I’m sure you’ve seen dozens of those Real Men are… or Real Men do… or Real Men like… posts all over social media; those pesky little memes that have the secret to being a Real Man guaranteed to make you not a boy? I hate those things, mostly because the idea of Real Man is stupid, sexist and dangerous.
Anytime you try to define what a real anything is, you run the risk of either offending or upsetting someone part of the group you run the risk of either offending or upsetting someone part of that group.
WHAT IS A MAN?
I know, I just said how bad it is to define “man” and here I am doing just that. But before you go all “you hypocrite!” on me, close your yap for a minute and pay attention. Seriously; you might learn something. For those unaware, “man” does have a definition: a male who has reached the age of majority. And that’s the only definition. Any other definition is bull shit and should be ignored for the good of current and future generations. That nonsense term “Real Man” means the same thing; nothing a male does makes him more or less a man. So stop claiming that.
A man may or may not enjoy the company of woman. A man may or may not enjoy dirty movies. A man may or may not be sexually experienced. A man may or may not have a beard. A man may or may not be handy with a hammer and nails. A man may or may not be a sports hero. A man may or may not pee standing up. A man may or may not experiment with another man (though a good portion will, FYI).
You get the idea yet?
Being a man is matter of age; your mental capacity, maturity, treatment of others, bank account, hobbies and every other aspect of a person has no bearing on their level of manliness. There are no levels of manliness. There is man and… not man. Stop adding things that narrow the definition.
CAN A REAL MAN…?
Yes. Whatever you were thinking a real man can do, the answer is yes. Whatever you ask what a real man can’t do, the answer is no. A man can do and say and be whatever he wants. Being a man does not define his attitude, his thoughts, his actions, his intelligence, his strength or anything else some people like to attack to his gender. A man can do good, do bad or fall somewhere in between. I know it feels all good and whatnot to declare someone like Bill Cosby isn’t a “real man” but it’s simply not true. Being abusive, physically, mentally or sexually doesn’t disqualify one of their manhood; it only makes them a bad man.
If a man dons a bright pink dress, slathers on makeup and dances the freaking cha cha in stiletto heels, he’s still a man. Well, unless he identifies differently but that’s a whole different post. My point is, what he wears doesn’t change his gender. Ignore the useless gender roles our society has and look beyond what those 1950’s sitcoms told you what it meant to be a man. Open your mind.
WHY TOXIC MASCULINITY IS TOXIC
There’s this long held belief that boys should be aggressive and figure express their emotions through physical violence; they’re not taught to talk things out and end up bottling it up then exploding in a fit a rage. And that training carries on into adulthood where we end up with men who don’t know how to deal with bad shit in healthy ways. This is bad. Very bad. Why? Because Real Men don’t cry.
We also have boys who are raised to take what they want, no questions asked. That shit leads to real bad things like rape. They grow to feel entitled and can’t deal with hearing “no” and then… well, Bill Cosby-type things happen. Why? Because Real Men take what they want.
Boys are also taught they’re in charge; they wear the pants in a relationship and women should bow to their whim. And when a woman asserts herself? Remember Ray Rice? Why? Because Real Men don’t take shit from women.
See the pattern here? Toxic masculinity not only harms boys and their development it also harms girls who suffer because of the ridiculous rules placed on manhood by people who claim to know the secrets of uber manliness.
There are no secrets; “manliness” isn’t a freaking real thing. It’s construct that does more harm than good.
WHAT BAD CAN IT DO?
If what’s above isn’t enough, try a loss of individuality.
There’s a laundry list of things a boy is expected to do once he’s a man so instead of concentrating on becoming a well rounded adult, he’s forced to abandon a happy life for one society has deemed worthy of his penis.
Boys and men are mocked is he’s emotional, likes show tunes, stays at home with the kids, stays a virgin, takes ballet, speaks with a lilt, likes pink or does anything else not deemed appropriate for a heterosexual male. There’s no reason for this; we’re not Stone Age cavemen trying to survive; we’re human freaking beings who deserve to be happy.
What artists and educators and dancers have we lost out on because somewhere, someone told some little boy that his dreams were “girly” and he needed to “man up” if he wanted to be accepted in life? How many dreams have been crushed because that dream wasn’t “manly” enough to be worthwhile?
How many people have been hurt because some little boy grew up to be a man with no control over his emotions and impulses? Think about that next time you tell a boy he shouldn’t cry or that he should toughen up. Think about the damage you’re doing to him and the damage he could do to someone else when he’s bigger and meaner.
HOW TO BE A MAN
Boys, the only secret to being a “real man” isn’t a secret. There’s nothing you do or say that moves you from boyhood to manhood. You simply reach it after you’ve been alive for so long. Honestly, there’s nothing more to it. It won’t matter what you wear, like, think or dream; you’ll be a man when you reach the age of majority.
It’s the type of man that you’ll need to decide you want to be. Do you want to be a kind, loving man who is open and honest and treats others with respect, secure in his emotional expressions? Or do you want to be an abusive, egotistical blowhard who bullies those around him and can’t see another as his equal?
Look inside and really think about what it means to be a good man. Consider how you’d like to be treated and treat others the same way. Be kind, be gentle, ne sincere; don’t let the ugliness of the world destroy the good person you are. Allow yourself to feel; if you need to cry, cry and don’t be ashamed to be in touch with your emotions. You deserve to be happy and healthy and dream those wild dreams. And remember, no one can tell you how to be a man – nobody needs to. Just be you.
If you’re lost, reach out. If there’s no one around you to listen, don’t give up. There are places you can go to find someone who’ll listen and encourage you. You are more than penis-related stereotypes. You are a real person filled with thoughts and emotions and you have every right to express them. And as always, if you have any questions you’d like me to answer, just send it my way and I’ll do my best to give you one.