Doing Dumb Stuff to Prove Manhood

TOUGH-GUISE-OriginalBy Alexander Ghanma

When David Wexler’s wife asked him to hold her purse for a moment he was suddenly filled with shame, seeing his masculinity at risk:

Loaded down with shopping bags, my wife asked me to grab her purse and carry it across the plaza. That’s all. Yet even though I knew I was being stupid, I couldn’t do it. The 15 seconds being seen carrying a purse were beyond my capacities as a card-carrying male…

Shame may be the least understood dimension of men’s inner experience — by both men themselves and the people who live with them.

Shame-o-phobia is what therapist, David Wexler calls the sort of thing that leaves men questioning their manhood over stupid stuff. Like The Freezing Water Test:

Men were asked to hold one of their hands in freezing water. One group was told the test would measure their male sex hormones and physical fitness. A second group was told the test would measure their levels of female sex hormones and their ability to bond with children. A third group got no explanation.

Guess who held their hands in painfully freezing water the longest. Yep! That group also felt greater performance expectation and showed greater cardiovascular reactivity.

When it comes to doing dumb, or even downright evil, stuff to prove manhood, the list goes on. Drinking too much, drinking and driving, driving recklessly, bullying or harassing or joining a gang rape, for instance, all to impress other so-called men.

It made me think of a movie called “Tough Guise” which shows how men so often take on a “guise” to look tough that protects them from looking feminine or weak and that keeps them from being called: gay, fag, sissy, or girl.

It all seems stupid to me. But I can also see that a lot of men are self-conscious about looking and feeling feminine.

Why do so many of us do dumb or even violent, hurtful things to prove our manhood? Is manhood the same thing as being stupid and hurtful?

Seems to me that manhood should be about having the courage to resist peer pressure that leaves us harming ourselves and others. Men’s studies professor, Michael Kimmel says manhood is about “honor, integrity, respect and doing the right thing despite the costs.” I agree with him.

Shame-O-Phobia answers a lot of questions I had and opened up my mind to understanding the “under the surface” aspects of male thinking. Maybe it can help others, too.

Alex is a student of mine who gave me permission to post this from a paper he wrote.

This was cross-posted @ The Good Men Project.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 4, 2013, in feminism, men, psychology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 73 Comments.

  1. It is true that it takes confidence and masculine qualities should be that can handle peer pressure. But it is very tough. Nobody wants to be bullied, so I think guys will do things to show they are masculine, just so they don’t have to deal with the stress of being teased, picked on or even bullied for doing something that would not be deemed as masculine by social expectations.

    • Yes, men have more pressure that way for gendered reasons. As you say, part of the role we assign men is seeming confident, and tough like you say. Women who aren’t confident don’t get the same level of disdain that men do. And men and masculinity are ranked higher than women and femininity so men must constantly prove they deserve that higher status — which includes exuding confidence. It’s a lot of pressure.

  2. The pressure to prove masculinity proves that patriarchy and sexism is not only harming females but also males too. The ideas of gender ranking (ranking male or masculine characteristics superior to female or feminine ones) perpetuates the stereotypes that men would seem weak if they express their vulnerability. However, I believe that part of mental growth for adults exactly lies in accepting and living in peace with our most vulnerable sides and our fears. If someone cannot show any weakness, it must be very difficult for them to navigate the vicissitudes of life that have so many challenges that one cannot deal completely alone. Therefore, the point should be made clear that feminism is not about taking control over the society and make men inferior to women, but is asking for equal right, opportunity, worth and dignity between males and females. It’s noteworthy that dignity and worth are included in the mission of feminism, since those are part of the important core values that people should possess to live a more fulfilling life. Having to act tough is sad and torturing for people who are inherently more sensitive and emotional, which are actually oftentimes positive qualities in many aspects of live such as building healthy relationships. Feminists should also note how patriarchy is harming males if some of them have not and in addition to calling out the poisonous sexist culture that oppresses women, they should also be allies for those men who are also being oppressed and who would find it even harder to talk about their feelings with anyone.

  3. I find this post interesting because it also reminded me about a commercial about a guy using summer’s eve as body wash and suddenly had to do hard labor jobs such has chopping wood and pushing a car to show of his strength. So yes, males will do dumb things in order to prove their masculine is because it can be very fragile. Obviously, society is to blame for putting theses types of standards on man and expect them to follow because they are afraid on how they look. In David Wexler’s case, he thought everybody’s eyes were on him, yet I’m most likely sure that no one was even looking. I also think that it has to do a lot with pride, they were influenced by others that a man associated with masculine is a good thing, and it’s a trait that absorbs them as “different” compare to women because we are suppose to be soft and feminine, therefore when they do a simple task such as holding a purse, as they are associated with women, they see it as threat to their pride. Proofing manhood can be seen a lot with “hazing” that goes along with college frat boys, as they have to be treated horribly just be part of a brotherhood and it’s just gotten very sad.

