Fear & Loathing of Mask-u-linity





 “Comparison is primary; even to see a culture involves closure and contrast.”

-James Boone

Craig Williams (Tokyo, Japan), a philosopher and dear friend contributed to this post.

To my knowledge and belief, there is no place one can reach, no accomplishment, and no destination, called manhood. I must therefore concede that masculinity is culturally imposed and has little to do with the true measure of a man (Maynard, 2010)

            As a civil society, we think of manhood and a man’s masculinity as a place to be reached and once reached, that thing becomes eternal.  I would argue that any one definition given for the measure of a man’s masculinity would differ from one person to the next. As a culture we impose our beliefs, our fears, and our shame on our offspring. There is never a pause, a consideration, or a rationalization for our behavior because we are a civil culture of people? Perhaps, but couldn’t it also be argued that masculinity is elusive because it’s not clearly definitive and therefore, not eternal.   

Perhaps defining masculinity or giving the idea of masculinity a definite place allows us a way to judge, to classify, to hate, and even to love.  When women speak of their attraction to a man, they often say he’s not masculine enough or too masculine.  To what are we comparing that masculinity? If a man dresses in Nike gear, plays football, and scores well with the ladies, he’s considered to be very masculine, right?  What if that same gentleman allows his community to crumble, his people to suffer, and indulges in vices designed to weaken him? Is he still masculine? Has his suit changed, his shoes shine less, is his phone ringing less often?

Perhaps manhood should be measured in capitalism.  Is it more masculine to build a house if one’s only goal is to sell it before life has entered it fully? Should we measure a stock portfolio as we measure a penis or would it be more masculine to have a strong garden, whose fruits would provide nourishment to a small village?  Or should masculinity have to be proven at all.  Perhaps one’s own masculinity should be self-measured. Having neither the desire nor the ability to become a man, I trust Mr. Williams will provide ample guidance on self-masculinity.

And what of that manhood that must be proven? Marketplace manhood (Rothenburg, 2004) masked itself in the exclusion of others and sadly it is in this type of definition where we find our culture’s reflection. Our culture would define masculinity by denying others the ability to be considered masculine. Women, non-white males, homosexuals, all are denied membership jackets even if the same accomplishments are achieved.  Craig Williams  suggest that masculinity has no true definition; we are born with traits not feminine (Williams, 2010). He goes on to suggest that the traits given by society have nothing to do with being a man. Can it be that simple? I believe masculinity may indeed be self-measurable but from where I sit a man nourishes, grows, and builds.  I associate masculinity with strength; not strength of build, but strength of conviction.  I associate manhood with production; not production of things, but production of great ideas.  I believe the measure of a man starts within the man and can’t be labeled by society. What I’ve learned is that societies’ definitions allow the weak to mask their deficiencies while still claiming to be a man. I know that a real man will always choose to look in the mirror over pointing a finger.  I know that true masculinity, if defined by strength, masks nothing.

Rothenburg, P. S. (2004). Race, class, and gender in the United States. New York: Worth Publishers.

Williams, C. (2010, August 16). Conversations over coffee and gin. (S. Maynard, Interviewer)


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