I’ve been thinking more and more lately about what it means to be a real man in today’s world. It seems to me that the concept has lost a lot of meaning when we look at it from a broader perspective.
One hundred years ago
In the past, the answer to this question was obvious. A guy had to be masculine, meaning as different as possible from a woman. A physical strength is one of the primary characteristics that differentiate our biological sexes. A man had to be strong, he usually worked physically, whether in a mine or a factory. At home, he was also engaged in typically male duties, such as chopping wood, repairing appliances or assembling furniture. He didn’t clean a house, do laundry, take care of the children. These were women’s duties, and we could get the impression that they diminished masculinity. A man could not take too much care of himself. Moisturizing creams, or for wrinkles? Neat fingernails? An interest in fashion? These are all typically feminine things, and a man who was interested in them lost in the eyes of others, he was a wimp. And I realize that not all of them were like that, but I have the impression that such were the expectations of the society about the man.
Today there seems to be less social pressure on men. Is it necessary to be two meters tall and carry the heaviest weights to be a real man? What about people who are not endowed by nature with these qualities. It is not their fault that they are smaller or weaker. In fact, we can do more with intelligence and wisdom in the modern world than with a physical strength. What about household chores? Are there really some that only a woman or only a man can do? Will we lose our masculinity if we do the laundry or iron? Living alone in a studio apartment teaches you a lot. You have to take care of everything yourself, ironing shirts or preparing food. Of course, I realize that there are people who will take dirty clothes to the family house, because it is not “manly”. Such behavior is very immature in my opinion and just shows how far a person is from becoming a responsible man.
What about emotions and expressing them? Of course in the past a real man didn’t cry, didn’t show weakness, often even didn’t show his feelings at all. Mental problems in a guy? Going to the doctor about it? Of course not, because that’s just showing weakness. It is better to suffocate everything inside… Often even the wife did not know about how her husband felt. Because he has to be refuge of the family, he cannot be weak. Unfortunately, this kind of suffocating of all emotions in oneself, the lack of help from the outside, can end tragically. People who cannot cope and do not want to get help often commit suicide, and it seems to me that social pressure plays a big role here, and those who don’t live up to it are excluded. What is one of the basis of our relationship is that I can show my feelings at any time, admit my weaknesses, just be myself and have the support of my fiancée. Of course, it works the other way too, and I try to support her in every possible situation, and I don’t lose my masculinity when I have a weaker day, when I shed a tear from emotion. Too bad not everyone has that.
Are there any character traits that only apply to a man? Or only for a woman? Can’t a guy be sensitive, or empathetic? Can’t he show interest and love for his children? Why is it that only a woman is entitled to certain traits, she is forgiven, and when a man shows some sensitivity, he is pigeonholed as the weaker one? We are all human beings, and we share many traits. What biological sex we have does not determine what traits are assigned to us from birth to death. I know that some people would like the world to be simple and orderly, but it’s not, and it’s impossible to pigeonhole everyone.
And so reflecting on this topic over the past few weeks, I come to the conclusion that the one thing men can do that women cannot is to beget children and be a father. A good father. And for the rest, let’s be ourselves and not pay attention to others’ expectations of who a real man is. Because someone wise once said that the expectations of others are like a ceiling that you can never reach, because as soon as you get close to it, it moves away.