

The Battle for Boy Belongingness

No one can fault a child for walking school halls burdened by the natural desire to fit in, feel accepted, and be well-liked. Both the failure and success of trying to fit the mold of this male illusion can be linked to bullying, high male suicide rates, and even sexism. Cultivating a sense of belongingness among boys is the psychological fertilizer that grows gangs, cliques, and tightly knit friendships all the way into adulthood. It’s the reason why the school cafeteria is the center for socialization, where who you sit with reflects the group you fit into.

Barbara Williams, who holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and mothers three boys aged 18, 15, and 12, recalls a memorable lunchroom experience with her youngest son: “In the beginning of the school year, Ethan was pushed off the school lunch bench by a boy from his basketball team and told he wasn't cool enough to sit there anymore. He didn’t tell me for over a month. Then the boy shoved him very hard on the basketball court. Ethan told the coach and then it all came pouring out. What hurt him the most was that his friends didn’t say anything or stand up to the bully.”

Previous research looking into patterns of social bullying — also called relational aggression — among both boys and girls found that boys engaged in mean verbal behavior in attempts to exclude the target from the social group. It also found they were more physically aggressive than girls, which is no surprise. Harming others through damaging or manipulating relationships is often more derimental to a boy's self-esteem, whether it's done verbally, or by physically shoving the child out of the group.

Oftentimes, bullying stems from a home environment in which emotional expression is suppressed. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

It turns out that the boy who shoved Ethan is the youngest of nine, and comes from a long line of bullies. After his parents divorced, he was raised by a father with a history of getting kicked out of sporting events. Williams recognizes that “anger and anxiety don’t just pop out of the blue." They come "from somewhere, whether it’s problems at home or school.”

This isn’t a story about bullying, however; bullying is only a mask boys wear. It represents a long-held lineage of teaching aggressive and powerful patterns born out of the emotional silence, according to the widely read parenting book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. Society needs to transform into one that provides role models who show boys emotion doesn't equate to weakness, and exerting dominance leads to fear rather than respect.

A Gender of Silence

They are the aggressors, the ones who slam fists against lockers and have fights on the school bus. We’re raising large groups of the human population to lock themselves within their anger, and it isn’t long before they become prisoners to it. We can break these barriers down easily; a dad who cries during a sad movie or recognizes the beauty of a flower teaches his son that it's okay to be sensitive, Williams said. She also points out, of course, that not everyone has a father. Those circumstances are when uncles, grandfathers, coaches, and teachers need to step in and recognize their responsibility to show that child a healthy model of masculinity.

“The problem we see with boys — they don’t have an emotional literacy,” Williams said. “They say ‘I’m angry’ or nothing at all. They don’t have the tools to express exactly what they’re feeling, and we created that problem as a collective society. Parents and schools need to take part in promoting self-expression.”

That verbal expression, of course, should start with the parents. One study found mothers may be the best initiators of this emotional literacy, since they tend to use more emotional words with their children than fathers. However, they're also more likely to use those words in conversations with their daughters and not their sons. Changing this, so that mothers can talk to their sons in the same way, could teach boys how to express themselves without fear.

Teaching boys empathy and emotional awareness will help them navigate through social traumas as children and teenagers, which will equip them for the pressures they’re bound to face in adulthood. Williams said her school district has already made great strides in encouraging both boys and girls to confront their emotions through the anti-bully, anti-drug, and anti-drinking and driving video lessons they’re exposed to as early as sixth grade.

Without an outlet or opportunity to foster healthy emotional expression, any child, boy or girl, can be left with dead ends and a deafening sense of loneliness. Every day, at least three boys commit suicide in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Males dominate suicide statistics and it is no coincidence they are the gender more likely to suppress emotions. They resort to violence or extreme behaviors, desperate to express themselves, yet unable to fit the stereotype of what it means to be “a real man.” The frustration can quickly build, fester, and ultimately manifest into shame and humiliation.

On the other side of the coin, girls are also hurting. Boys may have more successful suicide attempts, but girls resort to less lethal avenues, with pills and self-mutilation. We constantly search for ways to improve misconceptions on gender, but feminism has monopolized the podium. Women publicize their unhappiness with gender inequalities because they have been given the tools to weave together beautiful, expressive words. But who will stand up and speak for our boys? It's time we did something about it.

FAQs

How do gender stereotypes affect career? ›

Studies have found a link between gender stereotypes and work opportunities concerning career choices and expectations (Madikizela & Haupt, 2010; Atalay & Doan, 2020). Events and experiences that occur during childhood could influence an individual later in life (Watson et al., 2011: 415).

How do gender stereotypes affect child development? ›

Aside from career choice, gender stereotypes can affect every part of life, contributing towards poor mental health in young people, higher male suicide rates, low self-esteem in girls and issues with body image (1 in 5 14 year olds self-harm), furthermore allowing a culture of toxic masculinity and violence against ...

