What it Means to be a Man


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Photo credits: NowthisNews Caption: Former President Barack Obama gave an interview discussing toxic masculinity

Grace Kim, Section Editor

Before beginning this passage, I would like to first note that the topic discussed is a very sensitive but essential and must be discussed.


What does it mean to be a man? Gold? Girls? Huge Muscles? Toxic Masculinity defines stereotypes implemented by society onto men forcing a certain look or behavior. A common example would be the expectation that men aren’t allowed to cry. The phrase “men don’t cry” perfectly demonstrates an example of toxic masculinity. By enforcing a stereotype like “men don’t cry,” young male adolescents aren’t able to express their feelings. Crying shouldn’t be an “act of shame,” yet it has become “shameful” due to societal norms. In fact, the concept of toxic masculinity derives from traditional gender roles in which women are expected to be polite and quiet while men are outgoing and active. Although, the world today has made impressive progress in achieving equality among genders, the concept of gender roles is still influencing society today.


For one, the media is a common source of toxic masculinity and divided gender roles. Male celebrities are photographed with perfectly toned abs and chiseled jawlines. Childhood TV shows portray male leads as domineering and powerful superheroes. Sitcoms make fun of male “friendships” as “gay.” In an NBC News film, Toxic Masculinity in Boys is Fueling an Epidemic of Loneliness, the reporter brought up an interesting concept that boys are equating friendship with gayness. Some of the young interviewees in the film expressed love for their friends, but was reluctant to express such emotions as they feared it would mean they were “gay.” Keeping in mind, that being gay isn’t something to be ashamed or discriminated for. It has sadly become a reality that the rigid stereotypes and traditions once shaping our country is now harming the future of our nation.


Former President Barack Obama spoke of this issue in a conference for My Brother’s Keeper initiative with NBA star, Steph Curry. The My Brother’s Keeper program works toward breaking down barriers that leaves boys and young men of color at a disadvantage. According to Barack Obama, being a man isn’t “eight-pound chains or women around you twerkin, it’s about being a good human.” Through his interview, Former President Barack Obama spoke out on how racism played a role in toxic masculinity. Because racism, itself, conveys a message that one person is “less then” someone else, humans feel the need to “compensate by exaggerating stereotypical ways men are supposed to react.” He then provided examples on rap lyrics and how several African American hip hop lyrics are about flaunting one’s wealth.

Hopefully, over time, the need to create divisions among gender and race will go away. Until then, there must be a greater awareness, especially among the younger generation, that it is okay to act outside of societal expectations. Grace Kim (12), a highschool student, explained that “because traditions and societal norms is a concept invented and enforced by us, we can also modify and take them back.”