  4. Alidod Ghazvini

    I personally think this article does an excellent job in raising an argument that needs more attention. As a college student, I have definitely noticed college males specifically doing little things here and there just to solely prove to others that they are the alpha male. I believe that from those people’s perspectives, they think that these acts show that they can resist risky situations and go through any obstacle in life. I think that is one of societies biggest flaws that we don’t see the other side of the story.

    In the circumstance of David Wexler’s wife asking her husband to hold her purse, it’s very easy to assume that David resisting to hold the purse signifies that he has a lot of pride as a masculine individual. However, from another perspective, it’s also easy to assume that he looks ignorant for not giving a helping hand to his wife. While men do have the respectable desire to display their pride for who they are as individuals, it is also very apparent that the definition of displaying manhood has been manipulated to this ideology where holding a purse (in this case) is deemed as embarrassing, even if it means giving a helping hand to someone else. From reading this story and reflecting on personal experiences, I’ve noticed that the eagerness to prove manhood shows the insecurities within those individuals. The Freezing Water Test study is another example that reiterates the same principle of insecurity.

    As a society, the fact that we have a definition for manhood displays the restrictions we play on gender roles. We have made strides towards telling people to be themselves and ignore the noise, but the stereotypes are still there. I believe that if there is a set definition of manhood, it should be the idea of “honor, integrity, and respect.”

    Overall, the insecurities within some males have caused the principles of manhood to be manipulated to this methodology of doing wrongful actions. From one perspective, drinking a lot shows that you can withstand lots of liquor but its medically proven that drinking in large amounts in multiple occasions will take a toll; and at the end of the day its that individual who will be at risk of sacrificing their body for proving to others that they’re macho. Drinking and driving might show to others that you can focus while impaired, but it also shows ignorance for others on the road as well.

  5. Jonathan Castellanos

    This entire post sums up what i’ve been thinking since middle school. Many males do completely idiotic things to somehow believe that it grants them a position higher in their “hierarchy” made up in their own mind. I believe a lot of it has to with the way males are raised and to the things they are exposed to. For example, in the media, we always see a wimpy male character in the beginning. But once he starts doing risky and stupid stunts, a lady is presented to him, etc… She’s so amazed by his manliness and falls to his arms!! (I’m looking at you Hercules!!!). We are always exposed to the idea of “manliness” being something we have to earn in order to become cherished. This is complete bogus. There are so many other ways to accomplish something that doesn’t involve some form of risk or violence. Many men are blinded by this idea of masculinity and I honestly don’t understand why. It’s like they are a peacock and they want to flaunt their “new and improved” masculinity feathers compared to other males. A PERFECT example would be Justin Bieber (I apologize for going down to this level…). The amount of stupidity this kid has in his head is above the roof. What is he trying to prove with all of his acts?? I’m not sure myself…but as long as we continue to increase in the amount of males who can think intelligently and cleanse themselves of this idea, slowly we will begin to remove this habit of doing dumb stuff to prove “manhood”. Perhaps, there will be no need for “manhood” and “womanhood” in the future. I’d prefer “human-hood”…where we have to do good things to prove ourselves as a good human being regardless of whether you’re male or female. We’re all humans right..?

  6. Roberto Iraheta

    I think of man as a wolf and wolf sometimes needs to be in a pack that is the reason behind brotherhood and fraternities, to be accepted in these male clubs some men would do things that for the other genre would look or seem stupid, and that is the whole concept of it to create a difference between genres. think about this if a woman can’t or wouldn’t do it wouldn’t be considered masculine?? I do believe for some people in this case a large majority of man would.

    • Not sure I get your point. Masculine doesn’t have to be equivalent to doing dumb stuff. And once was, Women were not allowed to do many of the things that they do now, Because they were considered masculine.

  7. I was driving on a two-way street which was divided by a short, grassy divider. I noticed on the other side of the divider that a group of middle school or early high school boys gathered on the sidewalk watching one young boy standing in the middle of the street as he jumped toward the sidewalk in order to dodge the oncoming car. The car also did not seem like it was slowing down (the speed being at about 20-25 mph) which was a bit odd since if I saw a little boy in the middle of the street I would slow down until you got out of my way. Maybe this was a way of proving to the other boys how brave and how fast you can dodge a speeding car. I mean, why else would a little boy pull this stunt in front of a group of boys? To injure himself? I highly doubt that, he most likely had the intentions of proving himself to his peers. My point is that boys are exposed to proving their “manliness” at a young age whether it’s dodging cars on a street or other dumb, dangerous stunts. But I do see a lot of change in my generation like boys holding purses for their girlfriends and standing up for themselves if someone made a big deal out of it. I think this also links to the “you’re so whipped” comment used on men who take care of their girlfriends. What’s so wrong about taking care of your potential life partner?