What are society's stereotypical expectations of men? ›

Men are generally expected to be strong, aggressive, and bold. Every society, ethnic group, and culture has gender role expectations, but they can be very different from group to group. They can also change in the same society over time.

What is toxic masculinity gender roles? ›

Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger. It is marked by economic, political, and social expectations that men seek and achieve dominance.

What is the most male dominated industry? ›

In terms of which industries employed the most men, Lensa found that construction is 89% male, out of the 10,030,000 people employed across it.

What is the most common job for a man? ›

Carpenters, electricians, HVAC workers, plumbers, and a plethora of types of mechanics are all over 96% male. While many jobs have a huge gender gap, some jobs are close to 50/50. This includes technical writers, bartenders, and insurance sales.

How do stereotypes affect youth? ›

When parents believe stereotypes, they expect teens to take unhealthy or unsafe risks. As a result, they don't set effective boundaries because they think teens will break their rules anyway. These attitudes can result in teens lowering themselves to the adults' expectations for them.

What are the consequences of gender stereotyping to students? ›

These beliefs may in turn influence girls' academic aspirations, their interest in male-stereotyped topics such as math, and their motivation to study for as well as the level of stereotype threat and anxiety they may experience in subjects in the male domain (Spencer et al.

At what age does a child develop gender identity? ›

Gender identity typically develops in stages: Around age two: Children become conscious of the physical differences between boys and girls. Before their third birthday: Most children can easily label themselves as either a boy or a girl. By age four: Most children have a stable sense of their gender identity.

What are male stereotypical behaviors? ›

Rigid gender roles: Men don't do household chores; Men should be the financial providers for their family. Heterosexuality and homophobia: A gay guy is not a real man; Straight guys should not have gay friends. Hypersexuality: A real man has as many sexual partners as possible; A real man never says no to sex.

Do boys face more pressure than girls? ›

Did you know, girls experience more peer pressure than boys? Many studies show this. 32% girls felt pressure about their body image vs 19% of boys feeling pressured. Also, 24% of girls vs 17% of boys felt peer pressure to do better in tests and school.

What is fragile masculinity? ›

Fragile masculinity refers to anxiety felt by men who believe they are falling short of cultural standards of manhood. • Fragile masculinity can motivate compensatory attitudes/behaviors meant to restore the threatened status of 'real' manhood.

What is toxic masculinity for boys? ›

Toxic masculinity is a term that has been gaining traction in the past few years. This term refers to the dominant form of masculinity wherein men use dominance, violence, and control to assert their power and superiority.

What is the root cause of toxic masculinity? ›

Toxic masculinity occurs when cultural pressures condition men to behave in traditional, stereotypical masculine ways. Conforming to this type of behavior entails suppressing their feelings, avoiding distress, being “tough,” and using violence or aggression to portray their power.

What jobs are 100% male dominated? ›

10 professions that are still dominated by men.
  • Aircraft piloting. In a story entitled “Why There Aren't More Female Pilots,” Conde Nast Traveller reported that women comprised just 4-5% of all pilots in North America. ...
  • Agriculture. ...
  • Architecture. ...
  • Clergyship. ...
  • Construction. ...
  • Finance. ...
  • Firefighting. ...
  • Information technology.
Mar 17, 2022

Can a woman overpower a man? ›

Whether you're male or female you don't need an extraordinary amount of strength or power to strike and defeat your opponent, instead, you need proper technique, agility, and speed. A female fighter who dominates proper technique remains calm and in control of herself, can overpower a larger and stronger male.

How to deal with being a woman in a male dominated industry? ›

Nine Tips for Succeeding as a Woman in a Male-Dominated World
  1. Cultivate confidence. Be assertive. ...
  2. Stay positive. ...
  3. Be an aggressive life-long learner. ...
  4. Care about being respected more than being liked. ...
  5. Learn how to handle conflict. ...
  6. Take on a leadership role. ...
  7. Get active in women's associations. ...
  8. Support other women.

What is the hottest job for a man? ›

According to women, here are some of the sexiest jobs a man can have.
  • Police Officer. ...
  • Physical Therapist. ...
  • Accountant. ...
  • Paramedic. ...
  • Engineer. ...
  • Construction Worker. ...
  • Teacher. ...
  • CEO/Founding Entrepreneur. A CEO or founding entrepreneur is someone who made something out of nothing.
Mar 19, 2018

What occupation do men find most attractive? ›

The same list for men:
  • Model.
  • Paramedic.
  • College Student.
  • Lawyer.
  • Personal Trainer.
  • Financial Advisor.
  • Police Officer.
  • Military.
Dec 11, 2022

What profession is the most single? ›

Bartenders nabbed the top spot, with 74% reporting single status, while tile installers and food servers rounded out the top three positions, with 73% and 69% of people reporting to be single, respectively.

