1) 21st century men cry.
“I have always worn my emotions on my sleeve. Some are more acceptable to the traditional norms of masculinity than others. Anger…ok, happy…that works too, frustrated……of course, sadness…….um, wait a minute, that’s weakness, don’t be bringing that weak shit around here…I used to wonder whether crying made me weak and I guess I would be lying if I said there was probably a time I would have gone somewhere private to cry. But the conclusion I have come to is this. My ability to express my emotion without apology is perhaps one of the bravest things about me.”
— Read “I’m a Man and I Cry” by Paul Gillbride
2) They know that locker room talk will kill them.
“To begin with, of course locker room talk doesn’t mean that every man who indulges in it is a predator, but it most certainly perpetuates a culture in which predators can hide. The term “locker room talk” is literally designed to insulate men who speak this way, as if they exist in some kind of mythical man-only space. There is no such space….The term “locker room talk” is a morally bankrupt excuse for what men choose to say and where we choose to say it, as if the context in which we say something somehow excuses the harm it represents.
But here’s something else that men also need to understand. Men need to understand how much damage locker room talk does TO MEN.”
— Read “Locker Room Talk Will Kill You” by Mark Greene
3) Modern men believe there are dozens of different ways to define the phrase “man up”. And none of them need to be used to demean men or make them feel as if they are falling short of some masculine ideal.
“When I was growing up, “man up” was used to enforce my behavior, especially when I expressed emotion, appeared weak or needed help. As an adult, I continue to watch men around me use the phrase to promote senseless violence, homophobia, sexual conquest, and the most destructive of male behaviors—excessive drinking, drug use, and high stakes risk-taking.
I am on a mission to reclaim and redefine what the phrase “man up” means, so that boys and young men coming of age now can be spared from its wrath. There is a critical mass of men already helping to challenge the outdated model of masculinity (many of which are regular readers and contributors of The Good Men Project), but it’s time for all of us to finally come together and embrace this urgent movement to redefine what it means to be a man. By doing so, we are not only advocating for our own well-being, but also promoting a better, healthier, safer, happier world for all.
For example, Man Up = Forgive: Whether it’s the jerk on the L train or your father, make peace and let go.”
— Read 25 Ways to Redefine the Phrase ‘Man Up’ by Carlos Andrés Gómez
4) An enlightened 21st century man will realize that marriage is not the death of all things masculine.
“At any given instant, I could spew a furious and multiplying list of reasons on why the institution of marriage was irrevocably fucked up:
- I don’t want to doom our relationship by following impossible expectations
- Marriage always turns into friendship with diminishing bennies. Why complicate something so simple as love?
- Marriage is slow-motion castration. Why sublimate my sexuality for a daydream?
- Marriage kills the romance and the sexual chemistry of a good relationship. Why ruin a good thing for an impossible ideal?
- Marriage is a baby boomer obsession. Gen X and Gen Y don’t have the same hang-ups. We can get down or disengage whenever we want
In some cases, these arguments are still valid. But something changed inside me three years ago. I was driving through K-town with a friend when I had this epiphany: I don’t have to get married for all the fucked-up reasons I abhor marriage, I can get married for all the things that make marriage beautiful.”
— Read “Marriage Is Not the Death of All Things Masculine” by Jackson Bliss
5) Men today can and do escape the Man Box. All the time.
Men are bullied and policed for not saying inside the “Man Box”. And when names are called, they almost always fit into one of three groups: gay, female, loser. That says pretty interesting things about homophobia and sexism. Those are the bricks that make up the Man Box and shame is the mortar that holds it together. The Man Box is one of main reasons why men harass women on the street and why catcalling and violence tends to escalate when men are in groups.
— Read more about the Man Box and how to rid yourself of it in Escape the ‘Act Like a Man’ Box by Charlie Glickman
6) Men of today are totally fine with a woman saying “no” to them. No matter what the reason.
SOME MEN simply just don’t want a woman to say “no” to them. For any reason.
They simply can’t imagine a women saying the following words to them. It would be a personal affront, a sign of failure, just something they cannot handle as reasonable adults.
“No, I don’t want you to kiss me.”
“No, I can’t give you that promotion.”
“No, that report isn’t good enough.”
“No, I don’t want to flirt.”
“No, I can’t give raises across the board.”
“No, your idea isn’t going to work.”
“No, I’m too tired to have sex with you tonight.”
“No, I’d prefer you didn’t touch me there.”
“No, we cannot pass this bill as written.”
I have seen this firsthand. I have been told this overtly in workplace settings; I have been told this overtly in sexual settings. The gist of what I am told is: “I’m not going to have some woman tell me “no”.”
And what happens is—-if a guy is one of those guys who won’t take “no” from a woman—they will do everything they can to undermine her if she does say “no”.
A woman saying “no” is not a clear path to bad behavior not happening. For abusers, saying “no” has it has the opposite effect.
