I wish we saw more examples through media of men being human, being emotional (beyond variations of anger) and having vulnerable hearts. Because when we see it, it is beautiful. Josh Daniel, a 21-year-old contestant on the X-Factor, is one brave young man who shows us this beauty.
I know this is a silly reality tv show, but for so many kids the media plays a huge role in how they develop their understanding of gender. So I’m grateful Josh’s story is going viral, because in it we see his love for his best friend, as well as his love and respect for his mama. We better understand his connection to the beautiful lyrics and music of this song, “Jealous” by Labrinth, especially as interviews come out in which he talks about the depression he suffered after his friend – who five years prior had received a lung transplant – died from complications of pneumonia following a biking accident. Josh’s ability to expose himself raw, to bring an audience and three judges to their feet, tears streaming down their faces was remarkable. In today’s hyper-masculine culture, it is also rare.
One of my favorite parts of this clip, and it only lasts a brief few seconds, is when we see Josh take a bow and stay with his hands on his knees, overwhelmed with the feeling in that moment. He smiles for himself over a job well done, yet shows us his bittersweet emotions following the perfect tribute to the dear friend he said goodbye to all too soon.
And this kid’s voice. Oh my word, his voice.
I hope to raise my little boy in a way that he understands how our culture presents masculinity is far different than what is best for him. I hope my husband and I teach him that “to be a man” is to be human, with heartache and jubilation, love and grief, and everything in between.
Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.