This past week-end I was fortunate enough to attend a musical performance by a friend of mines brother. The performance was absolutely great. But what I could not get out of my mind was something that happened at the performance. A family came in with adorable young children that all sat down in front of my table. The family seemed to be meeting other people there.
The kids were all really respectful, a lot less antsy then I would have been at a concert at that young age. One of the young girls, about the age of four, went up to the young boy, about the age of six or seven, who I presume to be her brother, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. It was a simple kind act of sweetness.
It did not faze the young boy, he even started to crack a smile afterwards. But not thirty seconds afterward another adult that was in the group laughed and pointed at the young boy for getting a kiss on the cheek from his sister. Immediately the young boy roughly wiped his cheek off with hand, suddenly looking disgusted. I sat there in disbelief. I wish I could have said something.
The ways in which masculinity manifests is truly intriguing to me. But when I think about gender norms, specifically masculinity, I think about college aged men, because that is the climate I have been in. I forget that the socialization of young people starts the minute they enter the world.
This little boy, smiling at his sister was fine until an adult man-made him embarrassed. Not even another kid, but an adult. An adult who took it upon himself to police two young innocent children. We have to break the cycle. We have to let people grow up with emotions, with the desire for love, the ability to get a kiss on the cheek.
To be fair that man probably meant no harm. He did not understand that one incident could contribute to that little boys understanding of emotion for the rest of his life. Why do we care so much? Why can’t young boys be allowed to show emotion.
This incident reminded me that kids are not the ones who judge. It isn’t kids who wake up one day and decide to bully, to harm others, to be violent. Our surroundings affect us more than we like to think.
The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn – Gloria Steinem
We create reality, we can change it. Let’s unlearn our social expectations, unlearn gender norms. We can allow young boys to cry, we can allow men to show emotion. We have to start now. I can not wait for the day I see more adults encouraging love and compassion for all young people. Stop telling boys to suck it up, to not be a girl, and to stop crying.