What Makes a Man a Man?
On Thursday 25th April at our monthly #DearYoungers forum we had a workshop exploring What makes a Man a Man, of which 8 black males were present ages ranging from 17–38.
At the heart of the discussion was Masculinity and how this shapes a man physically and mentally.
As a starting point we looked at what is Masculinity:
• masculinity[ˌmaskjʊˈlɪnɪti] NOUN
Qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men. “handsome, muscled, and driven, he’s a prime example of masculinity”
•virility · manliness · maleness · vigour · strength · muscularity · ruggedness · toughness · robustness
Throughout the forum young males were asked a variety of questions, however there was one question that really stood out and challenged everyone present. The question was;
‘Who teaches you to be a man?’
Below are some of the answers:
• Environment (influence)
• The Bible
• Media (stereotypes/motivational guru’s)
• Teach yourself
• Different men
• Role Models
What was shocking is that out of all these answers, no one said FATHER.
Once this was highlighted by the facilitator, participants began to reflect on why this wasn’t said. One individual present said that his dad taught him how not to be a good man because of his actions towards his mother and explained that his dad wasn’t a good example.
The discussions around this question challenged everyone in the room as they struggled to comprehend why no-one could actually say father, what experiences had they gone through that had unconsciously shaped /influenced their perception of what makes a man, if father wasn’t the example who have they been looking up to.
For most of the participants it seems as though they were brought up in single parent homes, where there was limited contact with father, and so could this be why they didn’t say father when asked who teaches you to be a man? This was a very powerful forum discussion and is something that we will exploring in more detail on a large scale soon, so stayed tuned!
What makes a man a “real man”?
According to researchers, men’s masculinity is something that must be earned, and it must continually be proven.
Masculinity is something that in some sense needs to be “produced”. It is said, that
men can easily lose their sense of masculinity and when it is challenged, they respond to restore it. One prominent way males try to restore their masculinity is through aggression.
Men are pressured to adapt to distinctive physical and behavioural standards in order to be socially accepted.
The belief is that women are for example more emotional, soft, empathetic, and reactive in their actions than men. Men on the other side are rational, logical , and aggressive in their behaviour and decision – making (gender stereotypes).
Masculinity does not come to you naturally; it is something that needs to be performed and consists of multiple patterns of social practices and behaviours. It is an interactive system based on power and exclusion. Social settings in which masculinity is reproduced are for example football teams or armies, fostering an athletic form of masculinity and placing a focus on strength and physical power.
Men need to adapt to certain behavioural patterns and fulfil certain expectations in order to fit into the pattern of conduct which is considered superior within the social and cultural hierarchy of masculinity. Men are still put under the pressure to be solely active, courageous, outspoken, rational and so on, while at the same time denying them other equally important character traits which are stereotypically considered “female” and therefore weak.
There are different patterns of masculinity that pressure many into feeling the need to live up to a standard which is an unattainable illusion, a mere cultural ideal.
One part of being a man is constant comparison, an ongoing competition with other men concerning looks, strength, etc. This happens unconsciously and is something that is hard to stop.
What drives your Masculinity?
• Creating an image of yourself for everyone else to see
• Creating a certain self-concept–a mode of how you want to perceive the world around you.
• Reassure self and others through actions and statements
• Automatically lose a part of self in this process.
It is suggested that a black man , is a complex man who deep down is usually wrestling with the voices in his mind telling him to be a stereotype for him to fit in and be accepted, which reduces your character. For example, being strong and in control and thick-skinned means not being able to be soft and passive and sensitive.
As men we looked at what drives our masculinity using the famous superheroes Superman and Hulk.
For Superman to fit into society he must adapt the image (characteristics) of Clark Kent, well dressed, intellectual, some would say nerdy and weak. When society needs to be saved Clark Kent becomes the image of Superman, resolutely noble personality, caring, helpful, superhuman strength, superpowers, invulnerable. When Clark Kent becomes Superman, his masculinity becomes Purpose Driven.
On the other hand, for Hulk to fit into society he must become Bruce Banner, again intellectual, nerdy and weak. As the Hulk, Bruce possesses a nearly unlimited degree of strength, speed, durability, DESTRUCTIVENESS and regenerative capabilities that increases whenever he is even angrier, hence the old saying ”the madder he gets, the stronger the Hulk becomes”.
When Bruce Banner becomes Hulk, his masculinity becomes Aggression Driven. In conclusion participants were asked, ‘Is your masculinity purpose driven or aggression driven? As men, our masculinity plays a huge part in our lives as it is consistently tested and so we must invest in it for us to become our own hero.