An Honest Post About Masculinity

Masculinity and femininity are no longer two sides to the same coin, but rather the same side. John Dwyer thinks modern culture needs to stop defining genders by their differences.

Being a man is the same thing as being a woman. Too often, masculinity and femininity are seen as contrasting, like yin and yang, or at best, like two sides of the same coin. I’m telling you here, they are in fact on the same side.

My argument is a simple definition of masculinity. Being masculine is being true to yourself. Whenever you are being honest and true about who you are, you are being a man. I like whiskey and coffee. In fact, yesterday at the breakfast table, I made a comment to my girlfriend that I could probably live off of them for a surprising amount of time. She didn’t look particularly pleased, but nodded as she agreed.

Many people, if they were being honest, would agree that type of lifestyle is (for better or worse) stereotypically manly. However, I argue that a man who prefers tea and vitamin water, but acts as if coffee and whiskey would sustain him, is actually being a pansy. Admitting that a well-steeped drink and enriched aqua gives him energy is the manly thing to do, more so than pretending otherwise.

Honesty is manly, and it doesn’t always win you friends, which is also a masculine trait if you think about it. Being truthful can drive people away, especially when telling the truth hurts and isn’t that “lone wolf” image, that archetypal ideal of independence, a manly image? I’m not arguing for complete honesty 100% of the time. In fact, I am reminded of one of my favorite verses of Anne Sexton:


“There was snow everywhere.

Each day I grueled through

its sloppy peak, its blue-struck days …

… to lie

as all who love have lied.”


I have believed for years that lies are necessary to relationships, even pleaded with my girlfriend just to lie to me on occasion. However, she is as feminine as they come.

And that’s the crux, femininity is about honesty as well. There is no caveat, no conditional to the statement differentiating it from my argument on masculinity. When a woman is honest about dreading Sunday and the sports games that keep her significant other transfixed, she is being as feminine as the woman who confesses to looking forward to curling up on the couch and watching the very same games.

Why does culture insist on defining men and women by differentiating them? In the modern day, isn’t independence as inherently feminine as it is masculine? Aren’t compromise and conversation also as much a mark of the modern man as the modern woman? The details are complex, but my argument is simple, masculinity and femininity at their cores have always been about being true to yourself. As a culture, we simply muddled up ourselves with our cultural values. Being a man isn’t about being a provider, or being a lone wolf, it’s about having the courage to be whoever you are.

Being in a relationship is not necessarily a part of being a man, but I bring it up as a counter-example. When my girlfriend asks if the latest outfit she put on before heading to work looks better than the one she started with, we both lie. She lies as she asks for my honest opinion. I lie when I assure her I was awake when she had on the first outfit. Maybe the most masculine of men and feminine of women can’t ever truly get along, but somewhere in between we make it work.


Photo courtesy of ralphbijker

About John Dwyer

John Dwyer is the co-editor for The Strip (adult language but SFW). Learn more about him on his website or contact him through email, Google, and Twitter.


  1. Man, within reason, is whatever he needs to be… and to be so take some balls. The drive to strive lies at the heart of positive masculinity.

    Woman is. And woman is complementary to mans needs. She must be so, if we are to survive.

    Survival is our biological imperative.

    Femininity in the positive, is submissive in nature, playful, alluring and seductive to its polar opposite, positive masculinity.

    Unadulterated human history clearly shows us these truths.

    We will always have much to learn from each other. When we are void of fear and honest of heart reason will lead our way once again.

    Simply remember this… Regardless of our individual strengths, without each other we are nothing.

  2. John Dwyer says:

    I wish I could hit “Like” for all these comments. Ladies reading this over their Irish coffees, men chewing on the ideas all day, regardless of agreement or dissent, I’m glad you guys are discussing this.

    I do have to agree, the definition I give here is vague, but maybe it’s out of necessity. When Greg says “Masculine means exhibiting the qualities associated with manhood,” I completely agree and want to go more into detail about those qualities, although I think he understands that I disagree with the conclusion of the sentence, “as opposed to womanhood.”

    Greg also concludes with one of the best comments so far: “The best we can do is stop trying to act manly at all, and be the people we’re meant to be.” I agree, stop simpering because you think you’re supposed to simper, or pounding your chest because you think people (read: ladies) will respond. Be proud because it’s simply what you are. Or not, of course, ha.

    Also, shout outs to Ms. Greenwood, finding internet access from the asylum and being okay with a man who can cry, bitch and moan, and the Marine who is inadvertently playing the Ted Hughes to her Sylvia Plath. I treasure dramatic irony above all else, so bravo.

  3. This article has stayed with me all day and made me think. Thanks.

    Unfortunately, I think your definition of masculinity is too vague. Yes, I like to think a good man is an honest man, but that doesn’t mean we can just change the meaning of the word “masculine”. Masculine means exhibiting the qualities associated with manhood, as opposed to womanhood. That’s it.

