Man Up served up some of the most stirring television of the year.

Last night, we watched teenage boys cry openly on national television. It was a beautiful moment worth celebrating.

It happened on Man Up, a programme anchored by comedian/radio host Gus Worland that explores what it means to be an Aussie bloke.

Wednesday’s episode looked, in part, at blokes-in-training; Year 10 boys, including Worland’s son, replete with long hair, lanky limbs and awkward laughter.

The boys challenging traditional masculinity with workshop coordinator, Tom Harkin. Images: ABC.

We became flies on the wall in a masculinity workshop staged at their high school, a program designed to help them tackler gender stereotypes and re-think what it means to be a man.

They began by painting their finger nails, to highlight one of countless unspoken "rules" about what's acceptable for guys. Among the others they suggest: "not to cook (unless it's bacon and eggs)", "like sport", "be popular", "don't get caught crying".

But before long, that's exactly what happened.

These larrikin boys became vulnerable, they exposed their insecurities to their peers; they not only admitted to crying (only "at home", "where no one can see you"), but articulated what makes them do so.

There was a boy who confessed to acting like a "smart ass" to hide embarrassment about his height, another opened up about his parents' divorce, another about getting teased for his facial deformity and fears about his father's illness - suspected bowel cancer.

But as much as their honesty and emotional courage was incredible to watch, more so was the way they react to each other.


To the boy with the sick father, a fellow student said, "I just think it must take so much guts for you to do that, about your dad. And I'm so sorry if I ever said anything to you, man."

Breaking down in tears, he continued, "I hope that you can be strong through that. I just feel so bad for you man. I'm so sorry if I've ever said anything to you. I'm so sorry. "

It seems as if that such raw emotion is not something that's ever left these boy's bedrooms, let alone been displayed in front of their friends.

And for the workshop's coordinator, Tom Harkin, that's entirely typical.

"Men and boys all over the country have that waiting under the surface," he said on the programme. "Humans have emotion and if you put a bottle on it, it's going to explode and people get hurt."

To fathers of young men, like Worland, he offers this thought:

"I think a lot of Dads would say, without hesitation, that they want their sons to talk about their issues and get support if they need it. Would they say the same about themselves? Would they willingly go in to a counselling session if they were having a hard time? Or would they willingly talk to their best mate and shed a tear talking about some of the challenges they face?

"I think that until we re-frame tears rolling down your face and you wearing it with strength, that is courage."

p.s. The boys kept the nail polish on.