What is the popular kid stereotype? ›

The populars are the kids at the top of the social ladder whom everyone looks up to. They are usually rich, wear the latest trends, and are mean to others. The popular girl is the more common stereotype, as immortalized by the character Regina George in the movie Mean Girls.

How does negative stereotyping affect the youth? ›

Stereotyping your teen by creating and believing negative stereotypes can disrupt that positive relationship. That can cause difficult feelings in your teen, which might lead to them self-medicating with alcohol or other substances. It can also cause anxiety or depression.

What are three examples of stereotyping? ›

Here are some examples of stereotypes to help you become more aware of them in your day-to-day life, and to avoid them. Girls are more docile and want to please others. Boys are not as good at listening to instructions and are less attentive. Girls will sometimes sulk too long over next to nothing.

What are the negative effects of gender socialization? ›

Research shows that, compared to girls and women, boys and men face disproportionate rates of harsh discipline in schools, academic difficulties, insufficient education, higher rates of completed suicides and higher rates of substance use and dependence.

How can we stop gender stereotyping in society? ›

THE SOLUTION LIES IN EDUCATION
  1. Be aware of sexism. Question certain stereotypes that we take as normal but which in reality are social constructions.
  2. Deal with the issue of equality without complexes. ...
  3. Join forces for equal education. ...
  4. Think laterally.

What are stereotypical feminine traits? ›

Traits such as nurturance, sensitivity, sweetness, supportiveness, gentleness, warmth, passivity, cooperativeness, expressiveness, modesty, humility, empathy, affection, tenderness, and being emotional, kind, helpful, devoted, and understanding have been cited as stereotypically feminine.

What to do if your daughter says she wants to be a boy? ›

I recommend that you start with a talk where you respectfully and lovingly let your daughter know how you feel about her gender identity and what your concerns are for her. You can also let her know what you are comfortable doing in support of her and what you are not.

What to do if your child is non-binary? ›

It's important to accept your child and let them know you love and support them, whatever their gender identity is. If you feel anxious or uncomfortable, you're not alone. Many young people and parents find talking to other parents and children who have had similar experiences a great help.

Does gender dysphoria start in childhood? ›

The word "dysphoria" means significant uneasiness and dissatisfaction, and gender dysphoria can start to present as early as childhood in some people.

How toxic masculinity affects society? ›

When men actively avoid vulnerability, act on homophobic beliefs, ignore personal traumas, or exhibit prejudice behaviors against women, this contributes to many larger societal problems. Effects of toxic masculinity: Domestic abuse.

What is an example of toxic masculinity? ›

Toxic masculinity praises men for having multiple sexual partners while expressing disgust at women who do the same. Refusing to help with household duties. Toxic masculinity rejects roles traditionally considered “women's work.” Toxically masculine men often refuse to participate in these household duties.

How do you stop toxic masculinity? ›

How to Combat Toxic Masculinity
  1. Break stigmas. Modern society is trending toward breaking many of the stigmas that perpetuate toxic masculinity. ...
  2. Combat traditional gender roles. Recognize masculine ideals of the past are not indelible and infallible. ...
  3. Seek out opportunities to help and heal.
Oct 4, 2022

Do guys have better skin than girls? ›

Men have thicker skin than women

Collagen is the protein that keeps skin tight and firm-looking. It is thankfully the most abundant protein in our body and is responsible for keeping skin elastic. Now, men have more collagen in their skin. This is why their skin appears firmer and tighter.

Are boys more sensitive than girls? ›

David Lewis, the director of Mindlab, said: “This study suggests that men feel emotion just as much as women, sometimes more strongly, but are less willing to express these emotions openly due to expectations put on them by society.” Men are not less sensitive or emotional than women, we're just in denial.

Do boys have more confidence than girls? ›

According to Harris, there are several underlying reasons why men seem to be more confident than women. Looking at it from a biological point of view – Females are genetically prone to be more careful and tend to be less risk-taking compared to men.

What are the 4 types of masculinity? ›

identified four different types of masculinity: hegemonic, subordinate, complacent and marginal.

Is there a healthy masculinity? ›

Healthy masculinity is when men flourish first for themselves, then for their families, posterity, and communities. A man embodying healthy masculinity knows who he is. He is physically healthy and strong. He is pursuing and developing his skills and capabilities to make him more competent and able to take action.

What is toxic femininity? ›

Toxic femininity, to put it simply, describes behavior that reflects or supports gender-based stereotypes or social norms for women. Exposure to these social norms and stereotypes typically begins at an early age, and this mindset isn't your fault.

How fragile is the male ego? ›

Many in society have characterized the male ego in one way — large and fragile — no matter the man they're referring to. But this isn't true. While some men do have fragile egos or low self-efficacy, others can have strong egos or moderate or high self-efficacy.