  8. Stephanie Masina

    Men are men we can’t change this TRUST ME ! I have 7 brothers and a boyfriend it use to bige how they always compete and do dumb stuff but then I just learned to let it go and let them figure out what there doing is CHILDISH. A ego of a man will never change it’s just life and us females have our own ego problems if we really think about it.

  9. Reading this made me realize why some guys do the stupid things that they do. And I always wonder “why are you doing that”.. And it’s funny because after reading this they’re really just trying to prove themselves to their friends/other men. I think it usually ties in with a low self esteem. But, in the past years I have seen SOME guys hold purses for their girlfriend and other such things. I mean I guess there is some hope, but it’s funny just people-watching a group of guys act stupid just because they want to prove how “masculine” they are.

  10. I believe Shame-o-phobia gets developed from on going norms of masculine dominance that has been a practice since anyone can ever remember. No male ever likes express themselves because they are then viewed as a homosexual individual. The most important thing to men I find to be is reputation. It’s all about gaining power, and respect from all other men. As if everyone was fighting for the throne of the jungle. As quoted, Michael Kimmel says manhood is about “honor, integrity, respect and doing the right thing despite the costs.” Although I agree that these principles are the initial cause for a mans determination to be at his best, the amount of commitment there is to these principles are very low now-a-days. Due to the social media and music that’s around, money, power, and respect is all people care about, Mostly men. Obviously making money isn’t a wrong thing to do, but the things a man can do to get it may or may not affect the way they earn their power and respect.

  11. I agree with Alexander that guys doing dumb things to prove their masculinity is stupid and dangerous. Not just to themselves but sometimes to the people around them. I also agree that proving their manhood should consist of having the courage to resist peer pressure and to do the right thing no matter what. I think it’s a message that should be perpetuated more in common society and praised. In my personally opinion I have more respect for man that can hold a purse and not think twice about it than a man who does. I believe this would benefit both genders greatly and make communication run much smoother.

  12. I’ve always heared about men doing this and always knew the stereotype of how men should be and shouldn’t be. We hear this stereotype that guys wont do these things like carrying a purse because they dont want to look fem at all and be mistaken for gay but then on the other hand studies show that men who are the most homophobic tend to actually be gay. Which is it? Do they really want to show how manly they are by doing stupid things or not even being able to carry a purse for a minute or two? OR do they do these things to hide whats really going on behind the scenes? Then you have the other guys that I mostly know in my life who are straight males and are perfectly fine with their sexuality and dont feel they need to prove to other males what kind of men they are. I went to a fair a few years ago with a few friends and I had a small girly backpack on to carry water and such for us. After awhile my back was getting tired from it and one of my male friends had no problem wearing the girly backpack for me. I know from a girls prospective we think it is cute and we like they arent too macho to help us. If guys want to impress girls, wouldn’t they want to help us so we can say how cute and sweet they are rather then telling us no they cant help because they have to show these other men they are too manly for that?

  13. To see a man calling out other men towards behavior that has become a gender norm in our society is refreshing and I enjoyed reading this. I can relate to having mixed feelings towards a man doing “feminine” things, because I was raised in a Latino culture where misogynistic customs are the norm and the motto goes, “A man should do, what a man does”. I grew up with only my mom as a role model and provider which that made me realize early on how strong women are, yea I also submitted to the peer pressure of trying to prove myself to the other kids to show that I was, “tougher”, but I feel that it was all a part of growing up enough to educate yourself. Go against the normal, be the example of equality, If you can’t hold someones purse because of what other people might think like in the example, then you might have other problems and should be more sure of yourself and sexuality.

  14. It’s unfortunate because I husband’s and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends and couples in general, their sex lives would be even more enhanced or better if there wasn’t this restriction. I know there are plenty of couples who have great sex lives and have some kinkyness etc, but I still think it could be enhanced. And many others who aren’t having sex much for many reasons like in your post with women wanting sex less or don’t feel attractive or appreciated by their husbands. Or a big factor like I said, because of this restriction, couples, man and woman afraid to try or bring up their kinks or fantasies to each other. For being afraid the other will think they are weird or freaky.

