Men are a different breed. They’re wired different. Many men have been raised and conditioned to thrive on negativity, putting others down, and making themselves look like the “Alpha”. The “I can’t be a winner unless everyone else is a loser” attitude is slowing the progression of the male species. We even sometimes disguise it in a humorous way. Picture Stifler from American Pie.
There are unfortunately still quite a few Stiflers out there. And its mind numbing because it’s all SO easy to change. It’s just going to require some effort and a mindset change to fix this.
When I think about growing up – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a man call another man names. Someone who he perceives as “weak” or inferior. I know this because each and every one of these things has been said to me. Maybe not always in an angry or harsh manner, but it all means the same thing. If you're a dude reading this right now, you know what I'm talking about.
Unfortunately, when we are younger, we don’t have the mental capacity to realize that it has nothing to do with ourselves at all. It's about the person hurling these negative comments who more than likely has some underlying issues of their own. We then internalize our feelings and take it all personal anyways. Some of us even start to truly believe some of these things. This warps our sense of self-efficacy and self-compassion. It also feeds things like gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity – but that’s a different issue. Good news is we can shift our vocabulary and make small changes to chisel away AT the larger issue.
I’m not one for “canceling” things, I prefer to educate instead of cancel. However, I think we can definitely ‘repeal and replace’ some things that men say to other men. Each one of these I’ve heard personally said out loud by another human man in some sort of situation. I’ll explain briefly WHY I believe the person said it, and offer a more optimistic, empathetic, or optimistic example of what could or should have been said.
Man up / suck it up
This is often said to a man that is struggling with something. Whatever he is struggling with - he needs help OPENING UP as to why he is struggling. Telling someone to man up invalidates how he is feeling altogether and suppresses his emotions. This has been told to boys and men for decades and is a big reason why men don’t share their feelings. When you see a man is struggling, or even get the sense that he MIGHT be struggling – approach him from a place of empathy and kindness, rather than judgement and criticism. Men need to OPEN UP and say how they're feeling, and those who listen need to do just that...listen.
You’re doing anything "like a girl"
Usually said to a man who has different throwing form, or a way he may carry himself. This is meant to shame the man in to feeling like he is weak. This phrase is a big one to unpack because of the effects it has on EVERYONE. It invalidates the man in his confidence in what he is doing, he may not be doing it to your standards or perceived perfection, but he’s doing it nonetheless. Let him live. In a wider scope, this is detrimental to WOMEN inferring that they cannot do things that a man can do or are somehow ‘bad’ because of it. If someone is doing something incorrectly, or could be given some constructive criticism, feel free to politely offer suggestions – but there is no need to bash an entire gender.
You’re a wimp / wuss / a pu**y / a bitch
Often used when a man can’t lift something, is afraid of something, won’t confront or face a fear, or any other myriad of reasons used to put a man down. It is often paired with “man up” for an extra added jab to the ego. Fear is a real thing. Sometimes it is warranted as a wired response to protect us from danger. Instead of insulting someone for their fear, try one of these two things: ask them WHY they feel they way they do, and what’s the root of the fear. If that won’t work, or you’re not comfortable – then say NOTHING. Why interject yourself into someone’s personal fears and risk making their situation worse.
That’s gay / you’re gay / literally any homophobic slur
This is usually said to a man that is doing something that society has deemed as “feminine” or “only for girls”. Wearing colors like pink, or enjoying things like theatre/musicals, even something as simple as mannerisms. This is equally as bad, if not worse than saying someone is being a “girl”. The gay community fights hard to scrub stereotypes like this and using these terms in a derogatory manner towards anyone or anything that isn’t literally “gay” perpetuates the stigma. Instead of judging a man for doing something you deem as “feminine” – why not view what the man is doing as a strength? Perhaps it brings him joy. Just leave it alone, or maybe consider growing up. Stifler was funny in 1999...but the humor line has moved, and so has society. Be better.
I will be honest I have heard these phrases less and less as the years have gone by, as society becomes a little more empathetic and evolved, but it’s still out there.
Remember what all our moms and grandmoms used to say “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Sometimes someone just needs to be heard rather than receive an earful of judgement on their behavior or mannerisms.
I think this is also why men can be so violent, they’ve experienced some form of the above for too long. Holding all that in creates a powder keg of resentment and rage.
Men die by suicide at a higher rate than women. Men are imprisoned more than women. Men are more likely to live on the street than women. I think this is a result of how men treat one another. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Being kind to each other doesn't make us weaker, it might just save our lives. Embrace empathy, kindness, and little by little, we’ll continue to change the way men feel about themselves. Be kind to your mind, my dudes and keep the MEN in MENtal Health.
If you or someone you know has trouble grasping any of this, or you've been a victim of this type of bullying - you're not alone and there are tons of resources out here for you. I'd be happy to have a chat with you as well!