Be Younonymous: The Meaning of Man

| March 1, 2011

I love women. I love feminism, I believe, truly, that there should be equal rights and pay for men and women in the workforce, higher education, and all aspects for life. We live in an age where being a strong woman is more and more acceptable than it was in the past. BU’s women’s resource center is a meaningful step in the advancement of woman and the education about their rights and health.

I don’t have a problem with feminism and the support of women. What I do have a problem with, and am utterly hurt and confused by, is the lack of male resources, re-education, and community.

I, as a male in a predominantly female school, find myself in an identity crisis. There is a constant question of: “What does it mean to be a man and be supportive of feminism?” Culturally and historically, what I’ve been taught it means to be a man is to be Macho, to objectify women, to brag about exploits, to be the major bread winner, and to not express emotions. This idealized “masculinity” is something I feel uncomfortable with as a man trying to be cognizant of the inequality of the sexes. I don’t want to be that guy, I don’t want to fit into male stereotypes and perpetuate negative, hurtful attitudes about women.

As a male in a society approaching egalitarian or feminist, I see little dialogue about how a Man should act. Should we simply continue being “traditional men,” and try to be cognizant of the difficulties women face? To me, that seems like a major contradiction, like something that would cause more harm than good.

To me, the answer is this: we as a society need to start discussing seriously what it means to be a man in a feminist society, and help re-define the gender roles of both sexes, not just women. I was deeply bothered, on Wednesday night, when Student Health Services had a panel on body image and there wasn’t even a single male individual on the board. I felt unwelcome, but most of all I was hurt that it seemed like body image was a completely female concern.

I fear that we, as a society, risk causing a new kind of sexism by not addressing the real problems men face in the same serious nature that we address the problems facing women. I submit this to culture shock anonymously because despite these feelings, even as a man I am not sure if I am an outlier. Do other men feel this conflict, do they agree that there is a need to re-define what it means to be a man? Help me out here people, I need to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way.

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Category: BeYounonymous, featured

About the Author ()

Beyounonymous is an account where people in the BU community can feel free to post to Culture Shock anonymously. The purpose of this is to allow people to talk as freely as possible, particularly when the issue may be sensitive or difficult to discuss.

Comments (8)

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  1. Diane says:

    Thank you so much for being brave and upfront about your thoughts on this. Your honesty is refreshing and impressive.
    Full disclosure: I’m a woman and I’m on the e-board of the Women’s Resource Center. I absolutely can’t speak for the WRC as whole and this statement is coming from me as an individual, but I can tell you that masculinity is something we talk and think about A LOT in the WRC, especially lately. We actually just had a series of discussions with students and professors (part of the weekly Consciousness-Raising series) about masculinity and men’s involvement in feminism that really got a lot of us thinking. Yeah, our name doesn’t reflect it (yet..?) but one thing to keep in mind is that the WRC just re-opened 2 years ago and we’re still playing catch up for everything that’s changed in feminism and society as a whole over the past 30 years…so we badly need your help of people like you and the other commenting folks who are thinking about stuff like this. I agree with you: there is SUCH a lack of resources for men thinking about masculinity and re-defining what it mean’s to be a man.
    If you’re interested in talking more about this or setting up kind of event, group, whatever, please email me: If you (or anyone) has any interest in talking to the WRC board about how we can better serve both men and women, we have open weekly leadership meetings Wednesdays at 5pm in the WRC.
    Thanks again.

  2. Freshman says:

    I am a male and completely agree with all that you have said here. This semester I took my first gender-focused course. This course has gone into a lot of what men and women face in society and how completely different the two experiences are. You are not alone in your thoughts and I think a change in societal mentality is long over due.

  3. Mike says:

    This is a very good post, about a topic that I think does not get enough attention. I have to admit, as a progressive-thinking male in the 21st century, I still have the nagging feeling that sometimes we don’t get any attention. True, the reason we need a “Women’s Resource Center,” not to mention “Women’s History Month,” is because, well, most everywhere else is a hegemonic (and thus, tacit) “Men’s Resource Center,” and every other month is “Men’s History Month”.

    But, you raise a good point: where’s the re-education. Why does the new, redefined man have to be a “feminist”? I disagree with the comment above me that reads, “When a man defends a man, it’s sexism.” When a man defends sexist acts by men, it’s sexist. When a man defends against sexist attacks by men and women, is he a feminist? By today’s standards, yes. Let’s redefine it though. I challenge the next commenter to come up with a new term for “feminist” men. How about, “masculinist?” Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s a start.

  4. John says:

    When a woman defends a woman, it’s feminism.

    When a man defends a man, it’s sexism.

  5. Jeff Fox says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been in the midst of this sort of identity crisis since about the 4th grade, and it’s great to hear someone say what I’ve been thinking. I hope this sparks some sort of discourse on the issue. It’s something I’d definitely be willing to talk more about, try to come up with an answer.

  6. Icee Etheridge says:

    Your point of view is very interesting and this is honestly nothing I’ve ever thought of, being a female myself. However, you’ve raised very good points: as the roles of women change, it seems like the roles/opinions of men stay the same. It would be really interesting to have a frank discussion about this issue, as I’m sure there are many guys that don’t know what direction true ‘manliness’ lies in.

  7. Jenny Gilbert says:

    Wonderfully written.
    You’re completely right that there should be more discourse, both at BU and around the globe, on what defines masculinity. Sometimes I wonder if the Women’s Resource Center could/might ever consider expanding into a Gender Resource Center for all gender issues – male, female, LGBT, etc. They already do many events on these topics, so it would certainly be interesting if they keep growing in this direction.

  8. Emma says:

    I know that I am woman so my commenting on this is a little.. erm.. odd. I could not resist because I agree wholeheartedly with you. There is not enough serious discussion about what it means being a man in modern society. I do know that we are not alone in feeling this way. You should check out the blog: The Art of Manliness. It is a blog devoted to discussing what being a modern man means. It is a community of men and some women who feel exactly the same as you do.