Man Up! The “rules” of masculinity

Socially there are these unspoken rules about being a man. Dr. Christopher Kilmartin states that “cultural masculinity is a set of gender pressures placed on males”. According to Robert Brannon the “rules” of masculinity are:

• “No sissy stuff” – avoid feminine behaviors.

• “Be a big wheel” – strive for status and achievement, especially in sports and work.

• “Be a male machine” – solve problems without help, maintain emotional self-control at all times, and never show weakness to anybody.

• “Give ‘em hell” – take physical risks and be violent if necessary.

The above rules illustrate that there are socialized gender pressures faced by men. Sometimes an individual man does not feel gender pressure to follow these rules. Oftentimes the social pressures of cultural masculinity shames men into following these rules e.g. “Man up”, “Don’t be a sissy or girl”. Often the language used to remind men of the rules of masculinity are much harsher than those phrases. I believe healthy masculinity is about allowing men the freedom to break these rules without judgement.

Conversation starter: 

1. When will it be socially acceptable for men to break these rules of masculinity without being called out?

2. If you identify as man do you either feel pressure to follow these rules or the freedom to break these rules?