Does the passage to masculinity run through the heart of our environment? One textbook definition of masculinity is ‘possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men’. The qualities traditionally associated with men? Just how old are these traditions? Because, in today’s society, I have seen about three dozen so called traditional qualities which are almost all of the total opposite of what masculinity stood for in my grandfather’s day. Which wasn’t that long ago, might I add.
Masculinity used to be defined by a man’s strength. Physical strength. Which is why the cartoon ‘Popeye’ was so popular. The idea of a smaller man being able to overpower a larger man with only his own physical strength. Well, with a little help of his green leafed medication. Which some thought to be a metaphor for marijuana. But who was I to judge. I thought that ’s what a man was made of. Brute strength. That gave him the ability to defend himself, get the girl and defeat the bully. The most iconic man of those times. Popeye. ‘I yam what I yam.’
He didn’t have the best wardrobe. He didn’t have the best body. He didn’t even have the best job. But what he did have was this ‘air’ about him that just let you know he was a man. He didn’t have a face full of hair like his arch enemy Brutus aka Bluto. But he knew how to respect and protect the girl. He didn’t have huge muscles like Bluto, either. Although, he had forearms the size of dumbells. So early on in life, I saw and understood two contrasting views of masculinity. I saw what was given to me via media such as Popeye and Bluto. Then I saw what was given to me via prime example of the men in my immediate circle, such as my dad, hoodlums and hustlers. Granted. They weren’t the best models a kid could ask for but, they we’re all I had. And when life gives you lemons…
My dad was the hard working type, with lots of women. Most guys in the neighborhood had lots of women. Back then, it was like, the more women a man had, the more man he was. Not how I see it now. Now, a man who can maintain a strong relationship with one woman is the ideal man I strive to be. In my eyes and a host of others. Things tend to go a little different nowadays, we men. Long gone are the days where men need to have multiple women to validate their masculinity. Your level of testosterone is not a meter measured by social or sexual status. You can’t determine a man by his woman or women. It just doesn’t work like that. If that were the case, President Obama, as successful and ‘manly’ he is, would have had several women at his side in the White House. Do you agree?
Most of the time when you hear the word ‘masculinity’ it is intended to describe the greater part of being a man. The part that society dictates. The part that says ‘masculinity’ is the number one metaphor for man. With that being said, a man’s ‘masculinity’ is his defining point of portrayal. So, why wouldn’t we tend to over exaggerate issues that tend to defend us as men? This is why it is strange when we see a man overcompensate by having a ‘monster truck’ with a rifle hanging in the rear window. This man feels he has to prove his manliness by possessions and such.
I once, too, felt the same way. I used to feel like the more facial hair I had, meant I was that much more of a man than those who had less. I don’t depend on my facial hair to get me through doors anymore. Although, I sport a full beard, now. I do not think the beard validates my masculinity. I do admit, it adds character. I feel more distinguished than before. The beard doesn’t make me. I make the beard. I urge you to practice the same. Don’t feel compelled to be the man others want you to be. Don’t feel pressured to live up to society’s standards of being a man. We end up perpetuating stereotypes that way. And if we all did that. You can kiss individualism goodbye.
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