Saying “no” to an abuser leads to more abuse.
— From “How the Word ‘No’ is the Bridge Between Sexual Assault and Sexism in the Workplace“ by Lisa Hickey
7) Masculinity is being constantly redefined. But traditional stereotypes are still omnipresent. Here’s how one man sees it: “How To Be a Man”
“When I volunteer at my oldest daughter’s elementary school—or just observe as I walk across the campus where I teach—I don’t see some entrenched “p.c.” culture war being waged, successfully or not, to turn boys into, well, me. I still see those traditional roles and ideas normalized, reinforced, lionized, on the playground, on the sidewalk, in the classroom, by their peers and adults alike. And for boys whose definitions of young manhood are different, who don’t play ball on the field or blacktop or act in “boy” ways and do “boy” things, well—I don’t see them. I’m not saying they’re not there, but just like me at that age, in that situation, maybe they’re off somewhere else, doing their own thing, not calling attention to themselves, because everything they’ve imbibed about what it means to be a man tells them to avoid that attention or suffer the consequences.
— Read more at “How to Be a Man” by Jason Sperber
8) Men often use humor to hide the pain of sadness, despair, and even mental illness. But there will come a time when they can just be themselves.
From a young age, men learn to endure pain and unhappiness and become master manipulators of their own mask—donning smiles and humorous quips—because admitting to feeling mentally exhausted is considered a sign of weakness. They continue despite the fact that they’re bleeding profusely and hurting. It’s not far-fetched to consider that the role of fixer or problem solver begins in childhood and grounds men throughout their lives. Society’s gender norms still tell us that boys and men don’t cry and there is no room for insecurities.
‘Fear, sadness, and vulnerability are not masculine and if a man expresses any form of uncertainty, he is unreliable and unstable,’ says society.
— Read “How Men Use Humor to Hide the Relentless Pain of Sadness, Despair and Mental Illness” by Irma Bryant
9) Imagine being so comfortable in your masculinity that you could wear a white dress and barrettes.
“Growing up, haircuts came from a tight-lipped, barrel-chested bald guy named Joe the Barber. On his feet six days a week in a hobbit hole of a shop that reeked of antiseptic and aftershave, Joe wasn’t the cheeriest of coiffeurs. He kept the blinds shut and the conversation limited to the weather, sports, and local tragedies. Joe held curt, grim opinions about all three topics.
Joe specialized in buzz cuts and simple trims. Young customers got lollipops, but those of age could browse a stack of Playboys by the register. Those early experiences in grooming set the tone for my thoughts on masculinity in general. Men held a utilitarian relationship to hair, met the world with a grimace, and enjoyed porn.
…When I went off to Oberlin for college, I decided to let my hair go, as the guys at Salon Francesco would say, au natural. When I complained about it flopping in my eyes, a girl down the hall lent me a barrette. A simple, boring metal clip. I fell in love.
Finally my hair could just be itself! Better still, the barrettes brought out more of my curl. I’ve always fetishized women’s hair, and I took to spending long moments in front of the mirror, poring over my own. Soon I had a collection of plastic bows and lacquered barrettes sitting in a box on my dorm dresser.
By the time my dorm’s traditional Halloween all-campus party came around, expectations were high. What would I wear? Too busy with studies to think of an elaborate costume, I decided to throw on my most boring clothes—a turtleneck, a sweater, slacks—and go as Eddie Bauer. Someone I might have seen at my suburban mall, or walking the halls of my Catholic School on dress-down day. Someone safe and traditional. At this point, that kind of style felt like a costume to me.
A sophomore girl down the hall convinced me otherwise. Tall and attractive, she suggested I wear something of hers—and I couldn’t resist. Though her smirk made me think she found the idea funny, I glowed under her attention. I liked the idea of throwing on one of her dresses, of aping this more lovely, adventurous feminine spirit. I picked a short white dress that advantaged my legs and emphasized my narrow waist.
I don’t have a picture of myself in that dress, which is a shame. Because later that night, sitting in a stairwell smoking a clove cigarette, I met my future wife while wearing it.”
— From Ballad of the Barrette Boy by Brian Gresko
10) We’ve heard that when fathers raise children with disabilities, stereotypes of manliness disappear.
“Behold! Fatherhood. Manliness optimized. This is your golden moment as the dominating species and you have everything—a wonderful wife, a great job, a beautiful home, and now, children. You are right on track for a cup runneth over with fulfillment. Soon to come are baby’s first steps, the first day of kindergarten, sporting achievements, first dates, graduations, college, weddings, grandchildren, and more. You are The Man and you are providing for your family. Life could not get better.
Like the 1960’s Batman cartoon, a blow to the head has you reeling and you don’t know what hit you. You’ve just returned from an appointment with a developmental specialist and your baby girl has been diagnosed as severely intellectually disabled. Wait! What? This isn’t right. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Your baby girl is handicapped? Disabled? What? You’re dazed and confused. This isn’t manly. What should you do? This isn’t what fatherhood is all about.