    Of course, anytime you associate any trait more with one sex than the other, you’re going to run into all sorts of contradictions. If I say it’s masculine to be ______, someone else is going to say “what do you mean, a woman can’t be feminine and be _____.” But it’s just a model, and as some of the commentators have said, people are who they are, and they don’t always act according to a sociological paradigm.

    The important thing is no matter how one defines the word, it’s how we define ourselves that matters. If you act a certain way SOLELY because it’s masculine or feminine, you’re being disingenuous. However, if there is a value that is traditionally considered masculine or feminine that you admire, by all means, make it your own. No matter what your gender is.

    I think the crux of the problem is we want to redefine masculinity, create “the new masculinity”, and somehow make that mean sensitive AND strong AND cool AND feminist AND dot dot dot. Then we can call ourselves manly men and not be seen as part of the dying patriarchal oppressive regime. But unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of control. The best we can do is stop trying to act manly at all, and be the people we’re meant to be.

  4. I’d be willing to buy this hackneyed argument that “gender is a social construct” and the only things that matters is that we are all just people, et al, et cetera…yet inevitably, in heterosexual relationships, when a woman gets involved with a “sensitive” and “enlightened” guy, there will be a point in which she either resents him for not being more of a “guy”, or at the least, gets bored with him…and starts checking out all the “bad” guys (masculine and dangerous guys) that she, as a “liberated” and “enlightened” female is not supposed have feelings for. I know this is not supposed to happen, and we are not supposed to talk about it, but that’s real life, folks.

  5. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    John, thank you for this article! Sincerely, a woman who is, as she types, fixing her Saturday morning Irish coffee. 🙂

  6. Thank you. I like reading articles like this, because even as someone that identifies as a straight female, I often feel that I am very “masculine”. But I agree with you, these things are in fact one in the same and there is no need to gender them. When you gender these things I feel like my experiences aren’t valid – I’m a woman that enjoys more “masculine” activities. I rejected all things feminine from an early age and did what I wanted, but the older I get, the more I feel that I am very out of place, like I am a woman with little “femininity” to speak of. I started “feminizing” myself but I can’t really push myself that far into traditional feminine institutions before it starts feeling wrong.

    • How ironic. There is NOTHING wrong with masculine women…AT ALL.
      About a year ago I was with a woman who when we first met stated to me “I’m not a girly girl”. My response to her was a sexualized version of… “Yes you are or you wouldn’t be apologizing.”

      With that said, sweeping masculine/feminine distinctions under the rug is a very feminine way of dealing with the negative feelings you have about your self and the way other people feel about you. Now please understand that I am saying this with love.”F” you and “F” everyone who either has to pretend masculinity doesn’t exist or that a masculine woman will bring about the end of the world.

      PS. You’re not as masculine as you think you are.

  7. Both concepts of masculinity and femininity are disingenuous to begin with. 

    The way see things Masculinity is a false projection of strength 
    -“I ain’t got time to Bleed”

    While Femininity is a false projection of weakness.
    – “oh I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers”

    Both of these performances claim exclusivity to various personality traits that make up a complete and healthy human being. 

    However while it may be easier for Women to shed the notion of fake frailty,  Men are still expected to dance for their supper.

    Men can’t just walk away from expectations of strength. We can’t cry, b!tch , moan or gush about anything that will causes us to lose our “Command Presence”. 

    …(in theory)

    • Esther Greenwood says:

      I’m not sure who is making you dance for your supper, other than a woman who is trying to shed a notion of fake frailty, and honestly, I don’t know what the hell you are even talking about. You make some pretty grandiose assumptions about gender roles, and in doing so, you are part of the problem that is perpetuating social constructed and historically acceptable notions about what it is to be a man or a woman.

      Why can’t men walk away from expectations of strength? Because you say they can’t? And further, does that presuppose that women cannot walk toward them? If a guy is unable to “cry, bitch, moan, or gush” then I am uninterested in him.

      Your idea of “command presence” would make me giggle if it wasn’t so fucking stupid. Stop these performances and just be who you are. It must be exhausting to perpetrate so much outdated ideology on a daily basis.

      • @Ester by “dance for our supper I mean submitting to the positive and negative reinforcement tactics employed by both men and women who enjoy classic stoic masculinity up to and including sexual attraction, job  promotions  money & admiration. 

        And Yes, my opinions are grandiose but is it any more grandiose then the nearest Rap song, the latest action Movie hero, Video Game character, Ultimate Fighter, Media Bad Boy, NBA/NHL/NFL athlete. 

        Is my opinion of Masculinity any different from what society is telling us what Manhood should be through the media?

        Furthermore ,You obviously don’t understand what I’m taking about because we seem to be in agreement.

        You’ve glossed over the part where I said 
        -Both of these performances claim exclusivity to various personality traits that make up a “COMPLETE” and healthy human being.