    A woman afraid her man might think she’s a slut and the man afraid his wife or gf will think he’s a perve or girly or less of a man and laugh at him or think he’s weird if his is related to wanting her to dominate him in bed some too. It sucks, because I personally have some stuff, and it’s nothing even extreme. I know what some extreme stuff, it’s nothing like 50 shades related or where guys want to be all submissive and be humiliated or stuff like that. I don’t care or interested in that. But I’ve never brought up stuff to any gfs, for wanting to try some slight role reversal stuff, but the last think I would want is to be judged or lauged at for seeming less of a man to her. So I have with any. Maybe if in a serious relationship and hopefully being with an open minded woman would help, but it;s something I and I’m sure a lot of men keep in for fear of being looked at funny. And like I said it’s really not extreme, it’s unconventional, but nothing gross or weird. Just goes a little against the grain so to speak of the way men and woman are to have sex.

  15. But what I hate about this, is the pressure of having to be so strict. And for me, I think it’s unfortunate to me when thinking about sex. It;s unfortunate because of society being judgemental on women’s sexuality that women hide their kinks, fetishes or secrety desires to their partners from being scared, even if nothing is harmful, or bad, but women feeling shame from it or embarassed or maybe a “freak” from the slut shaming society. But it spins the other way to men too. Many men forever keep hidden their fantasies or fetish even from wives and girlfriends from fear of embarassment from her not being into it, but also I think men being scared that their SO will think they are weird or they are less masculine ,especially if a man has fantasies of being dominated by his SO sexually. the last thing a man wants is his girlfriend thinking he;s girly or gay or less iof a man from his desire or worse, if they break up, her telling her girlfriends about it and them laughing about it. I think guy’s can feel guilt from having sexual turn ons that can have a submissive side to it. If going by porn or society, a man’s sexuality is dominate and pound and take control. So if a man likes that, but also likes the reverse of that. That means he has feminine sexuality or tendency?

  16. Just like this article shows. I think the roles and views of men and women hurt both sexes. Usually its about how it hurts women, which is true. But I think this shows how masculinity being so rigid and constrained puts so much pressure on men too, and more than guy’s want. More guy’s would like to probably express more or show more or be able to go a little outside of the contained masucline act.But many guy’s don’t want show, from being afraid of other men looking at them as “gay” or girly. And even worse, you’d be suprised how many women hold this “masculine” ideal to men too and if a man doesn’t hold up to it, women can look at a man as “gay” or girly or less masculine or manly. Therefore, hold a negative view on the man in a sexual way as a result. I think there are good things though about some masculine ideals though. I’m one being a little bit sensitive, who doesn’t think bad of men who cry or can show that side to them. But I also see the positive side of men not being so emotional or not too emotional and these “masculine” traits as they help person get through adverse moments and critical times.

    When something dangerous is happening or terrifying happens, being calm and stoic is the best way to handle situations, not crying, I think that’;s why it’s passed on to men should be this way. Because throughout history of mankind, men unfortunately have been through so many battles and wars. And simply survival or finding food during harsh winters and if people are dying all around you in war and you are scared, the last thing you can do is go in a corner and cry. A man has to suppress that emotiona and think and be stoic so he can quickly solve the problem or get out of the situation, whereas, crying in a corner is only going to get him killed while warriors are killing each other all around him,

  17. I definitely agree that most men will do stupid things just to “prove” how manly they are. The question is why do they think that these things will make them manly? I think its because society tells them it would. We let society and other people tell influence us on what being tough is. With commercials and reality TV shows that show people competing in different events that say this is what you have to do to be tough. Like society says men can’t cry other wise it shows that they are weak. Personally I feel that some of the strongest men are ones who embrace a little bit of what society calls weaknesses. I feel like this would give them the experience of these weaknesses which could help them learn how to deal with them better, while ones who don’t experience them don’t know how to handle them.

  18. Such an interesting topic.. I know these happen to all men, of course including myself. Men always compete with others with what you call “dumb stuff” in earnest. This weird contest start in pre-school or in elementary school with “who can play the trick” or “who can be most mischievous” and continues all the way to when they become adult with “who can drink the most amount of alcohol.”
    This topic reminded me of a TV commercial for Coffee in Japan which is based on this idea of “Men is Dumb”.

    The translation of the subtitle will be something like this..

    “Man is simple-minded.
    Man don’t calculate.
    Man is hilarious.
    Man is shy.
    Man hangs out.
    Man can’t look women in the eye.
    Man competes.

