Column: Masculinity is an outdated construct

In the past, women were forced into conforming to rigid beauty standards. From the suffragettes in the 1910s to the female body-positivity movement today, these standards have evolved into more health-focused directives. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of masculine physical and emotional standards. In fact, men are now contained within a smaller box of socially acceptable behaviors and appearances than women.  

Let’s start with the ideal body type for men. We see it in commercials all the time: The ultra-masculine guy with toned muscles and six-pack abs. He is obviously in perfect physical shape and yet he acts as if his appearance is something he doesn't work on. We all know it isn't possible to look like that without putting in any work, but men, while being indirectly told they need to strive for the ideal masculine body, are also told they need to assume a careless attitude when it comes to appearance. 

These counteractive messages make it almost impossible for men to speak out against their unattainable body ideal because if they start a conversation on the topic, they are breaking the unspoken rule of never admitting their interest in their own physique.  This contradiction leads us to the emotional expectations for men. Men are still occasionally referred to as the "provider" of the family, an outdated way of viewing gender roles and something that we are working on changing. 

However, as women are being told they can achieve any job they want and to break the mold that society has made for them, men do not seem to be hearing such a message. In a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, more than six million men were found to suffer from depression every year, and yet men are far less likely to seek out mental health help than women. The emotional standard society has painted for men that is still in place today is one of strength, both physical and mental, in an individual who should never need help.

No one can live like this, and we need to start putting out as many messages focusing on breaking masculine standards as we put out on feminine standards. I am sick of reading article after article on "mansplaining" and lists of tweets that insult men. 

How are we supposed to expect men to not conform to the mold society has made for them when we keep shoving it in their faces and making fun of them? Last time I checked, we are all humans whether we are men or women, and we need to come together to build each other up. This is not to say that women have never faced sexism from men, but it is also happening the other way. This double standard is neither acceptable nor a solution. Stop insulting men and start building them up.  

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