        …that’s what makes enforcing or even defining Masculinity and femininity disingenuous. It robs you of your personhood.

        – Command Presence is the sum of those abilities that allow an individual to effectively lead a group  without becoming emotionally unstable.

        It’s a United States Marine criteria.. Of which I proudly served OooRah!

        When you are able to stand I front of 30 Marines and read off the orders of the day while your sergeants grade your composure, your communication skills your voice inflection, your competence, you’ll know what Command Presence really is.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      Men can’t just walk away from expectations of strength. We can’t cry, b!tch , moan or gush about anything that will causes us to lose our “Command Presence”.

      Why not? Don’t you have free will and the ability to make choices for yourself?

      • Other then the hazing, gender policing, social ostracism, and the bullying that one might face growing up, there are no organizations out there hell bent on “enforcing manhood”. It’s just something that happens while you grow.

        However, I have read a couple of articles on this site where women voiced their disapproval of their boyfriends “Crying at Movies” and one in particular where one of the editors at the GMP felt that his wife and daughter distanced themselves from him when he became emotionally unhinged. 

        My theory might very well be an over simplification but it is what it is. I try to maintain a stoic but joyful demeanor because that’s what “I” value and that’s what my gf values in me.

  8. John Dwyer says:

    I think there is a question of whether or not masculinity is different from femininity, mainly because I brought up one view point and now you have brought up another, Joe.

    Your second paragraph really confuses masculinity/femininity with male/female. I’m not trying to nit-pick, but it’s important because the qualitative assertions you make (and single quantitative one) are a really interesting argument for why it might be better to be a female than a male today. Not only am I not discussing the genders themselves (rather the traits typically assigned to the genders) in my post, but I’m really completely uninterested in any discussion over whether men or women are better than the opposite sex.

    Your conclusion is, however, wonderfully apropos. You say that “being an adult” (your words) is “being who you are” (my words). I would completely agree, because being a man or a woman is being an adult, as opposed to being a boy or a girl. I’m really glad we could find common ground!

  9. Oh fer Pete’s sake…

    Look. There was never a question that masculinity is different from femininity. You’re addressing a non-issue. The point thrown in our faces for years yea unto decades was that masculinity has been considered superior.

    I’m resisting saying that this was never true historically, but only because that’s not an argument worthy of my attention right now. Regardless, it’s hardly true now. Not with boys being put on ritalin on-mass, and not wtih a 40-60 men to women ratio in colleges. Not with female phd’s outnumbering males (check out the graph on page 8). Not with divorce laws favoring women and especially mothers so overwhelmingly.

    It’s not that being a man is “being who you are” (your words). That’s being an adult. Right now, being a man means you’re responsible. Even when you’re not, you’re responsible.

    After all, some’s gotta be.

    • This is a great perspective:

      “Right now, being a man means you’re responsible. Even when you’re not, you’re responsible.”

      Thank you for that.

  10. “Culture insists on defining men and women by differentiating them…” is so true….when men and women enter relationships, they are even more expected to slip into pre-arranged roles and act a certain way…like what they have seen their parents and grandparents perform in the past….I have seen so many of my friends become so rigid and controlling down to the smallest morsel of food once they have a family and kids (and some of these people were so liberal and free and wild in their single days)….

    One of my best friends, when she is going through a difficult period, sighs and recites some ancient saying, “Men are hard, women are soft…” (which means that whatever men endure out in the world, those experiences make him tough….while women should be always be tender and forgiving at home with their spouses because of the hardships he must endure on the outside…at least, I think, that’s how I interpret it…)….

  11. There is a masculine form of honesty and a feminine form of honesty. They are very different.

    • I don't know says:

      Please explain the differences.

      • I’d be happy to, but can you first express what you think honesty means. cause if you aren’t on my page there is no need to have a discussion.

        • It might be helpful if you define honesty as well, if you’re looking to be on the same page with someone.

        • Kirsten (in MT) says:

          IDBY, how about you explain that, too. You’re the one making the unsubstantiated claim. Go ahead and define your terms. So to recap:

          1. What are your definitions of honesty, the masculine form of honesty, and the feminine form of honest?


          2. What is the difference between the alleged masculine form of honesty and the alleged feminine form of honesty?

          • The unsubstantiated claim is from the OP. I simply disagreed. It’s not the job of the defense to prove innocence. It’s the job of the prosecution to prove guilt. We are a dimorphic species as are all primates. One does not allege the masculine and feminine, one alleges androgyny. You have it backwards.

            The sad part is that culture vs biology have been excluded from this discussion, yet some still struggle with just observation. This is a simple yes or no question. Simple as in do women and men go to the bathroom the alike? No.You do it in groups/behind closed doors and sitting down. We don’t. One does not need to reference origin.

            Honesty is gendered too and its quite obvious that is it.

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