What It Means To Be A Man In 2015: Bloggers Share Their Thoughts On Masculinity
Masculinity has seen a huge shift over the past 50 years.
Fathers are now staying at home to look after their kids and male feminists are coming out of the closet – helped by Emma Watson’s fantastic HeForShe speech, no doubt.
Meanwhile a light has been shone on body image and mental health issues, which have now become more male-focused than ever before.
But what does it actually mean to be a guy in 2015?
Male bloggers discuss their perceptions of masculinity in day-to-day life.
The past 20 years have seen a huge shift in parenting – particularly what it means to be a father.
However there are still some narks for modern fathers, one of which is being referred to as a babysitter for looking after their own children.
Al Ferguson blogs: “DADS DON’T BABYSIT! It is impossible to babysit your own kids. Actually impossible.
“When a mum is out with her kids, no-one in their right mind would suggest that she is babysitting. Yet throw it round to dads and all we ever do is apparently ‘babysit.’ Since when did looking after your own kids become babysitting?”
There’s also the matter of being a stay-at-home dad.
“My main job is managing the house and looking after the kids. That makes me a “house husband” – which I’d call myself if it weren’t for the fact that saying that word out loud mysteriously shrinks my gonads to the size and firmness of month-old blueberries,” Christopher Noxon blogs on The Huffington Post.
“Male householders are often gripped by a potent mix of shame, pride, isolation, frustration, delight and ambivalence.”
He continues: “I’m a pretty good dad – at least I try to be. I for one feel deeply blessed to have that role with my kids and wife, to be available to my kids in a way I hope will create deep and lasting bonds, and to do the things that need doing so my wife can lead the professional life she does.
“That’s a huge privilege. The fact that the culture sidelines anyone doing that work – man or woman – must change for the sake of all our well-being.
“Men can be natural caretakers and the world has got to stop assuming that we’re all threatened and emasculated.”
On being gay
“Not all boys are cut out to be the personification of masculinity,” Richard Lyon blogs.
“I was a kid who started life as an identified sissy and grew up to be a gay man who still hates sports and likes to cook. By and large, it is the kids who look and/or act different who are most likely to be targets of bullying.”
“There has been a long-overdue effort to focus attention on the problems faced by school-aged children who are perceived as being sexually different,” he writes. “However, for all the “It Gets Better” videos, the problems faced by such people don’t end once they get out of school.
“Within the adult gay subculture there is a pervasive emphasis on what strikes me as a cult of masculinity. It appears to be, among other things, an overreaction to historical stereotypes.”
He does, however, add: “Most members of the general public are aware that gay men are not uniformly effeminate. It’s pretty well established that we come in different shapes and sizes and behave in diverse ways.”
In a thoughtful piece on Everyday Feminism, Jamie Utt writes: “As it currently exists, masculinity is fundamentally an expression of patriarchal oppression. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“As men, we must call our brothers into an understanding of what we gain from reimagining and reconstructing masculinity in our lives and our relationships.”
“There is much good that comes with how I’ve been socialised to be a man – brotherhood, strength, courage, and tenacity – which is why I don’t simply believe the answer, at least initially, is to abandon gender altogether,” he writes.
“Instead, I want to see a masculinity where love, power with, and compassion replace dominance, power over, and violence, a masculinity where some of those good messages I learned from the men in my life endure while leaving behind the destructive things that hurt me and so many other male-identified people.”
On sexual harassment and cat-calling
“Most men I know are good guys,” writes HuffPost UK’s editor-in-chief Stephen Hull writes.
“They are loving sons, brothers, fathers and husbands. They respect women and men alike and try to live life in such a way that doesn’t upset, offend or intimidate others.”
Hull’s comments were published in a blog reflecting on Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion (and consideration) of women-only train carriages.
Corbyn said he would consider introducing women-only carriages on public transport to help reduce harassment – however for Hull, tarring all men with the same brush is not the right way to deal with the issue.
He continues: “We should be educating people and letting them know this type of anti-social behaviour is unacceptable and will not tolerated by women or men. We should be teaching respect, inclusivity and tolerance, not segregation.
“And if all else fails, let’s just have an arseholes-only carriage which decent men and women can both avoid at all costs.”
On being a ‘lad’
In his blog on masculinity and laddism, therapist Michael Carthy says that ditching the whole ‘lad’ persona and becoming a man could be the key to happiness.
“It may be time for you to accept that the old, archetypal view that as a man you need to be ‘a good ol’ city boy’ or ‘just one of the lads’ may not be who you are anymore,” he explains. “Maybe the kind of man who finds himself getting involved in banter to within an inch of his life or living to excess only to impress people is not the kind of person you want to be.
“Sure the persona you’re getting tired of now may have served you well throughout your time at university or while you were backpacking round Australia. But many clients I talk to who are desperately holding onto old roles realise that one plus one doesn’t equal two anymore.”
He continues: “It’s an act. It’s a role that you have been playing and you know what? You play it automatically. And in playing these roles, you are actually sacrificing your happiness and hiding who you really are in an attempt to get validation from the outside world.
“It’s time to stop acting. It’s time to stop role-playing.”
On body image
In a blog post on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Conor Penn writes that he believes the condition doesn’t discriminate when it comes down to gender.
“Yet, according to statistics from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), women account for the overwhelming majority of body image and eating disorder diagnoses in the UK,” he explains. “I don’t believe that these statistics reflect reality. So we must therefore ask why men are statistically more unlikely to present themselves to their GP with body image distress.
“The answer, of course, is excruciatingly complex, but there is no doubt that societal expectations of masculinity play an enormous part in the reticence of men to speak up, seek help, or even recognise that they might have a problem with body image.”
He adds: “Contemporary notions of what it means to ‘be a man’, emotional resilience and a total detachment from ‘superficial’ or ‘feminine’ concerns such as looks and appearance, for instance, are utterly and disastrously toxic.
“Men are trained to be instinctively hesitant to express any emotion or enact any behaviour understood to be antithetical to their masculinity, which in turn is perceived as the defining feature of both their worth and their identity. (Men even have to buy ‘man-size’ tissues – presumably for big manly tears, reserved only for when you dislocate your pelvis playing rugby or for when Marco Pierre White is chopping onions).”
“So what do unrealistic expectations of ‘masculinity’ mean for male mental health?” he asks.
“It means that men are much less likely to seek help for psychological symptoms which are causing distress. It means that men are statistically much, much more likely to commit suicide, and it means that we, as a society, are training a generation of young men to police their behaviours and actions, much as I had to do in my own adolescence, which leads them to police their physicality, too.”
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HuffPost UK is partnering with Southbank Centre’s Being A Man Festival, taking place 27 – 29 November. It will focus on lighthearted, serious and challenging issues facing boys and men in the 21st century. There will be talks and debates, concerts, performances, comedy and workshops with contributions from over 200 speakers and performers, including Akala, Frankie Boyle, David Baddiel and Kellie Maloney. Day passes are £15, 3-day passes are £35. For more information, visit the website or call 0844 847 9944.