In the picture on the next page, we see Max going down the street in his home town. Think about what is happening in the picture. Next, answer the following questions in your group and note your answers in this worksheet.
My romantic relationships have been very much influenced by the fact that I don’t feel good in the male role. By this, I mean that my character nor my behaviour don’t correspond to what is expected of me as a man. As a man, I should not, for example, show my emotions or be overcome with it. It is considered that you must be gay if you’re emotional. And some men take this as an insult.
At the same time, the men who aren’t afraid to show their emotions are often subject to ridicule. For example, once it happened to me that I was walking down the street with my brother, and when I took him around the shoulders, a bunch of boys started to shout at us that we are gay and started to be hostile towards us. I suppose, to them, it was uncomfortable to see two men who are so close to each other and who don’t have a problem to touch each other.
To me, it is a complete nonsense to hide your emotions at all costs. It is dangerous; it takes away one’s strength. Friendship between men suffers from it as well when you cannot share your feelings and open up to others. Then, this friendship is not so deep and close.
Now, I am in therapy where I deal with my emotions. I think I’ve gained new self-confidence there. I have a chance to reflect on how I perceive myself as a man. Since I share my problems there, I can admit what I experience inside, and I don’t have to be strong but, on the contrary, I can admit that I need help. This helps me a lot. My brother, who is my best friend and with whom I share similar values and experiences, helps me with this, too. We can openly talk to each other about emotions, open our hearts to another and support each other in therapeutical care. That’s because we agree on the fact that emotions have a place in the man’s life.
We have just read a real story from Lora. Now, let us try to answer the following questions:
The story of Max and his relationship with his brother illustrate to the reader how male gender, stereotypes and expectations related to it can affect men’s mental health. The brothers who are emotionally open to each other in public in the story encounter ridicule from others because they are considered gay. Despite its brevity, the story sketches the power of prejudices which we may hold against men’s emotions and close male relationships.
This societal dynamics is mainly based on the stereotype that emotional openness, emotionality, and communication are female qualities that do not befit men. As a rule, male attributes are defined by adjectives such as strong, determined, fearless, rational, decisive, and aggressive. These attributes are in a direct contradiction with attributes that a woman should possess — empathetic, sensitive, irrational, gentle. As a result of the way male gender is understood in our society, there is no room for expressing any feelings of weakness, uncertainty, or fear. If a man dares to express such emotions in public, he gets disciplined by society (e.g. by ridicule), and his “male status” can be notionally taken away from him (e.g. by insulting him in the sense of being gay or “a pussy”).
Male gender does not allow its “owners” to sufficiently express any emotions of weakness and uncertainty, thus placing them in a role when they must cope with everything, not be afraid of anything and not ask for help. This attitude, logically, has an impact on the mental health of men because they do not deal with their mental issues or illnesses, and they leave them untreated. They are afraid to seek help from their close ones or professional help because they do not want to look as weaklings who cannot deal with their problems. This way, they are getting into the situation when their masculinity is in contradiction to their disability because this disability does not correspond with the image of strength and autonomy. 1 In extreme cases, when the situation becomes unbearable for a given person, they may decide for an extreme solution — suicide. In the Czech Republic, around 1500 people per year take their own life; there is 4 times more men than women among them. The world statistics are similar, for example, in Australia, the most frequent cause of death for men below 45 years is suicide. 2
In his life, Max, too, faced the contradiction between how the “real” man should behave and how he actually felt. This was significantly affecting not just his mental state but also his ability to create fulfilling interpersonal relationships that are honest and deep. Max was able to break the vicious circle of societal expectations and real needs; he was not afraid to seek not just professional help, but he also received the support of his family.
“Now, I am in therapy where I deal with my emotions. I think I’ve gained new self-confidence there. I have a chance to reflect on how I perceive myself as a man. Since I share my problems there, I can admit what I experience inside, and I don’t have to be strong but, on the contrary, I can admit that I need help. This helps me a lot. My brother, who is my best friend and with whom I share similar values and experiences, helps me with this, too.”
Porkertová, Hana. “Nevidomá Zkušenost: Disabilita Jako Asambláž a Vztah Mezi Diskurzem, Tělem a Zkušeností.” Disertační Práce, 2017. ↩︎
Poljakov, Nikita, et al. “Muži Končí Sebevraždou Čtyřikrát Častěji Než Ženy. Neumí o Svých Pocitech Mluvit — Aktuálně.Cz.” Aktuálně.Cz — Víte, Co Se Právě Děje, Aktuálně.cz, 4 Mar. 2019, https://zpravy.aktualne.cz/domaci/nejsi-sam-1-kapitola/r~f7e34ad82ab411e996370cc47ab5f122/. ↩︎