White Ribbon research shows toxic masculinity stereotypes still remain in New Zealand

Rob McCann, White Ribbon manager, said the unspoken rules put pressure on boys and young men to behave in certain ways and dismiss 'unmanly' behaviour.
Rob McCann, White Ribbon manager, said the unspoken rules put pressure on boys and young men to behave in certain ways and dismiss 'unmanly' behaviour. Photo credit: The AM Show

The toxic masculine stereotypes of 'being tough' and 'boys don't cry' still remain in New Zealand, research shows.

The research, which was commissioned by anti-domestic violence charity White Ribbon, found the majority of men were exposed to masculine stereotypes as children.

While growing up 47 percent of the 485 male responders were told that boys don't cry, and 65 percent were told boys should harden or toughen up. Only 9 percent of the 524 female responders were told growing up they shouldn't cry.

White Ribbon manager Rob McCann said these stereotypes put pressure on men to behave in a certain way. 

"These unspoken rules put pressure on boys and young men to behave in certain ways and dismiss 'unmanly' behaviour, leading them to suppress their emotions and their individuality. 

"This affects how our boys and young men feel about themselves, and how they treat others," he said.

McCann said the violence levels of men against women are partly driven by these internalised behaviours because they affect how men approach relationships and act towards their partners.

He said the research results are "very concerning", and young men are being programmed with unrealistic and unhealthy ideas of what it is to be a man.

As part of this year's campaign, White Ribbon released resources to help 'Challenge the #Unspoken Rules' and show what healthy masculinity looks like.

"We need to say out loud to our boys and young men that it's ok for them to be who they are, and not get trapped in what we sometimes call the man box," McCann said.

The 'man box' is the expectation that men must appear dominant, tough and in charge.

International White Ribbon Day is November 25.

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