Male Expectations

Many people grow up learning that masculinity is being brave, strong, independent, dominant, or something within that barrier of existence. They are told that men don’t cry, or that men go out and work while women stay at home in the kitchen. Masculinity becomes this little box that every boy is told they have fit into when they’re older. The values taught in fairy tales and folklore help adults build this box around their children. 

Starting with the concept of knights, they create the idea that boys have to accomplish impossible tasks to receive validation. Little kids are told stories about knights slaying dragons or winning great wars for the love and support of their people and internalize the idea that they have to do something impressive to get affirmation from those around them. Even if they aren’t kids, people should feel like they are enough without the pressure of proving themselves to everyone. The standard for men is strong and brave and it forces people to push themselves to act that way, possibly hurting themselves in the process. They shouldn’t have to live up to this standard or be criticized or degraded for not doing so. 

Princes also set an unrealistic standard. They essentially demonstrate that you have to be a certain kind of attractive for people to be interested in you romantically. Princes in kid’s movies are typically depicted with sharp(typically European) features, short hair, and a decent amount of muscle. Kids without these features might find themselves ugly because they don’t fit the template of “love interest” used for most animated movies. In addition to this most prince characters barely have any personality other than “righteousness” or ”bravery”. It’s hard to consider the Disney princes more than side characters in the dramatic lives of the princesses. We don’t know a single thing about the Prince from Cinderella other than he’s rich and pretty and that he possibly likes dancing. This puts out the message that men just need a good face and body to be desirable and having big dramatic feelings or even a personality is “girly”. This is horrible since male beauty standards are hard to achieve and are very much centered around muscle definition and good features, which not everyone has. 

This leads to the idea that every prince just happens to be perfect for the girl in his story. The Beast just happens to be the perfect match for Belle’s “quirky” personality. The prince that cures Snow White is magically the man of her dreams. A similar occurrence happens in Sleeping Beauty. The main characteristic of every prince is that he’s perfect for his princess. That’s just teaching kids to abandon their true personalities to mold themselves into the person someone else wants them to be. It kills any sort of individuality or personal depth that might come from not catering to the ideals of women. It also makes the main premise of their lives to do anything they need to to make sure they get a girl, whether it’s lying(Aladdin), kidnapping(Beast), manipulation(Peter Pan), or anything equally despicable. Men are expected to have and abide by both romantic and sexual feelings, when they don’t they are considered weird or maybe playing a longer game with the same goal, which is a gross and immature mindset to have as a society and shouldn’t be encouraged. 

Male figures in children’s media also set poor examples. Most of them are handed their lives on a silver platter and are commended for it. They play into the toxic image that men are above women and, going back to the Cinderella example, should get whatever girl they want. Even if the prince saved her from a horrible life, she very much did leave him alone at a party and did not give him her name even when he asked for it. It also supports that men can do whatever they want as long as they are hot, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White might have gone a little differently if their princes hadn’t been conventionally attractive. 

To sum it all up, the stereotypes and standards created for boys by fairytales and kid’s media are harmful to everyone and should be changed to be less so. Toxic masculinity is learned and people need to stop teaching it. Being a man is simply conforming to one side of the gender binary, it shouldn’t have to be this complicated.

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