Being a 'Real Man'

September 20th, 2011
gender
I just overheard one of the salesguys mocking one of the programmers for declining some meat-containing food. He said "I always forget you don't eat meat; you look like a real man". Clearly joking, kind of obnoxious, playing off of our culture's ideas about what it means to be male.

I used to believe that while defining masculinity in terms of consumption was silly, there were ways of defining it in terms of actions that were not. Being a real man would mean qualifying for the adjectives 'loyal', 'brave', 'strong'. Leading when appropriate. Supporting and protecting the people around you. Producing more than you consume.

But I don't think putting these in with the idea of being male works. They are good qualities, and I think we should encourage them. But these being male attributes only makes sense if they are not also female attributes. Otherwise they are just human attributes. I don't see a reason to encourage these things in men at the cost of indicating that they are not also the province of women.

If we remove from the concept of being a real man silly ideas like "eats lots of meat", "doesn't cook except on a grill", "can't dance", and "drives fearlessly and rapidly", and also remove ideas like "does what needs to be done" and "supports their family", what is left? I think there might not be anything.

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