It is common knowledge that the media and pop culture have profound effects on girls from a young age. Society tells them to be dainty and defer to men and look a certain way in order to be accepted and desired. What is not as obvious, however, is what message society sends to boys and what affect that has on them later in life.
From an early age, society tells boys to “man up.” No crying, no emotions and definitely no acting “girly.” This leads to internalized expectations of behavior which must not be violated at the risk of being ostracized. This can include picking “girl” colors, playing with “girl” toys or even slacking in a game or ceding defeat.
Repressing feelings that might be classified as feminine or weak leads to boys feeling lost and like they cannot express their true feelings. They are taught that the only way to get what you want and to make people understand them is to act out and use violence. Society has created and perpetuated the idea that masculinity must be earned, and so boys and men are on a constant mission to prove themselves, often going further than their friends to earn the distinction of “man enough.”
These checks can lead to violence, either to others or self-inflicted. Boys in late adolescence are seven times more likely to commit suicide than girls of the same age; they are also more likely to do poorly in school and more likely to use alcohol to cope with problems.
Telling boys to “man up” also plants the seeds for resenting women, as they are seen as the thing to “not be,” the cautionary tale of behavior. Women from a male’s perspective are allowed to express themselves fully and do not have to constantly prove their worth. Thus, women are thought to be regarded as easy targets because girls are taught to defer to men, and a man’s worth as a man is so often linked to how many women he’s slept with and how many more are waiting in the wings.