#ManUp: How Do We Change Our “MAN UP” Culture?

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Most of us know about the tragic events of Las Vegas about one week ago that sadly, has become far too common in this country. Mass shootings should be the exception to the rule.

Not something that leaves us asking not if, but when?

As for Las Vegas, I am not interested in politics or conspiracy theories. Whether you think one person did it or not, whether you believe the government was involved as a way to push the gun control agenda, or if you’re convinced that he wasn’t as high up in the hotel as was reported…none of that matters here. One thing is consistent.

That consistency is the fact that I cannot think of too many instances when the primary suspect(s) involved were not men.

No one can really say what was in the suspect’s mind here or following any other mass shooting in our history. But if you’re someone who doesn’t rush to blame the government or want to argue with people about gun rights, maybe you are wondering why this continues to happen.

You all have your theories, so here’s mine: The fault lies within society.

How?

It’s our “MAN UP” culture.

Simply put, this is something most of us are already familiar with. Men are traditionally thought of to be the stronger and the “tougher” of the genders, meaning we are expected to not show weakness or any form of emotion or sensitivity. That is largely believed to be reserved for women.

No man hears it for the first time as an adult. For just about all of us, we are first exposed to this “MAN UP” culture as children and I mean, very young children.

I think about the first time I was told to “stop crying like a girl.” I recall during horseplay where I heard, “You hit like a girl!” While playing sports, that I “threw like a girl.” You get the idea.

Men are strong, women are weak. Yes, in 2017, that is still the mindset contained by many.

We often expect women to be these emotional creatures full of love, romance, tears and embracing at every turn. They are the world’s psychiatrists. Men, on the other hand, are expected to be the complete opposite.

Even though I know better now at age 38, as a child, this is what I often heard and at one time, believed: That everything I did that even resembled the way a female would do it was wrong for me as a male.

If you’re a traditionalist, then sure…your mind may not stray far from viewing men as the stronger and tougher gender. Yeah, it sounds good, right?

However, what “sounds good” and real life are two entirely different things.

A friend of mine who lives in Delaware and is a professional high-performance coach will periodically (as her schedule allows) holds open public sessions which she calls “Happy2Listen.” It costs nothing and is intended to encourage people to sit down with her and talk about absolutely anything they choose without fear of being judged.

She recently mentioned that just as many men as women (if not more) stop to talk with her. These men, very real and raw, often pour their hearts out and then apologize for crying. They thank her for listening as they wipe their tears, steel their faces and go back into themselves.

So why do men feel as though they need to apologize for crying? Why do they need to “steel their faces” as they return to themselves once a session is over? Why does the existence of my friend’s creation only then open the door for certain men to be comfortable with expressing themselves “real and raw”?

How do we change this “MAN UP” culture?

For starters, none of us can change how we were taught. But we CAN change how we learn. Education is the key.

As a black male, I was taught as a child that white people “hated” us and were our enemies. But at some point, I had to “unlearn” this and open my eyes and mind to realize that this was not true by educating myself. Not by blindly following what the black community often told me at a young age, but in seeing for myself.

As far as this “MAN UP” culture goes, just because we expect men not to feel, does it mean they don’t “feel”?

Just because we expect them not to cry, does it mean that they don’t need to cry from time to time?

Just because women are more often the embracers, does it mean that a man should not embrace others? Does it mean that he doesn’t deserve to be embraced?

No male comes out of the womb throwing, let’s say, a baseball at 100 miles per hour like a major league pitcher. Whatever “throwing like a girl” is doesn’t matter, because no one is born knowing how to throw anything. We all have to learn. Some do so better than others. So, is it fair that the “others” are simply relegated to the opposite sex just because their throwing isn’t up to par, whatever “par” is at that particular time? What if a male has little desire to throw baseballs, as he is more interested in other things?

Let’s say you saw a man and a woman both in public. They’re both sitting on separate benches and you can tell they’re really down, even to the point of crying. You only have time to speak to one of them.

I’m not going to ask which one you would talk to, because as people online these days just love proving others wrong, many would answer that it wouldn’t matter. Of course, to some, it truly wouldn’t, but let’s look at society as a whole.

The man would be expected to be strong enough to handle his problem(s) on his own, or he would be laughed at and called names for crying. The woman, on the other hand, would grab us a little differently. She’s the one who is “expected” to do this more so than the man. She’s viewed as the “fragile” and the more sensitive one, so obviously she would need the help more than the man would.

But do we even know what their problem(s) are?

Would we even care?

My honest belief is that no…we wouldn’t.

What does all this have to do with males and mass shootings?

As much as we would love to force men and women to remain in their traditional “roles,” unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past, oh, 60 years or so…that isn’t happening. Not as it used to.

Men are cooking and cleaning and women are the breadwinners of their families. The funny thing is that there are still people out there who really object to this. Men who cook and clean are sometimes viewed as “whipped” or “gay.” Career women are looked at as if they are wrong for wanting to do something other than to remain barefoot and pregnant in their kitchens.

When those men talk to my friend and are, as she described it, “real and raw,” why are they now comfortable being this way? Why do they have to “flip a switch” once they’re done?

More importantly…what happens with those men who can’t sit down with her or anyone else to get all that out?

We all know people or are those people ourselves. Anger is held in for too long and eventually, we blow up on someone or has had someone blow up on us.

So how many different forms of “blowing up” are out there? Yelling? Shouting? Physical violence? You know where I’m going.

For this Las Vegas suspect, how many people do you think asked him how he was doing on a somewhat regular basis? In comparison, how often do you think he may have been told to “get over it” or to “man up” in some form or fashion about any problem he experienced?

I don’t believe it is a coincidence that damn near all suspects of mass shootings are males. I also don’t believe anyone just wakes up one morning wanting to do this. He holds things in for so long (because he’s a man and that’s what he’s supposed to do) until he just can’t anymore.

And when he can’t anymore, does that mean he goes to see a psychiatrist? Nah. Then he’ll be viewed as “crazy” or weak.

Does that mean he can tell his significant other? Maybe. If she doesn’t expect him to be that “manly” man, which yes, some women actually do expect. Yes, I’ve seen it MANY times. Women putting men down for showing emotion or any kind of weakness. So no…it isn’t just men. Not by a long shot.

Can he just cry? Oh HELL no. Only women do that.

Right?

I don’t have to say that eventually, even the strongest man will run out of options. And only he knows what he feels he will need to do at that point.

But this “MAN UP” culture is to blame. Period. Society tries so hard to show how “tough” we are at every turn and of course, with that much going around and as much as women don’t want to continue being viewed as the weaker sex, no way a man is going to convey himself as anything less than that.

The way we fix this is through an open mind and education. If you learned one way, then you can learn another.

If you don’t appreciate someone “blowing up” on you when they’ve held in anger for too long, then think again before you are quick to tell that man to “get over” something, not to cry, or to be afraid to show any other emotions.

What it comes down to is this. We do and behave the way we were taught. THAT can’t be changed.

But there isn’t a single thing stopping ANY of us from learning. Rather than to just stopping at what we’re comfortable with, that we take the time to step outside of ourselves and the comfort zones of traditional gender roles, along with putting a stop to dismissing and/or berating men for behaving in certain ways that we have no problem with female as she does the same.

A problem doesn’t care about ones gender. As people who have the ability to both learn, grow and evolve, we should not, either.

Let’s not allow it to get to the point of Las Vegas. Or Sandy Hook. Or Virginia Tech. Or any other mass shooting.

Let’s get his attention in a way that is safe…before he decides to get all of ours in a way that isn’t.

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