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What does being a man mean to you?

August 5, 2021


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Post Information
Title What does being a man mean to you?
Author NotNotRowan
Upvotes 37
Comments 25
Date August 5, 2021 4:35 AM UTC (2 years ago)
Subreddit /r/MenSupportMen
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[–]quesadilla_dinosaur 12 points13 points  (4 children) | Copy Link

I’m sure you’ve heard this a billion times but there isn’t really a way to be a man you simply just are. Every man out lives in their own personally constructed masculinity and you do too!

I felt the same way when I was your age, looking up ways to increase my testosterone, improve my body, improve my ability to talk to women, but after about 4 years of trying to “be a man”, I crashed and it gave me a chance to find out what mattered to me, regardless of what it was.

[–][deleted] 7 points8 points  (3 children) | Copy Link

Being a man does not mean engaging in this all-the-time macho nonsense - machismo; it does not mean that one has to be stoic (I'm not referring to Stoicism in the philosophical sense, which is why there is no capital S) or that one has to bear the weight of all of one's own life and perhaps others', too, on one's own shoulders; it does not mean being super rational, cold, and intelligent, or intellectual; being a man, in my opinion, is a highly subjective and relative thing, which means we'll get a plurality of different answers from different men, boys, bois, males, teens, etc., about how to answer this What is a man? question, but I'll just offer what I have and say that the usual social properties pressed onto men does unequivocally not make one a man, as if being unemotional and and trying to always be super intellectual and rational makes one a man, then I don't think a lot of men would really count as men, as trying to get men to live up to some inhuman, harmful standard of what it means to be a so-called 'real man' is absurd and, quite frankly, harmful to all men, as no man is an island, so no man can be a god, nor can any human being be.

We impose on men - and everyone, really - these massive ideals of masculinity, of manhood, of boyhood, and the like, all of which, if not strictly subscribed to and maintained make one 'less' of a man, but men are not islands; they are human beings; thus, they have human limitations, making them capable of emotion, and making them want to feel and express love sometimes, but in a world where so many boys and men feel so damn alone in the literal word, I don't really think it ought to be too surprising that some boys and men are having an identity crisis.

What I say is just be your own kind of man, nobody else's.

This was a brilliant question, OP.

[–]Uncoolx2 2 points3 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

The idea behind the phrase "A man is not an island unto himself" is actually a statement against individualism. It is stating we are part of a whole and we are interconnected:

No man is an island,

entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the continent,

a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were.

as well as if a manor of thy friend’s

or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.

When a man comes saying, to another man "What is a man? Cto respond "Why, it is what you say it is!" is trying to make him an island.

You are slapping away a hand that is seeking a connection. Dismissing it, however gently.

It is not wrong to say "A man is one who is x, y, and z." Because the one asking may day "Yes, I can see x and y, but I do not agree with z."

He connects to his fellow man - fellowship - in those overlaps of x and y, and they can then disagree about z. Maybe, in their fellowship, they might discuss z and one or the other may change their stance, or they may not.

[–]peanutbutterjams 4 points5 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

That's a difficult question.

I'd say the most important thing right now is to discover who you are. What other people think your gender means is ultimately irrelevant until you know who you are and thus what you think your gender means.

And then it will change. And then it will change.

I'm a late Millennial and I'm still discovering who I am. It's a constant process but you need some of your own terra firma before you engage with people's issues.

My journey as a man:

  • Distancing myself from male gender norms. I didn't like sports or cars or, you know, acting like an asshole by strutting around and treating others like shit,

  • Denying my sexuality because men who wanted lots of sex were shamed in 90's media and I didn't want to be "one of those guys"

  • Becoming a father and seeing that there are definitely some differences between sexes. I was always nurture over nature, but it's nothing that can't be overcome.

  • Currently, I'm still disassociated from traditional gender norms but I've put a lot work into removing all instilled social norms so I can pick the parts I think are healthiest for me and others.

I urge you to do the same with male culture. There are a lot of [untold values] there. Honour, hard work and hecklin'. Try volunteering at your local seniors center. I bet they can use someone to carry, build and spend time with.

Also look to see if there's a Men's Shed in your area.

Most of all, though, figure out yourself. Your gender doesn't define you. Only you get to do that.

[–]TheDudeExMachina 3 points4 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

This is a question I have struggled with in my past as well. While the other answers are great, I'll get a bit more specific and personal.

I once thought masculinity was something imposed on me, something required to pass as a dating partner, as a son, etc. So I was locked into the mindset of "what does the world want from me" and it was extremly confusing. There are so many roles with so little rules you will be expected to fulfill. I was never enough. It made me miserable.

Somewhere along the way I thought about who I wanted to be and what the ideal me would look like. How would I want to be seen by others? I looked at people I thought had great qualities: How my father made clear he would be there if shit hit the fan, but was never pushy about inserting himself into my life. How my mother can find beauty in the weirdest places. How important it was to my stepfather to take the perspective of another person and empathise. I looked at how Ghandi understood the very complex political situation he was in and understood that asserting himself was only possible by radically non-violent but proactive measures. I understood Dürrenmatts perspective, that sometimes the very serious stuff can only be tackled by absurdism. I saw how the artisans from my family took pride in their craft. None of them are fault free, but all of them had something I admired.

