It can take a lot of courage for a young black man to make this admission: "I was never really a tough guy, I don't like sports, I have some feminine mannerisms."
Those are the words of rapper Tyler, the Creator, who recently talked to Fader magazine about fashion and masculinity in the black community.
"The black community is very fixated on that hard masculinity, they always
With that said, here's what black men everywhere need to know about masculinity: Teaching black boys to "man up" through relentless policing of candid expression does more harm than good for a child's identity.
For many black men, so much of their self-worth can be wrapped up in "being a real man." Often, parents play a major role in these early tests of a boy's "manhood," going to great lengths to prod their sons into masculinity. They are often doing so out of a fear that, in addition to racism, their son may be seen as "too feminine."
"Growing up I learned that you must wear the mask of masculinity every hour, every minute, every second of every day."
But gender and sexuality
Calling any boy a faggot, sissy or punk has absolutely no positive effect on his self-esteem or his ability to form healthy relationships with women and men, Samuels said.
"If you have a child who does not display the type of virility or macho that you are looking for and you try to make that child fit a very narrow view of masculinity, then yes, you have done harm to that child," Samuels, who is also a professor of human sexuality at LaGuardia Community College in New York City, recently said to Mic in a phone interview. "You might make him display something that you want him to be, but that does not change the way that he feels inside."
Growing up I understood that I must wear this mask of masculinity every hour, every minute, every second of every day. ... And that also meant that I worried about things like my clothing choices. I would wear 36 size jeans, when I was really a [size] 28. Or a XXXL T-shirt, when I was really a 's-medium.'
...One of the consequences of always wearing this mask is that you must remain hypervigilantto everything around you – constantly scanning and surveying everyone and everything, in hopes that your [gender] performance is rewarded with a smile, a head nod, [or a] dab, or something that looked like approval.
Conversations about masculinity are often hinged on a
"At the root of it, they are trying to keep us safe," he said in a recent interview with Mic. "But often times it shows up in a very
Davis added: "There's a cost to teaching masculinity — it's emotional, physical and psychological. When you are performing these ideas of masculinity and femininity, you're the one who is losing out and others are losing out on knowing who you really are."
To be sure, tearing down a black boy for his effeminate mannerisms and telling him to "man up" is an ineffective response to centuries of racism, Samuels said.
"It's just over-the-top masculinity," he said. "You can take it too far."