On Being a Real Man

Disclaimer: Given that men and women are equal representatives of the human race, the qualities of a real man may be identical to the qualities of a real woman or simply, a real person.

I was raised in a culture that clearly defined what it meant to be a real man. As a male in this environment, the importance of achieving real manhood can not be overstated. This essay will evaluate the qualities of a real man as defined by my culture. I will rebut with my own personal views on what it means to be a real man. As a dyed in the wool skeptic and moral relativist, I would be disappointed if my opinions were interpreted by anyone as some universal definition of manhood.

Real Men are Brave:

If “brave” means “fearless,” I would have to judge one who claims this quality a liar. The fear response is hardwired into humans and most other animals, so fear is a given. True courage is the ability to do the right thing in spite of one's fear. If we use this second definition, I agree that bravery is necessary to real manhood. A real man has the guts to stand up for the underdog, the unpopular, and the underrepresented. Ironically, many of the characteristics of real men, as defined by culture, are rooted in fear and cowardice.

Real Men are Strong:

I place a high value on physical strength and put forth a good deal of effort to develop and maintain it. However, this quality can easily be dismissed as essential to real manhood. A frail and weak individual who puts himself between danger and someone vulnerable to harm would certainly meet the standards for real manhood. I would specify strength of character as a necessary component of real manhood.

Real Men Wear Prescribed Hairstyles and Clothing:

In my home town, this prescription includes short hair, with either khaki pants and boat shoes or camouflage and boots. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the prescribed stuff, I consider one who fears to deviate from it, a coward. No courage at all is required to conform. Fear of being different is indicative of one who does not have what it takes to be a real man.

Real Men Take Care of Their Own:

This is an instinctual characteristic found in many lower animals. Real chimps, baboons, and bison take care of their own. A guy who demonstrates this quality has not distinguished himself beyond this level. I think a real man must set the bar higher. A real man should take care of all who are unable to defend themselves from abuse and exploitation regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, political group, regional affiliation, socioeconomic status, or even species. One who only takes care of his own is less than a real man.

Real Men View Homosexual Behavior with Disgust:

If this were true, we would have to exclude Julius Ceasar, Alexander the Great, and Richard the Lion Hearted from the category of “real men.” A large research study tested attitudes about homosexuals in self-identified heterosexual men. The men were then divided into two groups, homophobes and non-homophobes. Both groups were hooked up to plethysmographs (instruments for measuring erections) and asked to view male, homosexual, pornographic videos. Only the homophobe group became sexually aroused. This response did not occur in the non-homophobe group. In other words, guys who have huge issues with gay people are often covering for their own homosexual tendencies.


Real Men Take Charge:

Yes, I would say that taking charge when the situation warrants is inherent to real manhood. However, one who wants to take charge in ALL situations is simply arrogant and self-deluded. Real men have the maturity to defer to a more qualified individual when one is available. An intelligence that exceeds the level of any single individual within a group emerges whenever a group of people cooperate and respectfully work together.

Real Men Express only One Emotion, Anger:

Unless damaged, all people experience the full range of human emotions. Which requires greater courage, to express emotions that show vulnerability or to hide them? Hiding is not a behavior I typically associate with being a real man.


Make your own.

Views: 261


You need to be a member of Atheist Nexus to add comments!

Join Atheist Nexus

Comment by Grinning Cat on September 6, 2015 at 10:56pm

Those men look like cells in a Borg-like collective organism!

(Yes, maybe that's another comment on the effects of the "man box"!)

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on September 6, 2015 at 10:15pm

The "man box" as dance. Limited moves and affect are representative of the way men are molded and stunted by traditional roles.

Comment by Edward Teach on April 10, 2014 at 8:18am

Many thanks Grinning Cat. Great TED Talk too!

Comment by Grinning Cat on April 9, 2014 at 11:14pm

Tony Porter: A Call to Men

Comment by Grinning Cat on April 9, 2014 at 4:57pm

Thank you, Edward! It brings to mind Douglas Adams' satire of prescribed gender roles in The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where he tells of a golden age of peace and prosperity when "spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri."

Also related: Tony Porter's "A Call to Men" describing the ubiquitous "man box" of aggression, dominance, strength, and misogyny that so many of us are socialized with, and challenges boys and men to break free. He tells some powerful stories from his own life, how the walls of the "man box" did real damage when he was a father of preschoolers, and previously when he was a boy.

This prescription of a "real man" requires men and boys to be unemotional (except for anger), aggressive, tough, controlling (especially over women), "not like a woman", "not like a gay man", be protective of one's own (viewed as subordinates if not property), and treat women as objects (especially sexual objects).

It deprives men of closeness with other human beings as equals. It's a symptom and perpetuator of the current, inherently destructive Dominator Culture.

We can do better!

Comment by Edward Teach on April 9, 2014 at 3:57pm

I'm with ya, Luara! Thank you Napoleon, waaaay cool!

Comment by Luara on April 9, 2014 at 12:18pm

I like the "real man" who is strong but doesn't use his strength to step on the weak or vulnerable.   Perhaps even uses his or her strength to help the weak or vulnerable :)



Update Your Membership :



Nexus on Social Media:

© 2019   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: The Nexus Group.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service