By Angel Reyes, REACH volunteer
Coming from Miami, Florida to Massachusetts was not an easy task for me. As an incoming 18-year-old college freshman, my goal in my first year in college was to play for the Lasell College Men’s Basketball Team and to be the best student I could be.
Moving to another state was not easy, especially being away from my family and being exposed to diverse cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, etc. It was all very overwhelming, coming from a community that was predominantly Latino. My way of coping with it was to show that I was the Alpha male around and not care what anyone had to say. For the entire fall semester, I was emotionless and felt that if I had shown any weakness to any of my peers or teammates they would see me as weak or feminine.
To many men, being called “feminine” feels like an insult that attacks our masculinity, giving us a negative view of women, as if they are weaker than us and aren’t as knowledgeable or important as men. During the spring semester I took a Social Change & Advocacy class, where I begin to learn about toxic masculinity. This topic really caught my eye so I continued to learn and research this concept because I realized the impact it had on me; I was being suffocated by this toxic masculinity.
As I start to do more research on my own, I come across a TEDTalk by Justin Baldoni. In his talk, he creates a dialogue on how toxic masculinity has made men society’s puppet in today’s world, being pressured and forced to act, speak, and look a certain way. From generation to generation, men feel as if the qualities that we learned growing up are what make us “manly.” I became aware that my need to always be seen as Strong, Brave, Tough and not showing any emotion was actually making me weaker.
Toxic masculinity doesn’t just impact men. The pressure men feel to be dominant and in control intersects with issues of sexual and domestic violence. Men who have experienced pain but feel like they can’t show it, bottle up their hurt and anger and may become controlling or hurtful to those around them. Jessica at REACH shared with me this idea that “hurt people hurt people.”
I recently interviewed a group of young male athletes and asked them what they think it means to be a man. Of course, everyone had their own perspectives on what it takes to “be a man.” One young man said, “To be a man means to stand up for what you believe in… value what’s true in life, and to take care of your people and your loved ones.” Traditionally, men are often pressured to be protectors and providers. Rather than throw that script away, I think it’s important we broaden the definition of what it means to provide and protect. For many of us, this idea of protecting your loved ones is a crucial part of being a man. Protecting can mean more than physical protection; protecting your loved ones can also encompass advocating for their rights and ability to be treated equally and live freely.
I also had the chance to interview CEO of Motivation4Lyfe, Inc, Juan Chediak, Jr. Motivation4Lyfe is a Non-Profit Organization that raises awareness for mental health issues through the sport of basketball. Chediak, Jr. shared that to him being a man means “to be there for your loved ones all the way through, from beginning to end no matter what.” While society may often pressure men to provide financially, being a man means being able to provide support for our loved ones whenever they need us and making sure that no matter the situation they can count on us. Lastly, us as men need to be able to profess our love to our family, friends, and loved ones. We also need to be able to profess our fears, vulnerabilities, and pain to our loved ones and with other men.
If we do not embrace these three P’s, we will live in a world where many people live in fear and men will continue to turn to violence to express their feelings. So, I am calling out all men, to not just be better men but to be better human beings. How can we all put a stop to this Toxic Masculinity?