As the subject around mental health stigma for men comes to the spotlight I find myself further questioning; why is it that there is still a stigma? And what is it caused by?
Why can't guys have a chat about their feelings rather than asking each other how much they can lift? Through my endless questioning and pondering I turn my questions towards the female of the species. Before you ask No! I'm not another one of those meninists looking to point the finger towards women and blame them for this but just thinking, does the traditional perception of a "man" still exist amongst women of today? If it does then are we as men allowed to be as free and open to talk about our feelings and sensitivities?
The huge grey area of "what women want" is something men from all paths are baffled and stressed out about and it's no wonder with so many contradicting messages coming out of "trusted" media outlets that many young men of today consume. As always if in doubt turn- I to the university of Google and after a couple of hours researching this area I'm validated with: "Why Women Love Bad Boys, According to Science (Maxim,2015) "12 Brutally Honest Reasons Why Nice Guys Just Don't Get The Girl" (Your Tango,2016) 10 Reasons Women Don't Listen to Men (Shy Magazine, 2016) but one of the best ones has to be "Women Want A Sensitive Jerk" (askmen UK 2016).
Confusing much? Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many more mixed messages being translated through other media forms that the typical guy today is locking in to. The TV shows they watch, music they listen to and even social media platforms they follow. Guys are being bombarded with reality TV shows like Geordie Shore and Ex On The Beach promoting hyperbolic "lad" behaviour whilst on the contrary in music with the rise in phrases such as "R&B N****" often associated with artist Drake due to his "soft" and sensitive approach to Hip Hop. Furthermore there are thousands of viral videos floating around about guys quite frankly humiliating their girlfriends for comedic purposes (aww how affectionate...sigh).
So I can't be the only one confused here right? Who's to know whether it is it more desired to be a "lad" and a "bad boy" rather than a "sensitive nice guy". Maybe there should be one of those multiple choice tests like in the teen girl magazines that assign you with your designated role (don't pretend you've never done one of those). Whatever the role you're given or decide to choose to go for is definitely something that is going to influence the behaviour, actions and emotional acceptance of that particular guy. It will also dictate how "soft", vulnerable or even "ladish" is considered acceptable.
It's all starting to sound a bit scientific here but I guess what I'm trying to say is: If it's a "lad" that is favoured then you can kiss goodbye to crying about losing your pet hamster when you were five or any other childhood pet traumas (I never had a hamster just a cat that I'm still torn up over but I'm recovering) and step up to show your macho-ness and also be ready to play 101 annoying and oblivious pranks on your girlfriend that make her look stupid only to then get her approval and affection afterwards.
Whilst if the latter becomes the desirable type is there a danger of being too sensitive and soft? Should there be a spectrum? (not to go all scientific again) In other words is the guy able to speak completely freely and authentically about their feelings and their mental health, without any judgement or disregard? This kinda reminds me of the scene in the movie Bedazzled when Elliot (Brendan Fraser) makes a wish to the devil (Elizabeth Hurley) to become the most sensitive guy in hope to win over his love interest Alison (Frances O'Connor) which ends a complete fail. If you haven't watched Bedazzled here's a quick plug put it down on your watch list! (even if it's just to see Elizabeth Hurley in cat suit).
So if you don't fit on either ends of this "spectrum" is there a need to develop a hybrid breed? (Clearly I watch too many movies, there's a bit of Underworld creeping in here, FYI I'm team Lycan). Going back to the "The Sensitive Jerk" (askmen UK, 2016) which I would translate as the new age lad is this the answer? Is this what women want? Apparently so... "We want the best of both worlds. Call it a nice jerk if you will, but I prefer the term sensitive bastard" (askmen UK, 2016) if that's not enough to deal with the article goes on to say that recently divorced Johnny Depp is the "Ultimate Sensitive Bastard" (what an amazing title but I beg to differ after seeing a recent interview with Amber Heard but that's none of my business ey). The article also suggests that there is a "fine line" of being essentially a "lad" whilst still being mindful of your partners feelings and striking a balance, yet not letting her step all over you either.
I mean what's a guy to do now really?( starts singing just keep swimming by Dory.. Oi stop judging me) I think I feel even more confused after opening up this can of worms but feel like it's something that needs to be expressed. I'm by no means an expert in any of the fields of dating, women or mental health (yet but I'm training to be a psychotherapist) but wanted to open this dialogue to see if women's perception does have any influence on the mental health stigma for men and how this may lead to challenging ideals, media representation and possibly leaning towards redefining the "lad" which I believe is already being initiated by poplar platform "The Lad Bible" and their recent campaign UOKM8. I guess it's a start ey but who knows where we go from here?
HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.
To blog for Building Modern Men, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read our features focused around men, click here
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