    Man sucks,
    Man is fantastic
    Excuse me for being a MAN! ”

    There are pros and cons against this commercial. Some even say its a prejudice against man. I personally liked this commercial because even though I know these dumb things are dumb, these are the one of the enjoyable and precious thing in my life! Maybe my idea will lead me to Shame-O-Phobia, but don’t you think it’s lovely about how men can seriously compete with others even if they know its dumb?

  19. Traci Rodriguez

    A man holding his wife’s purse is a man who is being kind and courteous and a gentlemen. My husband holds mine without a problem when asked too. If he sees I need help he will just take it from me. But in a man’s defense I will say that I can see why it is uncomfortable. Maybe they do not want to appear weak or as being controlled. Maybe they don’t want to hold it the wrong way where other men might think they are feminine. I do think the key word here is hold, they are not walking or frolicking around with it, they are simply holding it. To me a man who won’t hold a women’s purse has major insecurity issues.

  20. Quite honestly, I’ve never understood men’s desire to take extreme precaution to not seem feminine in any way. Holding a bag will not turn them into a female and neither will taking their hand out of cold water quickly. To me, this phenomenon of having to prove manhood is a matter of maturity. I would hope that a mature man would not feel the need to always have to prove masculinity through meaningless actions. I wholeheartedly agree with the line in this post that being a man should be about “honor, integrity, respect and doing the right thing despite the costs.” One of these “costs” should include the risk appearing to have some feminine qualities.

  21. It seems so silly to me, to be in a committed relationship with someone and not be willing to help them out because there is a slight possibility that a stranger may think poorly of them. Obviously it is not his purse; clearly he is holding it for his wife, so why should it matter? It is scary the things some men will do in an attempt to prove their masculinity. Personally I find this sort of behavior is something that younger men participate in more often than older men. There is something about being between the ages of 15 and 25 that make many guys act like complete fools and for all the wrong reasons. Of course this isn’t true of all men, but as most grow up, mature, and gain a decent sense of self, they grow out of this sort of attitude. It also seems to backfire completely- anyone with half a brain can see right through these sort of acts and will tell you that someone who is secure enough with their sexuality is more of a man than those that need to act out in an attempt to prove something.

  22. The first thing that came to mind when I read this was the age old theory by women that all men are stupid. For as long as I remember I’ve always had it drilled into my brain by the women around that all men are stupid and you just have to pretend around them to make them feel smart. I never believed until I started dating and realize the level of stupidity that can be reached in trying to prove and protect their manhoods. Its ridiculous, yes women want a strong, independent, and masculine man in our lives but we also want someone who is going to make themselves look like a damn fool just because they don’t want to hold a purse or go shopping. I have one customer who normally only comes in with her 11 year old daughter but the last time she came in she brought her husband and my god is he annoying. I now understand why she never brought him, he spent the whole time nagging about how men don’t shop, and how there is no reason to spend so much time buying a gift, and how he was a man and men needed to eat. I wanted to smack him so hard the more he kept talking. Men need to revaluate the definition of manhood.

  23. I must start by saying that I have fallen to this idea of shame-o-phobia and before refused to hold my girlfriends bag while she looks for things to buy. Although, I feel that I have outgrown it because I have grown to learn that doing things like not holding a purse is nothing more than an immature act. The idea that doing such a minor thing will take away from ones manhood is ridiculous and only makes one look just as ridiculous to others that see their childish behavior when avoiding the dreaded handbag carry, if only for a few minutes. I to share Michael Kimmel’s idea of manhood, because it is in those characteristics that one truly shows their manhood. A few minutes of handbag holding will not take away ones manhood if they go through life with honor, integrity, respect, and doing the right things no matter the cost. Therefore I believe that doing dumb stuff is what doesn’t prove manhood.

  24. This article is so interesting and makes great points. Socially constructed gender roles have made it for men to feel “less of a man” even when it comes down to doing something as small as carrying a woman’s purse. I find it interesting how if a man behaved in a feminine manner, he’s considered “sissy”, but when a woman is dressed in men’s clothing, she’s simply known as a “tomboy.” It seems more socially acceptable for females to act “masculine” these days. Is it because of our patriarchal society?…

    I also agree Michael Kimmel’s comment about manhood. Proving manhood is definitely all about having courage and pride in doing anything at all without having to worry what others will think of them. There shouldn’t be any shame at all. Our culture just has a predetermined assumption of how females and males should act and we need to break away from that.

    • Is it because of our patriarchal society?


      We rank males above females so when a boy does girl things he is seen as demeaning himself. If a girl does boy things, if anything she is acting above her status.

  25. “Loaded down with shopping bags, my wife asked me to grab her purse and carry it across the plaza.”

    If he had been masculine, she would not have been loaded down with bags in the first place.