Or is it?
News to you. This is what your fatherhood is all about.”
11) Men of today understand that strength comes from helping to dismantle racism, sexism and homophobia.
“There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them…White people don’t want to hear about race because the don’t want to be called “racists” or they cannot see how they are responsible for something they didn’t do.”
— From “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” by Steven Locke
“The more I talked to women about permission and consent, the more I saw how rare it was, even for “good” men or “conscious” men to show this kind of concern over a woman’s experience. Often I would talk to women for hours before we had sex, because I refused to move forward if there was even the slightest doubt about it being a true “yes”. The more I stressed the importance of communication with women I was with, the better my experiences became. The more I slowed down our interaction and brought awareness to speaking our desires, the hotter we would get for each other.
I started having experiences that were incredibly fulfilling both sexually and emotionally. Women would tell their friends about me. One even joked about starting a yelp page and writing me a 5-star review.
And yet, when I would explain this to men and enroll them in the idea of allowing a woman’s desires to lead the interaction versus their agenda for sex, I would occasionally get the comment “but that sounds so lame”.”
— From “I Promise It’s Not Lame to Ask a Woman for Permission” by David Booda
“My son couldn’t contain his excitement showing off the dress to the only two kids playing…your daughter and her friend. He skipped and twirled and chased them for ten minutes shouting, “Do you like my dress? I’m wearing a dress! Can I play with you? Will you play with me?”
Remembering those ten minutes fills me with emotion…because his unencumbered joy thrilled me. He radiated happiness. He beamed like a sun, like a firework, like every clichéd metaphor for joy. Except it wasn’t a metaphor. It was glorious. How I wish he could hold on to that pure excitement. How I wish I could watch him be that thrilled every day of his life.
I’m sad because society somehow tamps down such delight. It’s embarrassing to the rest of us. Except behind closed doors, when do adults (or even teenagers) jump around with excitement? And some day even my little boy will probably be self-conscious about such excitement.
And of course, wearing a dress in public might not always bring him such unabashed joy.”
— From “To The Other Dad on the Playground the Day My Son Wore a Pink Dress” by Gavin Lodge
12) The dangerous link between the man box, emotional suppression and male violence.
“The Man Box is a set of rigid expectations that define what a “real man” is. A real man is strong and stoic. He doesn’t show emotions other than anger and excitement. He is a breadwinner. He is heterosexual. He is able-bodied. He plays or watches sports. He is the dominant participant in every exchange. He is a firefighter, a lawyer, a CEO. He is a man’s man. And whether or not we’d actually want to spend any time with him, we all know who he is.
This “real man,” as defined by the Man Box, represents what is supposedly normative and acceptable within the tightly controlled performance of American male masculinity. He dominates our movies and television. He defines what we expect from our political leaders. He is the archetypal sports star. He is our symbol for what is admirable and honorable in American men. And if he happens to get aggressive, belligerent and violent sometimes, well, that’s just the price of real masculinity.”
13) Yes, you can choose your own masculinity!
“Men who date women often talk about times that a certain way they expressed themselves led to being shamed by others—even their partner. One guy spoke about how he was expressing some excitement to his girlfriend and he impulsively twirled. She got quiet and expressed a deep dislike for him doing this: it wasn’t the kind of reaction she was comfortable coming from her boyfriend. The relationship didn’t last. …
How we learn to express our gender isn’t fully our choice. When were were infants, someone decided how to dress us. Someone told us what a “stud” we were or how “Strong and handsome” we looked—even though we were only 10-months-old!
The general public does allow for boyish exuberance, but as we get closer and closer to puberty the consequences for straying from the “norms” get more and more dire. Now we’re adults and the choices are ours except that there are years—maybe decades—of shame that has reinforced those norms. It won’t be easy, but you get to decide now what you want to undo.”
— From Justin Lioi, Choose Your Own Masculinity
14) Sometimes strong men give up. And that’s OK.
“Men are expected to stay the course in order to remain good and stable husbands, fathers, and providers.
So men often “give up and stay,” as the song goes. This is not because they lack dreams or ambition, but the cultural norm is to steer a steady ship, especially if he has committed to financially care for others.
But what if he hates his job? What effect does this have on his primary relationship and/or his children if they see him dragging himself to a day (or night) of perceived drudgery, returning home sucked dry of energy and joy?
What if he is in an unhealthy relationship?
In our society, fulfilling the traditional gender role becomes more important than living a happy and fulfilling life, and the pressure to do so remains enormous, even in this relatively evolved day and age. But the courage to break from that and declare “This isn’t working for me” is truly super-heroic.”
— From “When Strong Men Give Up and the Power It Takes to Do So” by Kara Post-Kennedy
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