Thoughts on being a ‘real man’ – America’s exaggerated view of masculinity

Many people think that being a ‘real man’ is being this big tough guy.  They portray them as these guys who ‘don’t take crap’, will fight anything, is an ultra-individualist, can handle every conflict, does whatever he wants, are generally violent or have a violent nature, and so on.  In many ways, the ‘real man’ is portrayed as a bully, a brute who pushes his way through life. 

But, if you look at what ‘men’ have been doing in the world, you’ll see something else.  ‘Real men’ in the world have been people who created societies and maintained them, who taught how to live a good life, they taught to love things,  they taught to follow laws and morality, they taught to work, they generally taught peacefulness, etc.  This is totally different from what the ‘real man’ is portrayed as.  In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite of what has normally been portrayed.

This appears to be an American misperception to me.  Being brought up in the US, it is the image that has been portrayed to me.  It’s also the image other guys have portrayed to me.  Not only that, it is the image I have often been judged by.  As a result, I only naturally thought it was true.  The more I grow up, though, the more ridiculous it becomes.  A ‘real man’ is not a bully, a ‘tough guy’, as far as I’m concerned. 

In fact, the very question of a ‘real man’ is questionable.  What does it mean exactly?  How can you say that there is a ‘real man’ at all?  If there is a ‘real man’ then what about all the other guys who don’t fit that image?  Do you not think there are many ways to be a ‘real’ person, a ‘real man’?  I mean to say that there can’t only one way. Because of this it is absurd to say there is such a thing as a ‘real man’. 

It shows, though, that there’s a misconception, at least in the US, as to what masculinity is.  Usuallly, from my experience, Americans think masculinity is about being ‘tough’, but I’ve found otherwise.  I’ve found that being ‘tough’ is seldom seen in the real world.  Not only that, my experience is that males are very passionate people, more so than the females in actuality.  It was the male who created things like romance, art, and such.  They wrote emotional plays and stories.  They talked about and philosophized about the dilemmas of life.  These do not fit into the image of ‘masculinity’ given by the US.  In reality, the image of ‘masculinity’ given by the US is of a narrow person.  In fact, he’s embarrassingly narrow. 

I’ve often wondered where the US got its image of masculinity.  Why would it of appeared the way it does?  I always thought that what we see now appeared after WWII, especially beginning in the 60’s.  By the 70’s it seems pretty well established.  Some of the factors I see in its origin are:

–          Post WWII economic prosperity.  After WWII there was an economic boom in the US.  This had great impact on the American mentality I’ve found.  It created things like a sense of arrogance, a big ego, exaggerated self importance, a sense of entitlement, a sense of being ‘better’, and so on.  No doubt this helped effect the development of the image of a ‘real man’ by instilling into him these qualities.  It also created in him this idea of being a ‘winner’ and a man who ‘excels’. 

–          Individualism.  The US, really, is very much influenced by individualism.  During the cold war, especially, it was looked on as an admirable trait as it ‘portrayed the American values’ as I’ve heard many people say.  It’s no wonder that a lot of the image of a ‘real man’ in the US is as a strict individualist, a guy who does things his way.  He makes his own decisions, answers to no one, and does not follow social conventions unless he wants to.  In other words, he’s in control.

–          The influence of movies.  The effect of the ‘macho guys’ taking on the world in the movies cannot be underestimated for developing the distorted image of masculinity in the US.  Its dramatic portrayal in films definitely made an impact on the audience.  It’s no secret that movies can have a great impact on the audience often changing or altering their views of things.  Personally, I think movies made a similar impact on the image of the male.

–          The influence of the social rebellion of the 60’s.  This helped create an image of the male as rebellious, going against society, a guy who ‘takes on everything’.  Ever since the 60’s this theme has been quite common. 

–          As a response to the degradation of the male.  With the rise of commercialism there has been a degradation in both the male and female identities.  I have always been under the impression that this dilemma has made a great impact on the image of masculinity in the US.  It’s almost as if the exaggerated overblown image of a ‘real man’ is an attempt to counter react the effects of this situation.  By making the male ‘tough’ he becomes a somebody.  Just from my own observations of guys I can see that many ‘tough guys’ are really people who feel worthless inside and have no use in life. 

One thing is for sure:  the more you look at this image of masculinity the more inaccurate it gets.  In fact, it’s almost comical.  Many times I’ve had to chuckle at the image of the male in this country.  It’s also very sad, as this image misses so many good qualities in the male.  It’s almost like they missed the whole point.

This entry was posted in Historical stuff, Modern life and society, Psychology and psychoanalysis, The male and female, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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