  26. I personally don’t feel as I have to be dumb nor do I have to do dumb things to prove my manhood. I feel that men that won’t do little things to help out there wife/girlfriend are not in touch with their own personal sexuality. I think it would make you more of a man to set up and help your women with her purse or shopping bags, because as a man that’s the way I was raised. For a man to be so proud and shy away from such a mindless task is a shock and I feel degrades men. You open doors, pay for diner, drive them around, treat them as royalty, yet you won’t hold a pure for 15 seconds with your wife across the plaza? This has me super confused because as a man I see it as my responsibility to take care or my wife in any mean possible and I hope she would do the same for me in return.
    Men might act in immature ways to get women to notice them, such as fighting with one another to show dominance or show off in a car by speeding or doing something reckless trying to prove his manhood, yet I feel women do the same none the less just in different mannerisms. The way women dress the way they change their voice to talk acting in a provocative way to get attention yet not want to be perceived as a per miscues girl. Everything described is part of our animal instincts for mating, we are animals and the only thing that separates us from animals is religion and technology. The my statement is not all men nor do all women act dumb or in false mannerisms to show manhood or increase the way they look to the public eye.

  27. I understand mostly everything in this article but the main thing that stuck out to me was

    “Men’s studies professor, Michael Kimmel says manhood is about “honor, integrity, respect and doing the right thing despite the costs.” I agree with him.”

    I myself can totally agree with this also, When ever I’m around my boys or friends (With girls too) and we run into another group of guys just doing plain dumb stuff to look masculine or show off their man hood, We always see it as a stupidity thing at times. I mean I can see how things can be entertaining at certain times for men to do stupid things and test each other but there are also times where it just looks plain stupid to do & unnecessary. I would rather see men do the right thing despite the costs to show off their own respect for themselves instead of just impressing others consistently.

  28. Mohammad Aljudaibi

    i think it is mostly common when low self-esteem men tries to prove themselves in front of their friends, sometimes they don’t want others to make fun of them, mostly between friends.

    David’s situation is a bit weird, any person in this world would figure out that he was carrying the purse for his wife and it is not his purse.

  29. I completely agree with the sentiment of this article, I just have a problem with the very end. The part where he says, “real manhood should be about…”

    I just think the problem isn’t only that men are doing bad things to prove themselves as men. The problem is that we have a culture that has created a need to prove ourselves to our gender. We shouldn’t start doing the right thing to be manly, we should start doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.

    Also, wether it was his intention or not, it does sort of imply that those good qualities (honor, integrity, etc) are not feminine qualities. If manhood is all about honor, and honor is what defines manhood, then it is what makes men different from women.

    • On your last point: probably nothing when it comes to emotional characteristics. Yes, there are physical differences but when it comes to emotion it seems that men mostly have their emotions repressed.

      Then comes the question as to why so many men feel like it’s important to see themselves as different from women in terms of their personality traits. I don’t, and perhaps you don’t either.

      You make some good points. Thank you.

  30. I believe a man is being a leader, I dont believe that you have to prove yourslef to be a man because of what society thinks. My dad is huge 250 lb man and sometimes he holds my mother purse. By the way my father looks I wouldnt believe he was gay but its how society sees a lot of people and what men are pressured to live up too. like for myslef I dont carry a purse so my mother calls me a tom boy. I jus dont really lime carrying a purse but why must i be a tom boy.?

  31. As a young adult male I understand this concept of Shame-o-phobia all too well. You see it amongst your friends and you see yourself put into the situation. Most of my life I would have been on the side of shame-o-phobia which would have displayed it all too well. As I see myself getting older I believe it to be silly to do things such as drinking excessively to prove a point. Man hood in my opinion is not something you acquire through one such act. Man hood in is something that you learn as you get older. To be an honorable person and to be a respectable human being. To be a man shouldnt have such negative connotations in the world view. We as men need to be able to change this such view of man hood.

  32. Honestly I remember as kid and throughout middle school I use to act and do what I was suppose to avoiding to “Manhood”. However, now day generation in my view is changing. I would carry my wife’s purse for her. It’s amusing how people are acting kidish.

  33. Hector Navarro

    As a child my mom would tell me manhood kills dont be the man society wants you to be, be the man that you want to be. I knew what it meant but never knew how to explain it. This article does a great job doing that. The definition of manhood depends on how you are raised as a child the morals and values taught to you. Also society definition of manhood affects the way men act and do things. This is why i think woman are much more stronger than men because there will to do what is right rather than what others think. As a powerful man you have to be the most tuff if not your not good enouph to people. Even woman do it for example young woman dont appreciate a man thats to nice. When in reality a man should always be a gentlemen. This world affects us when we realize it or not

  34. By holding onto a purse for less than half a minute isn’t going to a man less manly than he was prior to holding onto that purse. I’ve seen lots of guys holding their significant others handbag and never thought much of it. On the contrary, I give props to the men who are not afraid of what people may think by holding onto the bag. Someone shouldn’t be judged based on the holding if a feminine accessory; we shouldn’t be judged period.

