Twitter Hashtag Reveals Just How Damaging Expectations Of Masculinity Can Be

For many men in America, childhood was spent navigating a multitude of different expectations of masculinity reinforced by authority figures in their lives, like parents and educators, as well as consumer culture, the media and the world in general.

And for many LGBTQ people in America, childhood was also marked by repeated failure to fulfill those expectations ― often leading to cultural and personal consequences as a result.

On Thursday night, I tweeted out a joke about a memory I had of a time that I failed masculinity as a child ― by not wearing shorts that fell below my knees.

i think the weirdest code of masculinity i was forced to ascribe to growing up was the policing of the length of my shorts

— JamesMichael Nichols (@JMN) April 17, 2017

Followers soon joined in with their own memories of times that they failed masculinity as children ― and an idea for a hashtag was born.

we should start a hashtag #FailingMasculinity

— JamesMichael Nichols (@JMN) April 17, 2017

What followed was an emotional, telling and oftentimes painful series of tweets where people, mostly men, shared memories of moments from their own childhood when they, too, failed masculinity.

With responses ranging from memories of parents forcing kids to take part in sports against their will to kids and adults policing human responses considered feminine ― like crying or expressing too much emotion ― the hashtag #FailingMasculinity painted an important ― and sad ― portrait of what expectations of masculinity can do to children in American culture.

@huffpostqueer Being completely ostracised at school simply because I was a boy who didn't like sports. #FailingMasculinity

— Ryan Fuller (@RyanRFuller) April 17, 2017

Mom died when I was 10. Her dad wouldn't hug me or my brothers when we cried. "Men don't hug other men." #FailingMasculinity

— Nick Gilyard (@MrGilyard) April 17, 2017

Having a childhood friend's parent slap me for turning my tshirt into a bikini top. I was 7. #FailingMasculinity

— D Gilmore-Kavanagh (@DrDeclanK) April 17, 2017

When I was told I sound to "feminine" and I had to see a speech therapist to coach me out of it #FailingMasculinity

— MacChapinVEVO (@mac_chapin) April 17, 2017

@huffpostqueer Being told that I couldn't wear clear nail polish, because only girls wear nail polish. #FailingMasculinity

— Darius (@Darius89x) April 17, 2017

"I know It's your grandpa's funeral, but you'd better not cry. Guys don't cry." #FailingMasculinity

— Emily Crose (@emilymaxima) April 17, 2017

@Darius_H89 @huffpostqueer Being told I couldn't help my grandma cook because boys don't belong in the kitchen. #failingmasculinity

— Bwett Anderson (@be_rettSEA) April 17, 2017

@huffpostqueer #FailingMasculinity my dad would yell at me every time I crossed my legs when I sat because men sit with their legs spread out

— Mark Edward Moore II (@Mark_Edward21) April 17, 2017

Being told my hand writing was too girly and I need to write messier #FailingMasculinity

— Mikey ‍♂️ (@The_GayOverlord) April 18, 2017

Being told only girls wear makeup/ have long hair/ wear pink/ cry/ get their ears pierced #FailingMasculinity

— Jules Harper (@ItsJulesHarper) April 17, 2017

As a boy, My mom would throw away my Barbies, but my friends would keep buying them for me for bdays. RT @huffpostqueer: #FailingMasculinity

— Micah McCain (@MicahMcCain) April 17, 2017

When I silence myself for fear I'll be too "faggoty sounding", according to my middle school basketball teammates. #FailingMasculinity

— ☕️eric reiter (@trashygrandpa) April 17, 2017

Being rejected for flute lessons in school because it was only for girls #FailingMasculinity

— Matt (@MattCheetham) April 18, 2017

You can only get your left earlobe pierced, getting just the right, or GOD FORBID both was too feminine. #FailingMasculinity

— milkdodd (@milkdodd) April 17, 2017

Being told to stop singing the girl parts in duets #FailingMasculinity

— Petty Prince (@ImaSlave4Pop) April 17, 2017

I consider myself to be proud of being gay but I still have a lot of self hatred from dealing with being "too feminine" #FailingMasculinity

— Jimmy Fowlie (@JimmyFowlie) April 18, 2017

Having to be told growing up that I couldn't hug my male friends because "it's just not the right way" #FailingMasculinity #southernproblems

— Jon tyler (@Jontyler901) April 18, 2017

These painful memories filled with social repercussions for “failing masculinity” have long-standing consequences that can range from negative self-image to violence ― and that, for some people, can play a role in shaping human beings as they develop into adulthood.

Our society is moving towards a time where we are largely rethinking what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman, and creating space for gender expression as a spectrum rather than a masculine/feminine binary.

Parents should consider how policing actions and activities for their children based on the gender they were assigned at birth are actually affecting them long-term.

We need to let kids be kids ― no matter their gender expression. 

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