Impact on Boys and Men
Additionally, promoting hypermasculine ideals causes other problems. Shaming of emotions, the body, or normal needs and wants deeply wounds boys and men and can result in trauma, addiction, aggression, and codependency. (Lancer, 2014) Usually, this occurs in an environment of dysfunctional parenting, where shame, and often abuse, has already undermined boys’ developing sense of identity. Teaching boys to be hypermasculine and to disrespect women as equals encourages domination, emotional abuse, and violence. Showing fear, sadness, or any sign of vulnerability is often interpreted as weakness. First, vulnerability is judged by others, and then boys and men judge themselves. The emotional toll on men is never discussed, because it’s considered “weak” and shrouded in shame.
Children internalize judgmental messages as toxic shame and conclude that they’re flawed and unlovable. Without treatment, it can last a lifetime, negatively affecting self-esteem, sexual identity, and their relationships. Some suffer silently, not knowing how to meet their parents’ expectations; others try harder to conform to masculine ideals. Many boys must play act to be someone they’re not.
Adolescence often exposes them to humiliation during a period when openness and honesty aren’t allowed. They have to hide their feelings and natural instincts. They feel alienated from other boys and from their real self. Some boys reject the tough, abusive role model their father represents, and as teens withdraw and have difficulty establishing their masculine identity. When boys and men have to defend their toughness and image, it further heightens their vulnerability to shame as well as their defensiveness. Some become bullies to compensate for insecurity. Like the counselor at the ropes course, they shame others or their own children when they become parents the same way they were shamed at home.
As adults, men hesitate to open up or share their feelings or seek help because of buried shame. Anxiety and depression result when teens and men can’t turn to others or professionals for support for their stressful feelings and unmet needs. Many try to manage their feelings with sex, gambling, drugs, or other self-destructive behavior, which becomes addictive and worsens their shame and depression.
Impact on Girls and Women
From an early age, many girls are objectified as objects for male attention and admiration. Their appearance becomes their primary value, rather than their internal worth and many other skills and attributes, such as intelligence, leadership, ingenuity, or creativity. Fathers may give daughters inappropriate looks or make sexual jokes or statements admiring or criticizing their bodies. Young girls who want their daddy to love them may not recognize this as invasive.
Due to cultural values or having been raised this way, often mothers pass this on to their daughters. Society places pressure on girls as young as nine, or earlier, to be beautiful and thin for others before girls are self-conscious of their looks and bodies. This compromises their self-esteem at an early age and promotes eating disorders. Some mothers doll up their toddlers with jewelry, hairdos, and nail polish, and not long after, makeup and an over-focus on thinness. The advertising media contributes to this image of women, ignoring their needs for autonomy, adventure, and intellectual pursuits. Girls that are naturally more “tomboys” are often shamed by their mothers to be different, just as sensitive boys are shamed as “sissies” by their fathers.