Everything You’ve Been Taught About Masculinity Is A Lie

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[social_warfare]

As our society evolves, so must our view of what it means to “be a man.”

masculine

mas-kyuh-lin ]

adjective

pertaining to or characteristic of a man or men.

Well, there it is. The definition of masculine. Characteristic of a man.

As our species and societies have grown and evolved, the roles of men have evolved with them. To conquer and dominate have always been things inherently pursued by certain types of men, but power is obtained differently now than it was hundreds of years ago.

We still fight wars and conquer lands, but we don’t do it by riding on horseback into opposing villages. Therefore, characteristics of a commander leading a pack have changed as the job has become less “hands on.”

Less brute force, more strategic finesse. Higher technology in the tools. More advanced armies.

But that is a life experience only few will have. More of us experience things like relationships, friendships, parenting, being an effective member of a team or in a workplace.

Traditional roles of men have evolved in all of these scenarios. Which, like in war, require a new set of skills and approaches that we are still working on mastering.

During the generation my grandfather grew up in, for example, masculinity was synonymous with stoicism. It almost had a coldness about it. Lack of expression, emotional acknowledgment, and vulnerability.

These qualities were seen as “weak” or “feminine,” and therefore discouraged in the household for boys as they grew.

Boys with stunted emotional experiences often become toxic or abusive men. The one-dimensional “masculinity” of the past did not work.

We watched shows like He-Man and G.I. Joe (which I loved, by the way), and were shown the broad shouldered, square-jawed heroes of the day.

These characters, no doubt, provided us with valuable lessons and speak to a deeply rooted warrior spirit that lives within us, deeply embedded by biological evolution.

Useful at times, but we must know how (and when) to use it.

We romanticize time periods like the 1950’s. We think of long coats and suits and dressing up to go on a plane. We think of white picket fences and Golden Retrievers and happy children playing in the street after the Studebaker passed by.

All well and good, but not the whole story.

Many men (and their families) were conflicted and tense from consistently having to fight against their own humanity. This seems to be the last real generation where the traditional view of manhood had a stronghold on society as a whole. My parents’ generation, for example, grew up in the 60’s and 70’s where things started to get…looser.

But for many, particularly in certain parts of the United States, we are left with a view of masculinity that has not quite evolved to acknowledge its new role(s) in society.

Masculinity is multi-faceted.

It is articulate.

It is cultured.

It is worldly.

It is empathetic.

It is compassionate.

It is curious.

It is supportive.

Yes, it still is strong.

It works with its hands.

It works with its mind.

It works with its heart.

It is communicative.

It is unrestricted and unrestrained. It is anything that brings value to the world and leads one to a full life.

Masculinity is not reserved for jocks and fighters and superheroes. It is all inclusive.

For too long we have alienated our own with archaic thinking that does nothing more than make those who don’t possess a manufactured set of characteristics feel “less than” as they navigate the world and discover their own identity.

masculine

mas-kyuh-lin ]

adjective

pertaining to or characteristic of a man or men.

Not “a certain type of man.” Not “a man who looks like this.”

I do believe that we as men should have the ability to provide for and protect those in our lives. I do not, however, believe the truth of that statement looks the same for everyone.

A nerdy billionaire is able to protect and provide for his family, and so is a muscle-bound plumber. They simply accomplish the same goals in different ways.

But put both of them on the street and one will fit a more traditional mold of “masculine.”

This is particularly a problem with school-aged children who are in formative years of their lives and feel like outcasts because they don’t meet these manufactured standards.

I often think of the movie “The Greatest Showman” (Yeah, I watch musicals. So what?) with Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman. Two traditionally “masculine” men until you learn about their ballet and theater performance background.

Men who bring the world joy and entertainment through a variety of talents who were likely once bullied for their choices of study.

Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, for crying out loud.

We must help everyone feel accepted and welcomed into our society as they are, not as who old views set by people no longer around are telling us they should be.

The types of men who win at the game of life are those who absorb the most of it, in my opinion.

They love, laugh, cry, succeed, and fail. They may be strong mentally, physically, or both. Maybe, neither, but they’ve got a kind heart.

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t make a difference, as long as they’re not using their abilities to hurt other people.

And, if we can help each other feel fully accepted for who we are, we stand a better chance of building a stronger and more united society while enjoying healthier relationships.

We show up as our truest selves, free of judgment. We pursue careers that fuel our soul no matter how “nontraditional” they may seem. We love who we love. We thrive as we are.

The men who stand up in the world and make equal room for everyone to spread their wings; those are the ones who should be applauded, no matter what they look like.

