6 – Recognize and Wrestle the Masculinity Stereotypes.
Dear mom, We talked before about your son’s unique bent and how he was created as a unique masterpiece. Don’t forget . . . you have talents, abilities, and a one-of-a-kind personality too! There are many ways where you may be alike – great bonding material. In those areas where you’re different, you can learn from each other and that’s a great way to bond as well! So, here’s the thing, if we are going to celebrate God’s creativity in each other, we must recognize the learned stereotypes passed on to us by culture and wrestle with the stereotypes that cannot be found in God’s Word.
Seeing your son as an individual, a young man who will express his masculinity in his own way, will help him become an emotionally healthy man in spite of the mixed messages he receives daily.
Do you remember this rhyme from time past?
What are little boys made of
What are little boys made of
Snips & snails & puppy dogs tails
And such are little boys made of.
What are young women made of
Sugar & spice & all things nice.
Ask yourself: are all boys defined by snails and dog tails? And are all girls sugary nice? Is a boy not truly “all boy” if he is a percentage sugar or spice? The snips in the early nineteenth century nursery rhyme are “little bits of” things with the assumption that it’s the little things found in a boys’ pockets. Bits of string, bits of rocks, bits of shells, bits of sticks, etc. Bits of just about anything you might find in the pockets of little boys.
I’ve struggled for years with the commonplace idea that masculinity is predominantly defined by athleticism, brawn, hunting, toughness, or the pursuit of cars. Don’t get me wrong. If your son falls into any of these or any other male stereotype categories, that might be his unique bent. But, what if the things “in his pocket” resemble art, tenderness, creativity, or a song in the color of pink? If he fits in that category of sugar and spice and bits of nice, is there something wrong with his masculinity?
We call the oversimplified generalizations of gender attributes and differences — gender stereotypes. These stereotypes can be positive or negative and sometimes fail to communicate accurate information. We might all be guilty at times for applying gender assumptions to others regardless of indications to the contrary.
For some, the stereotypical male role may conclude that all males are self-assured, independent, career‐focused, competitive, and keeps his emotions in check (to name just a few). Men are sometimes expected to eschew vulnerability, sensitivity, and nurturing behavior. These kinds of labels can be harmful and may hinder a young man’s growth, expression, creativity, and spirituality.
Is it possible that we are just afraid of that which we do not know or have been preconditioned to fear? For several years now, I’ve asked the hard questions. I pondered if there was something wrong with me. I examined the discourses of books on the topic of masculinity and found excerpts that made me question my identity and God. Did He make a mistake?
What does the Bible say about masculinity? How does society or the church define or dictate our gender stereotypes? Is there room for “boys” like me who don’t seem to fit the macho mold? Have we bought into the snips and snails mentality? These are just a few of the questions I have been asking over the last couple of years when I started writing NOT A MALE FAIL: Discovering a Biblical Masculinity Beyond the Stereotypes.
I’ve written several blog posts on the topic and would love for you to explore them all, but here’s just a few to maybe get you started:
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