  35. The romar warrior outfits had a masculine look though, plus the armor. the gladiator look always had a tough look to it. The wigs and other clothes like in the colonial times looked stupid though

  36. Speaking of proving manhood, I think it’s getting more common. I have this feeling that everybody all feels some kind of shame. Thus, people are more likely to hide the true selves and follow the flow.
    While I was at high school, I had two groups of male friends, one who always took part in sports and mostly were good at sports as well, while other group seemed to be more introverted, shy and quiet. Unlike the boys who played the basketball game usually drew more attention from girls and were like the most popular ones in the class, the quiet ones were always helping girls with homework, relationships and etc. What happened the most was the “manly” group tended to think that they were supposed to be in charge of the girls or the class and not responsible for the cleaning-up sort-of stuff around the classroom. I made good friends from both groups and I’d learned that actually they all cared about girls and tried to help all the time. But the “manly” ones often felt ashamed to actually do the work for girls. However, the other group didn’t find it embarrassing to follow the orders/ to give a hand.
    I think it’s definitely something to do with their early childhood or the fact how they were raised by their families. So later on as they grow older, they tend to do the opposite things to prove something they already have had. And, manhood is absolutely not about doing dumb.
    As the issue goes further, we should learn to recognize how guys communicate their caring and encourage them to speak out. Only in this way will we have a better chance of getting them out of the thoughts that guys should take in everything and not give more in their relationships.

  37. I honestly don’t think that a lot of men feel the way that this man does. He said himself that he knew he was being stupid- it’s his own mind that is telling him this which I would think would have convinced him to hold the damn purse. I’ve seen plenty of men holding purses, my boyfriend holds mine sometimes, too (for a short period of time…). However, I definitely have heard men being made fun of for holding a purse and the people who were making fun of them were WOMEN. So clearly he’s not wrong for thinking that other people would think less of him. Men take being manly more seriously than women take being feminine, but maybe it’s not their fault if even women are judging them on whether they hold a purse or not.

    • Purse makers have been trying to sell handbags to men for years. They even tried calling it a “man bag.” It didn’t work.

      In most instances men won’t wear pink, whereas women have no problem wearing blue. And then what wear dresses that women have no problem wearing pants.

      It’s all because we value males and male-things over female things. Men are seen as demeaning themselves if they take on womanly things, but women don’t face the same problem when they do manly things.

  38. Yeah I’ve seen the pictures and the men look stupid. Guy’s bodies are big and bulky, skirts and such clothes work better with the bodies that have shape, curves, are smaller and not hairy or as hairy (women). Women can look as good in pants as they do in skirts, because of how the pants can show off their butts, hips and legs, it just seems like women’s bodies are more adaptable in different types of clothes, whereas guy’s bodies are less adaptable. that’s why women can look fine even in men’s clothing whereas, men look silly in female clothes. and it’s not even so much a gay factor as just how things look. I mean doesn’t a big, muscular gorilla in cartoons look funny or would look funny in a petite girl type of clothes? Not saying guy’s are ugly as I’m a guy and like how I look, but guy’s are broader and our hips are narrow and don’t have shape to our legs and they’re hairy as well.

    • Wonder if “silly” is what the Roman warriors were aiming for in their armored shirts.

      Sometimes things just look silly when you aren’t used to seeing them.

      A lot of people once thought women looked silly in pants or smoking cigarettes.

    • Bobby, men used to wear short shorts in the 50s but now men in short shorts are seen as weird. Men also wore really tight pants and women wore looser clothing. Naturally an adult woman has very noticeable hair on her legs and underarms(unless she’s a blond but that also goes for men) but our natural state would be seen as gross and even unnatural by American standards but things weren’t always like that and still aren’t in some cultures. I don’t understand why you differentiate between a kilt and a skirt, when a kilt in fact is a skirt. Have you ever heard of a dhoti? It’s a traditional men’s attire in India and the complete outfit looks a lot like a dress. Men’s fashion has evolved with time, just as women’s fashion and the differences are even greater when you compare between different cultures.

      Also not all men are big and bulky either.

  39. I think it’s kind of stupid to not hold a purse for 15 seconds while the guy’s wife was loading groceries into the car. I’ve seen guys hold purses for women all the time and I’ve never thought anything of it.