From there it was just an application to what I was good at, to what I was comfortable doing. I wanted to be someone who makes a room feel a little warmer. I wanted to be someone others could rely on, someone who would truly listen and give others a perspective of themselves they could not get on their own. I wanted to be a guide. And so I tried to be. And I am still trying, sometimes successful, sometimes not. But the important part is that through examining others I admired and myself, I found things that make a good person. I am a man, so by striving to be a good man I found my own definition of masculinity. The most manly thing one can do imo is extend a helping hand to someone in need while being humble about it.

After that I found the public displays of wannabe-alphagigachads pretty childish.

Masculinity is not what makes you a man instead of a woman. It's what makes you a man instead of a boy.

[–]Arguesovereverythin 2 points3 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

The most important thing I've learned is that no one has the ability to tell me who I am NOT. If I define myself as a man, then I am one.

You didn't ask about race or sexual orientation, but I use the same logic for those identities as well.

If someone says "All black men are X" and I don't fit that definition, that doesn't mean that my identity changes. It means the other person needs to work on the way they define black.

Same here. There are some traits that are immutable, like whether you were born with a Y chromosome. But not everyone with a Y chromosome is a man. It's up to you to forge your own identity.

[–]seraph341 1 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

It means being whatever I want to, and aspire to be.

My values, my body, the way I carry myself and my sexualisation.

It's not a crystal clear idea though... I ponder this a lot. My gender, my "manliness" and what is simply my personality, beliefs and values.

[–]TheMadWoodcutter 1 point2 points  (1 child) | Copy Link

I think people often get confused about their gender and think that it needs to mean something in terms of their identity. I think the far more important question to answer is “what does it mean to be me?”

To that end I’ll share something I wrote a while back to someone asking a similar question:

“Discovering who you are and becoming the best version of that person is a journey with no end, and is the most rewarding adventure you could possibly undertake. The movie Moana actually is an excellent distillation of the process, the title character confidently singing "I AM MOANA" near the end is a moment that brings me to tears. I suppose one could say that discovering who you are is every individual persons "hero's journey".

I'm not really sure if where you are on your journey or what you've already experienced, but I'm guessing based on what I've read that you're still fairly young, and have a ways to go. It's so tricky when people ask how they find themselves, because the answer is different for everyone. If you were to specifically ask, "what do I do?" the answer would be, quite seriously, "everything."

The process comes down to experiencing as much as you possibly can, meeting it with an open, non-judgemental mind, discovering understanding for it, and moving on when it no longer suits you. Meet people and love them where they're at. Volunteer. Travel (if you can). Try things that you're scared of, because you're scared of them. Be responsible, but don't let responsibility be your sole guiding light. Part of the process is understanding that you *will* get hurt along the way, you *will* make bad choices, and that that's ok, it doesn't make you a bad person. It's part of being human, and pain is a tremendous teaching tool, if you let it.

For me, "finding myself" had a lot less to do with searching far and wide and a lot more to do with shedding the parts of myself that didn't serve who I wanted to be. I shed my hate. I shed my fear. I shed my apathy. What I found underneath was pure, unadulturated love. Not just for others, but for myself too. I was still me, still essentially the same person, but now I loved me. I was unashamed of who I was. I was unashamed of my mistakes. My flaws. My strengths (you will eventually discover that your greatest flaws and your greatest strengths both come from the same personality traits, you cannot remove one without the other). My past. I discovered how to love me, and in that, I discovered how to love others with a depth and passion that still stuns me from time to time. I found my confidence, my ability to stand up for myself and others. How to reach a hand out to those who need guidance without making them feel bad for needing guidance.

In the end, finding yourself comes down to discovering that "you" were there all along, underneath the weight of all the expectations, all the assumed roles, all the generations of institutionalized hate and shame, and finding that in spite of it all, you were never broken. Depite your flaws, your weaknesses, you are whole, complete, and perfect, and you always have been. You are deserving of love. And others are deserving of your love, no matter how broken or flawed they may appear to be on the surface. Underneath you are the same.

From there, becoming the best version of yourself comes down to choosing to live in the most joyful way you can imagine. Spreading your love as best you can to as many people as you can manage.”

[–]orion-7 1 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

Honestly? Don't worry about it. There's no one way to be a man, and most males I know, myself included don't "feel like a man" in any particular sense.

They just exist, and are true to themselves.

And that my friend is the manliest thing you can do

[–]The_Dapper_Balrog 2 points3 points  (1 child) | Copy Link

A man stands up for what he believes in, but does not refuse or belittle the right of others to do the same.

A man (and, for that matter, a decent human) does not just consider his own good when he is making decisions, but also the good of the people around him.

A man is able to identify with and express his emotions in a way that is unique to his own nature - not necessarily by verbal expression or otherwise in the same manner as a woman might do so.

A man recognizes his own limits and is not afraid to set up and enforce boundaries.

