A few weeks ago Don McPherson identified himself as a former professional football player and a feminist. The actor Terry Crews also identifies as former professional football player and a feminist. McPherson and Crews illustrate that these two identities are not mutually exclusive. Both men share the belief that toughness isn’t essential to masculinity. Below Crews discusses how he learned to be a man.
“I don’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “be a man.” I don’t remember when I came to understand what it means. Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone has ever explained to me what it means. Like most of our routines, the meaning is learned through unspoken codes of behavior: “be a man” means be tough; don’t cry, don’t complain, don’t be too sensitive.”
The above quote illustrates that many men are socialized to be tough. This expectation of toughness includes many of Brannon’s rules of masculinity: “No sissy stuff”, “Be a male machine and “Give ‘em hell”. Essentially we have been socialized that a man should be “a sturdy oak”. According to Thompson and Pleck the toughness norm is the expectation that men should be mentally, emotionally and physically tough and self-reliant. Toughness is very much tied to the phrase “Man Up”. Men are usually called out for not being tough enough and not conforming to the expectation of being “a sturdy oak”.
Both McPherson and Crews played a sport where toughness is highly valued. They illustrate that men can move beyond the expectation of toughness and acknowledge vulnerability.
1. When we will allow men to express thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are not attached to our socialized expectation of men being tough?