What are some characteristics you associate with “masculinity”? Post in the comments below or reach out on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | Coaching & Speaking

11 Comments

  1. Mary on October 28, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    You said: “Boys with stunted emotional experiences often become toxic or abusive men. ”
    First it’s time to stop using the adjective “toxic”. It’s like comparing every perceived as “bad” to Hitler.
    Second, what evidence can you cite to support this conclusion?

    • Paul on October 28, 2020 at 8:07 pm

      Mary nailed this one. It’s like James would be the one to continue to say that mother’s milk is the gateway drug to heroin.

      • James Michael Sama on October 28, 2020 at 8:09 pm

        That’s so weird, you both have the same exact IP address. Must just be some random coincidence.



  2. Sergio Barrio Tarnawiecki on October 29, 2020 at 10:53 am

    I believe your very clear insights would gain a lot if you include some social, economic and historical perspectives. It is very very different to be a man in Armenia than among the Wajuu culture in Colombia and Venezuela. The USA perspective of masculinity is quite painful and hurtful for men …. And it is changing in very challenging ways…

    • Q on February 14, 2021 at 7:20 pm

      Hi Sergio,

      What you’re saying is very interesting to me. Could you explain a bit more about how the US perspective of masculinity is painful for men and is changing in challenging ways? Genuinely curious, as I’m looking at this from a non-US perspective, too. I’m undecided on what I think about the original post, and I’m curious about what the commenters think.

  3. Petrina on December 7, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Yes!

    “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 16:32.

    Toxic masculinity would say brutalize and dominate one’s way to masculinity. Be an “alpha” male.

    So many men are discouraged from healthy expression of emotions they have. They have pent up anger, hurt and rage, and learn to avoid seeking help in order to not appear “weak.”
    So many men grow up insecure and feel inadequate that they resort to nonsense to define themselves as masculine.

    They often become obsessed with power or their perception of power. They often target the women in their lives with their nonsense and abuse.

    Jesus Christ who was holy, servant- hearted humble, is love, and is powerful, should be the example of masculinity to men. The fact that masculinity was portrayed as harsh, brutish violent, and aggressive has nothing to do with what Bblical principles and Christ- centered behaviour show as an example.

    For whatever reason men chose to implement those violent behaviors and practices, along with sexual promiscuity, and defined them as “masculinity.” Women fell for it. It is indeed very toxic.

    Some men are bothered when light is shed on these topics. They are used to being brutish and acting out a certain way and they do not want that challenged. Not everyone believes the truth and is a Christian, but we have the blueprint for how we should behave ourselves and it is found in the word of God.

    • Q on February 14, 2021 at 7:30 pm

      I’m not sure when masculinity became synonymous with brutishness and emotional stuntedness. For me (and based on what I was taught by the men in my family and immediate community), it means chivalry, protectiveness, and pushing yourself to provide for the family. Stoicism was also not portrayed as coldness, but rather as not complaining about what you can’t control and instead focus on what you can.

      Men don’t always act this way, in fact they often fall short. But that shouldn’t prompt us to redefine masculinity to fit the destructive behaviors of broken men. Just thinking out loud.

  4. Petrina on December 7, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    Some people have lost it and are going extreme to want men to wear women’s clothing to counteract toxic masculinity.
    This does no good, but brings more confusion and is perversion.

    I am completely against this.
    Men need to be real men and women need to be real women, according to our God-given roles and requirements. Real men are not brutes, but lead in the way of righteousness, loving, protecting and providing for those under their leadership.

    • Gina N Boyd on December 13, 2020 at 8:59 pm

      Your comment is diametrically opposed to what he just (quite elegantly) described in his post. Being a man doesn’t look like just one thing. Some of the best men i know would be described as effeminate, but that doesn’t make them less of a man. They’re are no real men or real women. There are good men and good women. But whether or not they’re masculine doesn’t detract from their manliness.

      • Petrina on December 13, 2020 at 9:21 pm

        I see. However, men are men, and women are women. Being a man doesn’t look one way; it just shouldn’t look, act, or dress like a woman.

        In similar fashion, we are human beings. We do not all look the same as humans, and that’s fine. This does not mean we should bark like dogs or get on all fours and try to grow fur.

        If we happen to already be hairy, it is one thing, but when we purposely try to look like a dog, then that is a problem. Some men may be more or less muscular or have a higher voice naturally.

        That is fine, but when they start dressing like women and intentionally acting like women, then that is an issue. It is confusion and a deviation from who God created them to be.



  5. Q on February 14, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks for the post, James! Food for thought.

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