Redefining the concept of ‘manhood’

Jessica Rodrigues and Brooke Shimasaki

Suck it up and be a real man!

No, you can’t be in drama. You have to be in football.

Boys don’t cry!

Often, those words and ideas said are repeated to boys and young men as they grow up to become “real” man — but what is a real man and is there a difference between a “real” man and a “good” man?

Featured in “The New York Time’s” article “Man Deconstructed,” sociology professor Michael Kimmel asked a group of undergraduates this very question. When asked what a good man was, respondents answered “caring,” “puts other’s needs before his own,” and is “honest.” But when asked about what a “real” man was, respondents replied “takes charge,” is “authoritative,” and “suppress[es] any kind of weakness.”

“A real man is someone who cares for others and isn’t afraid to show his emotions,” junior Dalin Nelson said. New perspectives such as Nelson’s have rapidly spread among younger generations while older generations have blended traditional views with current values.

“The definition of a man is just being there for the family, whatever that role happens to be,” woodshop teacher Roger Crane said. “No role is clearly defined because every family is a little different.”

No one seems to have the same definition of what it means to be a man and although many studies have been conducted to empower and emancipate women from traditional roles, the same cannot be said for men.

So what factors make a man the way he is? Is it his upbringing?

“Being raised by two moms, I have really been taught how to respect women,” Nelson said. “I’ve been taught to show my emotions and think before I act.”

Or is social media the main influence?

“[Social media] portrays men to have to be this really fit god who has to have physical traits but can still have a dirt personality,” senior Mason Moreno said. “This is hard when you’re an emotional person but I do still consider myself to be a man.”

Or could it even be certain ethnicities’ different styles of raising young boys?

“When I was growing up, my grandma used to be at home and my grandpa used to be working as a lawyer,” Spanish teacher Senor Gil said. “The stereotype in South America was for the guy to provide food and security for the family and the woman would stay home and take care of the family.”

There is so much that is unknown about the understanding of men and the narrow spectrums of what defines a man only adds to the myths and misunderstandings. Noted feminist Gloria Steinem was quoted in Kimmel’s article as saying “men’s life expectancy increases by three to four years” simply if deaths attributed to “masculinity” are removed such as death from violence and speeding.

These consequences of “manhood” increase as the fallout of men who are in crisis impacts society — most mass shootings, rape, and acts of terrorism are committed by men. If men were more understood then some sociologists and psychologists posit that those crimes will lessen.

Some colleges are now offering men’s studies — including “The Philosophy of Becoming a Man” at California Lutheran University and “The Masculine Mystique” at Dartmouth College — in an attempt to further understand why men act the way they do.

“We need to understand how masculinity affected their experience [those involved in mass shootings],” Dr. Kimmel said in “Masculinity Deconstructed.”

“Letting men know they can reveal their emotions is a really good idea,” Moreno said. “Men feel just as many emotions as women.”

Despite the cultural or generational divide that exists in trying to define manhood, most argue that the true quality that defines a “real” man is compassion toward their family.

“A real man is responsible, takes care of the family,” Moreno said.  “He’s a real family man.”