What is male entitlement? ›

Male sexual entitlement is the belief that men are owed sex on account of their maleness. Society normalises this message all the time. While the idea of going out on the 'pull' or 'picking up' women may be OK in a consensual situation, we know that, if we're honest, for many young men, it's considered a game.

What is tough masculinity? ›

Toxic masculinity refers to the notion that some people's idea of “manliness” perpetuates domination, homophobia, and aggression. Toxic masculinity involves cultural pressures for men to behave in a certain way.

What is a macho feminist? ›

You feel that this is the type of stirring male feminism that large amounts of men can get behind. It feels liberating, truly masculine in fact, because it is brave, not limiting, not forcing women back in their place, but getting everyone behind them. The most giving kind of leadership.

What is male ego toxic masculinity? ›

Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger. It is marked by economic, political, and social expectations that men seek and achieve dominance.

How is toxic masculinity taught? ›

Toxic masculinity is a learned behavior, passed down from generation to generation as well as taught within social groups. The culture today is that this toxic behavior of 'machismo' going overboard is acceptable, but it only became acceptable through social conditioning and sexist overtones in modern day culture.

How toxic masculinity hurts everyone? ›

Toxic masculinity and strict gender roles can force you to repress your emotions. They can lead to negative family relationships, an increase in stress and unhealthy coping techniques.

How to raise a boy without toxic masculinity? ›

Incorporate these nine ideas for raising boys without toxic masculinity with your own, so you and your family can be part of the solution.
  1. Ditch Harmful Phrases. ...
  2. Talk About LGBTQIA+ People. ...
  3. Teach Respect For Women's Bodies. ...
  4. Slash The Sexual Conqueror Myth. ...
  5. Call Out Wrongness. ...
  6. Reframe Expectations. ...
  7. Have Check-Ins.
Feb 14, 2017

What is an example of male dominance in society? ›

For example, men can sexually harass women when they are overly exuberant in pursuing sexual self-interest at work, or they feel entitled to treat women as sex-objects, or when they feel superior to women and express their superiority by berating and belittling the female sex.

What are some possible stereotypes of this job or career? ›

What People Think of Your Job: Explaining Common Occupational Stereotypes
  • “HR is too strict and sensitive.” HR often gets a bad rap for being the corporate police. ...
  • “Salespeople only care about themselves.” ...
  • “Software developers are bad at socializing.” ...
  • Become a Better Judge of Character.
Mar 21, 2021

What is career stereotyping? ›

Stereotypes occur in many forms in careers, including stereotyping based on age and race. Certain jobs are wrongly labelled as boring or stressful. There is a widely held false view that apprenticeships are only for students that can't get into university.

What are the factors that influence gender stereotyping? ›

Gender roles are influenced by the media, family, environment, and society. In addition to biological maturation, children develop within a set of gender-specific social and behavioral norms embedded in family structure, natural play patterns, close friendships, and the teeming social jungle of school life.

Does gender affect career choice? ›

Gender influences a wide range of career-related attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes. This includes career choice, career experiences, occupational health, work attitudes, other people's perceptions, and career outcomes. Therefore, to understand individuals' careers, it is important to consider gender.

What are five things stereotypes are commonly? ›

A stereotype is a widely held, simplified, and essentialist belief about a specific group. Groups are often stereotyped on the basis of sex, gender identity, race and ethnicity, nationality, age, socioeconomic status, language, and so forth.

What is an example of stereotype threat in the workplace? ›

The presence of a negative stereotype in a particular industry can contribute to lower performance. Other examples of stereotype threat include African Americans' low scores on standardized tests, inequality of women in leadership positions, and low representation of ethnic minorities in CEO positions.

What is gender bias in career choice? ›

According to Ganley, gender bias refers to making assumptions about an individual based on their gender group. “It can take many forms. It can be explicit, such as a teacher saying, 'You're a girl, you don't need to worry about math,' which we don't tend to see as much as we did in the past.

What is career bottleneck? ›

A career bottleneck, when there is no opportunity to progress, can happen in any industry and at different times in your career. Stay stuck for too long, and the situation can become frustrating and morale-sapping. So it's important to recognise why they happen, how to avoid them, and what to do if you're in one.

What are stereotypical women's jobs? ›

These jobs, or 'women's work', are sometimes referred to as the 5 Cs: cleaning, catering, cashiering (retail), clerical work, and caring. Men who do work in these female dominated sectors are more likely to hold senior or managerial roles.

How gender roles affect society? ›

Often women and girls are confined to fulfilling roles as mothers, wives and caretakers. Gender norms position girls as caretakers, which leads to gender inequality in how roles are distributed at the household level. This also results in a lack of education due to the restriction of outside opportunities.

What are the 3 major types of gender roles? ›

Gender role ideology falls into three types: traditional, transitional, and egalitarian.

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