    • Yet it’s both interesting, and telling, that men often do have this problem. It’s becau women are valued less. As women are valued more, it will be less of a problem.

  40. Johan Victorin

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of the “latte dads” in Sweden but that’s a pretty good example of social structures being changed. Dads in Sweden are expected to take parental leave (you get 480 days that you can divide between the two parents or if you’re a single parent you get all of the 480 days.) I think that dads only took about 25% of the days last year but they’re getting there. However, the funny thing about this is that a lot of those men (especially if they’ve got jobs like accountants, designers or other “unmanly” jobs) often start taking up classically manly hobbies like hunting, leather craft or carpentry to kind of make up for the manliness “lost” during the parental leave or in their “unmanly” fields of work.

  41. Because guys would look stupid in a dress, unless you mean something like a kilt. And it’s not just men, women would think guys would look stupid too. Plus the male form just doesn’t look right, in clothes like that, which are better suited with the sex with the smaller body that has curves and not hairy or atleast not like guys.

    • More likely you’re just used to it. There’s a long history of men wearing dresses/skirts, even tights. See this:

      My Son Likes Girl-Things. Is He Gay?

      And why do women wear pants if they look better in dresses and skirts?

      More likely, once it’s decided that men wear pants and women wear skirts, it’s easier for women to crossover and wear male things because they aren’t seen as the degrading themselves by doing that. And that’s because in our culture we rank man above women. So if a woman does something that is associated with maleness, she isn’t seen as degrading herself. But if a man does something that is associated with women, they are often seen as demeaning themselves. See this:

      It’s Ok To Be A Tomboy But Not A Sissy. Why?’s-ok-to-be-a-tomboy-but-not-a-sissy-why/

  42. How weird that the guy mentioned in this post, David, couldn’t even bring himself to hold his wife’s purse for a few seconds! I understand that men want to look masculine in front of other men and that they are always competing in that sense, but holding your wife or girlfriend’s purse is a courteous thing to do! I see plenty of guys holding their girl’s purse– my boyfriend included. I don’t know about how this looks to other men, but to me it doesn’t look feminine. It looks sweet, like he is a gentleman.

    I know from dating my current boyfriend as well as other guys in the past that when it comes to certain things like driving, as mentioned in this post, or working out, guys are always wanting to be the faster, stronger one. I think some girls are the same way though– competing with other girls in how they dress, how they fix their hair, what clothes and shoes they wear or even what car they drive.

    Anyways, I can understand men doing certain things to look bigger or better than the guy next to them, but I don’t think holding your girlfriend or wife’s purse is so bad. Mine does it all the time. Maybe if she asked the guy to paint his nails or something I could understand him turning that down!

    • Yes. But I have a wallet that I keep in my purse — that I can easily take out and put in my pocket — for when I don’t want to take the whole purse. And I don’t think twice about it. And girls began wearing pants, but guys won’t wear dresses. Now, why is that?

  43. My youngest has been called all the names you can think of because he has preferred female to male company. In spite of his loving girls, they are only interested in the guys who want to be macho. This article was a comfort to me as a mom to a non-stereotypical male.

  44. So refreshing to hear a man deconstruct the shame and ignorance of manhood. Thank you for your honesty and insight, Alexander. Thank you Georgia for opening your blog to such diverse voices. My goal is to redefine manhood as strength through compassion. Glad to see others are on the same track. {{{hugs}}} kozo

  45. All this posturing to appear more masculine has just looked to me like men wanting to be with men more than they want to be with women. How is this viewed as NOT homosexual? Wanting to spend time with women and doing things that please women is gay/sissy/faggy? But getting dirty and sweaty and drunk with the guys – anything to make sure the guys “approve” of you – is NOT? Never made any sense to me. Even the shame-o-phobia explanation is more of the same: “what the guys think of me matters more than what the girls think of me”. Super frustrating as a woman to realize that girls want to impress men, gays want to impress men, and even straight men want to impress men. Doesn’t ANYONE want to impress women?

    • That’s what you get with patriarchy.

      Patriarchy is defined as men having more power (No female presidents, Congress is predominately man, business CEOs are predominantly men, religious leaders are predominantly men, “Head of house” is presumed male…)


      Men are more valued. And a man’s opinion is more valued.

      If you read men’s studies, which comes from a feminist perspective, they try to explain that men’s opinions about themselves revolve around male approval, not female approval. And in fact, women are often used and abused to create male approval. And so you get gang rapes and harassment of women.

      But the feminist men of men’s studies are seeking to make men aware of the negative notions we have about manhood and how much damage it does.

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