We men quietly, and sometimes secretly, cherish our masculine traits. We yearn to be admired for our strength, courage, independence, leadership, and assertiveness. To call a man “feminine” is the worst insult. Why do we care?
Women, as far as I can tell, do not admire hypermasculine men. What they seem to want from men is love and responsibility. So men’s craving to be seen as manly doesn’t originate in the opinion of women. It’s somehow built into us: to be a man is to crave masculinity.
Worst of all is machismo, a form of masculinity that emphasizes power and is often associated with a disregard for consequences and responsibility. In this way of thinking, the only admirable trait in a man is his ability to dominate, by brute strength if necessary.
What we men need to learn is that real masculinity is defined by how much the women in our lives can depend on us to be there for them when they need us. As an unattributed text on the internet puts it, “A man who is truly masculine embraces responsibility and loves, honours, protects and provides for his family and loved ones. He lives with integrity, motivated by conviction, not comfort or convenience. True masculinity is not determined by how much physical strength a man has but rather the strength of his character.” Another quote puts it succinctly: “Real men choose love over power.”
Morality and virtue, it turns out, are key elements in being an admirable man. One of the most irritating discoveries of my life is that it is women, not men, who define masculinity. Love and accountability are the traits women admire and define as the core of virility. Those of us men who measure our manliness by brute strength and supremacy won’t make the grade.
So annoying: How come women are more powerful than men when it comes to defining masculinity?