Your words have power. Speak words that are kind, loving, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving.” -Unknown
Watch the language of toxic masculinity around our sons, as it may be suttle, it is micro-aggressive. The truth is that our words do matter! Together, guiding the next generation of young men into a new world free of sexism, misogyny and chauvenism needs a change in language. Toxic masculinity language has become so common in our society’s venacular. There are many terms that have underlying affiliations.
We need to be aware of our words while raising conscious and confident men in today’s world. What is the message when using terms such as “grow a pair” or “pussy”? Inferring that there is a superior or inferior way to do things based on which genitalia you are born with. These messages ingrain themselves in the fabric of our understanding of gender. These micro-agressions start to form our thoughts and beliefs. Though subtle as they may be, have become part of our consciousness.
Consider the word “Bitch”. As a young woman growing up in the Mean Girl era of the 90’s, this was a word very commonly used and one that rolled off my tongue quite frequently in my own struggle to survive in the times of female relational aggression, popularity, perfectionism and male attention. As women, we are now discussing our experiences and our role as being part of, female relational aggression. We need to lift each other up, not tear each other down in order to dissolve it.
Female relational aggression infers that we are all in competition with one another rather than in support of one another’s success. This idea became one the tenants of the “Girl Power” movement in school initiatives over the last twenty years. Teaching young girls how to be kind to one another while holding one another up, has been transformational in the development of young women.
“Bitch” is one of those words that possesses a powerfully negative effect in its meaning and is putting women in a place of inferiority. It’s a word that women are rising up against. We can teach our young boys how damaging this word can actually be. Teaching them all of the other words that ignite “hate speech” towards every group of people, whether it be gender, race, religion, or sexuality. We don’t often think of “Bitch” as being as offensive as it really is, but looking at it through the same lens as any other derogatory terms for a group of people, it should be treated the same way.
Consider that we have heard sexist language so often and in such a cavalier manner, in song lyrics or as comic relief, that we don’t often think about the purpose behind it. In raising young men differently, then being mindful of words that are not inclusive of everyone, that lifts up all sectors of our population, needs to be taught to them.
Does this mean we don’t ever use foul language? Oh far from it~ working with teenagers for twenty years means you are hearing all kinds of colorful language. An appropriately placed swear word, can elicit a powerful declaration, if you are truly skilled at it. However, there are plenty of other other cuss words to choose from that don’t demean or target any one group.
Think about all of the deep rooted terms that are so often hurled at our boys and young men while they are growing up. Terms such as “Toughen up” or “Man up” are all now being examined. Also, sayings like “There’s no need to cry” and “Don’t be a sissy boy” over something like a scraped knee. All of this gender based language has all contributed to what is now being coined toxic masculinity. These micro-aggressive terms based on gender is part of a “boy code” that have plagued our society. The way we raise our boys needs a change and why it is time to “bust the boys will be boys myth”. We have become desensitized to terms like “you’re throwing like a girl”, or “don’t be a Sally” as negative messaging against what is thought to be more feminine characteristics.
Consider, that there are so many terms that are ingrained in us from the past decades. Let’s pause for a minute and think about the meaning and the messaging behind them. These terms clearly feed into the notion that females are weak and anything feminine or soft doesn’t have any power. Terms like “grow a pair” are shaming in nature and perpetuate toxic masculinity. What a powerful lesson for our boys to learn about the impact of their language! When learning language, all of the cuss words get clumped together as no no’s or being naughty. It’s important to teach the reason why some words are used. Peeling back the meaning behind them, helps to raise the consciousness of young boys. Making connections with words they use can support our sons to take responsibility for the good of their family, classrooms and clubs.
Thank you for visiting my site. Let’s connect. I’d love to hear your story. Want more? Check out my latest book. Busting the Boys Will Be Boys Myth: A Guide to Raising Conscious and Confident Men in Today’s World