Category Archives: Healthy Masculinity

Men should be Sturdy Oaks?

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.

Conversation starter: 

1. When we will allow men to express thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are not attached to our socialized expectation of men being tough?


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?


What is a Bro Hug?

Last week the New York Times published an article “The Bro Hug: Embracing a Change in Custom”. It was a bit humorist and not very serious yet it raised a core aspect about masculinity. This core component of masculinity is the idea that men (particularly straight-identified men) cannot show affection towards one another. Here is a short excerpt from the article:

***The 2009 book “Don’t Be That Guy,” by the humorist Colin Nissan and the illustrator Sean Farrell, provides in a few hundred words a veritable Magna Carta of straight male hugging. “When I get married, feel free to throw your arms around me,” Mr. Nissan writes. “When I have a child, by all means, wrap me into your chest. These are milestones that warrant such a gesture of affection. When I come over for poker, however, don’t. Don’t you dare.”

The above excerpt illustrates that there are very few socially acceptable times when men can express affection. Another example of this masculine policing includes the term ‘bromance’.  It seems that men are socialized to both limit their emotional expression and to label any affection between one another as rare and unique hence using the word bro as a placeholder.

Conversation starter: 

  1. When will we allow men in close relationship to just be considered very good friends instead of having a bromance?
  2. If you identify as a man do you consider it a bro hug when you embrace your best friend, your brother, your uncle, you father or grandfather?

Join the conversation

The MAVRIC Project wants to continue the conversation about what healthy masculinity looks like. Almost everyone on campus has had a conversation about masculinity, manhood or what it means to be a man. These conversations are already happening all the time and everywhere on campus. People are having the conversation in locker rooms, in res colleges, in departments and on the street. It just takes two to have a MAVRIC conversation. So join us at dinnertime, lunch time, late meal or wherever on campus to participate in a conversation.

Conversation starter:

In the video below boys and men respond to the phrase “Be a Man”. There is brief coarse language but the message is powerful. What are your thoughts about the phrase “Be a Man”?

Want to get involved? Have thoughts, ideas or sugesstions? Email us