“What are the rules really?”
All my life I have heard the words coming from people’s mouths about what it means to be a real man. But who decides what that is suppose to mean? Yes, if you are born in this world, the sex of a baby is determined, but what is masculinity really? I went far as to use the above image to pose the question. Well, what does the colors pink and blue have to do with manhood. We look at the color pink as a softer, gentler color. It represents being more passive and less aggressive. The color blue represents more of a dominant trait and more aggressive. Maybe this is why we use pink and blue when we have children: pink for the girls and blue for the boys.
But who decided that this must be of symbolism? Better yet, who is to say a color represents ones’ dominance? When a child is born, both are fragile, both are gentle, neither is aggressive. So why are we placing color limitations on our young so early in life. It’s how we can determine the place in which to put men and women. The place meaning, what is for the girls is for the girls; what is for the boys is for the boys. So let’s start here and work our way into masculinity, childhood into adulthood.
When I was a child, I was into the norm: toy trucks, action figurines, building blocks, wrestling dummies, and toy guns. My two older sisters were into Barbie dolls, makeup kits, doll playhouses, Easy Bake ovens, and clipping out the clothing in fashion magazines. Yet I remember owning male action figures, but needed and opposite female companion. There weren’t any, so what the hell I used my sisters dolls. Whoa now! That is a red flag for some parents, but to me, I just saw toys I wanted to play with at home. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I took my GI Joe and dressed Barbie in his clothes.” “Man, can you imagine, Barbie and GI Joe saving the world.
So here I am I’m flying around beating up bad guys, or lack there of with Barbie and GI. Little did I know, had people have seen me, there would have been some scolding to my mother. “You let that boy play with dolls?” Now of course I knew her reaction would have been a frown and a middle finger. But to me, I wasn’t harboring homosexual feelings, I just wanted GI to have a female sidekick. The same for when I saw my sister and her Easy Bake oven. I thought, “Hey, I want some cookies and brownies.” “I wonder if she would let me use her oven.”
Yet again, another red flag to a parent, but not a child. Adults are thinking feminine characteristics, but I’m thinking chocolaty snacks. Well, why didn’t I feel any kind of way. It’s because our sexuality is a development, not something we are endowed with at birth. And here we are again, what is masculinity and how do we come to these logical explanations. Then again, could adults be on to something, with Barbie and Easy Bake. No because by the time I was midway elementary school my attention was focused on sports all the way. So focused on sports that I didn’t even have a girlfriend until I was almost out of high school.
Uh oh, red flag again, no girls until eighteen. That’s a problem for a boy, or isn’t it. While some people theorized, to me I grew up in a poor community. So many guys were having multiple kids by multiple women, I didn’t want the headache at such a young age. Not once did I go, “I’m not a real man” or “Am I gay,” because my definition of responsibility is a question of my masculinity. When I look in the mirror I see something I like, but not in another man. I have attraction in women. But it wasn’t until I became an adult I observed more about masculinity and gender views.
When you date, it’s more masculine to ask the woman out on a date. It’s more masculine to pay for the date. And it’s more masculine for you to initiate the sex. And if you are a man who don’t fall into these equations you’re not worthy of being called a man. But who set forth these boundaries and are they more limiting and hurtful than helpful. Does a man asking out a woman all the time mean a woman should remain alone until someone speaks to her first. Think about how lonely of an existence it is for her to be in this construct as well.
What if you’re a guy who don’t have much money, you should never date? And if you want to date, should you break the law if you have to just to get the adulation of a woman? Time and time again we ask ourselves these questions because as a man you are constantly put in positions to question manhood. It could be something as simple as wearing a small article of clothing, to how you eat your food, the music you listen to, and even your world views. Where do these social norms come from and who decides what’s a man or not?
I am a firm believer that if at every turn you’re constantly trying to make sure your masculinity is good, then inevitably it’s not in check. But as a man, can you blame some guys. Everything we do is scrutinized in society regarding our masculinity. Maybe I don’t care much because I’m close to thirty years old. The older you get the less people’s opinions matter. In the end there are things that never will change. No matter how much time goes by, as a man we are just expected to act a certain way and do certain things. Luckily, the myths that question manhood and sexuality are rapidly being laid to rest. Laid to rest as nothing more than antiquated rhetoric than has actually hurt more than helped men.