A man recognizes that there are things higher than himself, and that his life and his choices are not the focus of the universe.

A man (and this applies to any human being) is willing to serve as much as is within his ability to do so, even - when absolutely necessary - to his own hurt.

A man sticks to his commitments, and does not back away from them, unless it would be harmful to himself or to others to fulfill them.

A man is willing to admit when he is wrong, and willing to grow and learn from his mistakes and bad decisions.

A man will respect everyone, even if he thinks they are wrong, and regardless of whether or not they treat him with respect.

A man is not afraid to stand up for himself and for those that he cares about, and recognizes that this does not necessarily constitute violence or fighting (although he also recognizes that sometimes violence is the only solution, though this is exceedingly rare).

A man never uses violence to assert his own will, and never attempts to dominate the will or mind of another human being.

A man is not afraid to take a leadership position, and is also willing to be led by someone else.

A man is able both to accept and provide rejection graciously.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here's my perspective on the matter.

[–]polpotwasright -1 points0 points  (1 child) | Copy Link

A man is someone who puts the well-being of his family ahead of his own and is able to forsake short-term pleasure ahead of long-term gain.

Easier said than done, but that's it. "toxic masculinity" is nonsense, as it goes against the masculine instincts. I won't be told how to or how not to act by someone who doesn't know me. And being "alpha" is usually misunderstood by people who think that being a leader and being assertive has to mean being a dick to other people, which it definitely doesn't.

Being a man means being a leader. We're called by God to be the leaders of our household. But that definitely doesn't mean being domineering, as we're also called to love our wives more than ourselves.

[–]a-man-from-earth 2 points3 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

A man is someone who puts the well-being of his family ahead of his own

It is a traditionally masculine trait to be a protector. But we need to be careful not to take this to a self-destructive extreme. To be able to be protectors, we need to take care of ourselves first, or we will end up lacking the strength.

Easier said than done, but that's it. "toxic masculinity" is nonsense, as it goes against the masculine instincts. I won't be told how to or how not to act by someone who doesn't know me. And being "alpha" is usually misunderstood by people who think that being a leader and being assertive has to mean being a dick to other people, which it definitely doesn't.


Being a man means being a leader.

And knowing when to follow and who to follow.

We're called by God to be the leaders of our household.

There is no evidence that there is a god. Please keep anything resembling preaching off this sub.

But that definitely doesn't mean being domineering, as we're also called to love our wives more than ourselves.

That sounds like an open trap for abuse.

[–]Iceman_Hottie 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy Link

Good question, OP.

As already mentioned there is no one way of being a man. One of the things I consider to be manly is avoiding double standards, for example if I consider a behaviour bad it is still bad if I do it, and something I shouldn't do. This applies other types of behaviour such a weaseling out of responsibility, keeping my word, avoiding lies, etc. This tends to simplify a lot and makes you sensitive to relationship (not necessarily romantic, but all types) red flags,and helps you to be more disciplined.

Another thing I think is masculine is being authentic, which is ever so slightly different from the point above. There is a lot of nuance to this, but in general if you like something don't be ashamed of it, and be honest with your self about things. For example I really like teaching, and explaining things to people. An extremely happy moment for me was when I was a part of a public engagement event there was a child who's eyes lit up with excitement about science after I showed that you can engage with science the way you like (some like explosions, some like soap bubbles).

The last point for this post (one step at a time), courage. It is needed to ask this question, and to take it upon yourself to answer it. It takes courage to ask someone out, send a cold email asking if someone will be interested in working with you to find funding for a postdoc fellowship, etc. Once you understand that it is the same trait, and that actually you use it frequently, you gain more control over your self.

Here are my 3 points. I'll be glad to answer any of your questions, both on and off topic.

[–]a-man-from-earth 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy Link

It's a good question, and it's a hard one to answer. Especially because in Western society women have to a significant degree been freed from traditional gender norms, but men have barely started on that road. So we're struggling here as a society, which makes the individual path even harder.

I watched an interesting conversation on this topic, which I would like to share:

[–]DAJGriffiths 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy Link

Taking responsibility and protecting my loved ones.

[–][deleted]  (2 children) | Copy Link

[permanently deleted]

[–]a-man-from-earth[M] 1 point2 points  (1 child) | Copy Link

Removed as rule 1 violation.

[–]CunningHamSlawedYou 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy Link

Sorry about that. I'll read the rules now.

[–]Martijngamer 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy Link

Being a man doesn't mean much to me. I am a human with a variety of traits, skills and preferences. Being a man can help explain some of those traits, it can help more easily relate to others who share those traits. But being a man to me merely helps me understand parts of who I am, it is not a guideline to follow.

A concrete example is showing emotions, especially grieving emotions. It is not something I am comfortable with, never have been. It is not because "as a man" I feel I shouldn't, it's just a particular trait of the particular human that I am. Understanding that this is a trait that is common amongst men helps me understand this trait, why I have it and to give it a place in my life. But it's just that, a framework for understanding who I am, it's not because I feel like I have to "as a man".

You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea.

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