Posted by: joshjasper | December 17, 2010

Man Up

What comes to mind when asked what it means to be a stereotypical real man in today’s society?  I have asked this question thousands of times across the country to countless people and the answers are always the same.  A real man is strong, tough, aggressive, macho, powerful, a provider and protector, independent and in control, and never cries.

I then ask about NOT being a real man.  Not surprisingly, the words used are weak, soft, gay, a girl, a chick, a Sally, and others that I can’t write here.  Quickly the audience realizes that we use words that are both misogynistic and homophobic to put the man who has veered outside of the box back in his place.

Fortunately, a real man in today’s society is so much more, but we often handicap his self-actualization because we lack the role models willing to challenge the negative stereotype that we are bombarded with every day.  Don’t get me wrong, I think many of the words used to describe stereotypical men can be very positive.  It’s okay to be strong, aggressive, and powerful in certain circumstances, but it is also very limiting as well.  For example, the word “strong” is overwhelmingly the most popular word used when describing men.  While strong has many synonyms, when used in this context it only refers to physical strength.  Imagine if this word was referring to strength of character rather than size and stature.  If that were the case, people would look beyond the fact that I am a six-foot five former Marine to see the years I have invested engaging men to change cultural attitudes and end violence against women. I believe men would be empowered to make different choices should that definition be expanded upon.

We need more men to exercise their real power and strength.  Young boys and other men alike yearn for a healthy example of what it means to be a man that does not involve degrading or abusing others.  Real men recognize and speak out against homophobia and sexism.  We need to have the courage to look inward and challenge our own attitudes and beliefs that might inadvertently perpetuate violence and other forms of unhealthy behavior.

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