One man’s definition of masculinity

cc licensed by D Sharon Pruitt

Today the Son takes his last final exam.

His summer break begins this afternoon.

And thank goodness, because these past two weeks have been grueling.

For anyone who has helped a twenty year old study for finals, you know what it’s like.

(If you don’t, read about it here.)

He’s already announced that this weekend “the party gets started.”

In other words, when I’m going to bed he’s going out and when I’m waking up he’s getting home.

The culmination of classes also means I get more computer time.

Yes, friends, after God only knows how many months, I’ll finally be able to write my blog posts at a decent hour and not in the wee hours of the morning.

I’ll also have more time to catch up with my favorite blogs.

The thought alone makes me want to do a victory lap around the living room.

But first, there’s something I want to share with you.

The Son recently had to do a discussion post for his Psychology of Women class.

After much pleading and cajoling, he’s allowed me to share his answer with all of you.

The topic was, “If you had the power to create your own definition, what would your definition of masculinity be and why? How would this impact the understanding of femininity?”

Here’s his answer, unedited:

If I had the power to create a definition of masculinity, I would do away with it all together. I think it does a big disservice to femininity for there to be a distinction regarding a difference in all that is male or all that is female. Instead, I would strive for the elimination of gender and focus on a definition of what traits best describe a worthy human being. The way I see it, the only difference between both genders are the physical ones; those related to reproductive organs and hormones. Yet the fact that men and women have different reproductive organs should not have anything to do with their behavior or attitudes.

Sadly, the reality lies in the fact that as a society, we attribute certain traits or characteristics to men and women. Masculinity is associated with a man’s ability to be strong, sexual, aggressive, and dominant, to name a few. Ironically, not only do men define what being “a real man” is like, but women also give in to the notion that if a man is in touch with his feminine side, he’s not really a “man’s man.” Hence, women too are responsible for having expectations that masculinity is defined by men who are players, who don’t let anyone tell them what to do, or who crave adrenalin-filled activities and adventure. It is these expectations that make it so difficult for men to escape from the culturally defined concept of masculinity. However, if we were to embrace the fact that no trait is necessarily specific to men or women, the definition of masculinity would not be necessary. We could accept the fact that women can be strong, determined, and assertive and that men, on the other hand, can be sensitive, intuitive, and nurturing.

In educating boys so that they understand that there is no specific list that details qualifications that make a man a man, we would uphold the belief that as humans, we should strive to place value on what makes a person valuable. Traits such as kindness, compassion, and empathy shouldn’t be associated with any specific gender. As a society, we should expect and promote women and men to possess those qualities that make for a more positive environment; one that values respect, intellect, and tolerance and not one that dictates that men are men if they have sex on the brain and are combative and dominant.

I believe that in embracing this type of mentality, we would do away with the harmful effect of objectifying and sexualizing women or of labeling men “gay” when they show emotion or exhibit tenderness, for example. Therefore, the definition of masculinity should cease to exist and instead be replaced with what it’s like to be a good person; a fine human being.

I think that in reeducating boys to the reality that other than the physical, we’re all equal, we would be able to change attitudes and beliefs that men are superior to women; we would be able to change the sense of entitlement that by virtue of being male, men hold more power and status. Educating young boys would combat the use of derogatory labels and stereotypes that are used to define women and it would educate them to the fact that it is unacceptable to use hostility and violence against women to achieve their means. Finally, I find that it would lessen the importance that society places on physicality, thereby eliminating the need to treat women as sex objects.

When I read his answer, I cried.

I cried because I could hear my nana whispering, “Bella, you raised that boy right.”

However, the purpose of this post is not to toot my horn, although my heart bursts with pride.

Instead, I wanted to show you that it if we educate young boys to embrace gender equality, it is possible to banish society’s expectations of how men and women should act.

As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and teachers, it is our responsibility to engage in this process.

In doing so, not only do we take a step in changing societal views, but we also help determine the kind of women and men our children will turn out to be.


85 thoughts on “One man’s definition of masculinity

  1. There is yet hope for humankind!! May I beseech you to please give birth to more boys?? This is wonderful. I’d be prostrate with amazement and joy if this were my kid.

    And I think you can probably trust him staying out late 8).

    1. Eloise, the Son has more privileges than anyone I know. Thankfully, he’s responsible and if he’s not coming home, he calls to let me know. Although I must confess that the other day he said, “Mom, the guys poke fun at me cause you call so much.” My reaction? “Too bad.” hee hee! He’s an amazing person–quite temperamental, but amazing. Thank you for your kind words, lady! :)

    2. You are welcome. The phone calls? Comes with the territory 8). He seems to be managing; you get teased in life every now and then.

      That piece he wrote was truly phenomenal.

    3. So true, lady! Thank you for your kind praise, Eloise. The Son is puffed up like a peacock from so many kind and wonderful comments. I think he’s glad he let me post his mini essay! :)

    4. I’m sure he’s glad and surprised as well – he probably didn’t expect the response! Good for you, lady, for raising a fine son. You’ve gotta be proud!

    5. Eloise, thank you! For sure the Son did not expect so many kind words from you and all my lovely readers. It’s so gratifying to read all of your comments and we’re both so grateful! :)

  2. What a wonderful young man with a strong character. I hope (and believe) he will influence other young men to behave as he does. Great work, Bella!

    1. Shary, thank you! I hope you’re right. I hope that someday he will be a good role model for his children. He has great values and a good head on his shoulders. We can only hope that life will be kind to him. :)

    1. Sahbinah, that is so sweet! I can see him smiling at your comment of “required reading”! Happy Mother’s Day to you too! :)

  3. I hope, if this was graded, that he got the highest grade! I only disagree with one point. As Alpha says (of course that name alone leaves room for discussion but he is a most honorable man who treats all people the same, which is why we can name him this tongue-in-cheek name) – anyway he says, “You ARE my feminine side” and I have to agree with him. Other than that, this was an wisdom-filled discussion post. He already has the power to create his own definition.

    1. Nan, I think it’s lovely that you are Alpha’s feminine side. The Son would argue that you’re the way your husband gets in touch with his feminine side! You know, he took this class this semester and I see so much maturity when it comes to these subjects. I’m so impressed with his views on feminism. Last night he said to me, “More men should be feminists!” And he’s right! :)

  4. Good God, Bella…talk about making the world a better place.

    I don’t have a son, but I do wish that some of my friends would raise their sons to think about these kinds of things. Instead, they leave the boy rearing up the husbands, and it seems that all they’re doing in perpetuating the gender stereotypes.

    1. Jennifer, it breaks my heart to see how many young boys have male role models that constantly affirm that it’s wrong to cry, or participate in activities that are not deemed “boy” activities. Sadly, children act in the way they are expected to act. To top things off, the media has such strong influence and it makes young boys and girls believe they have to do boy things or girl things, depending on their gender. What hogwash! When my children were little, I only bought gender free toys. The only exception I made was a doll my mother got the Daughter. I remember many of my friends reacting negatively when their little boys played with dolls in day care. I thought, this is what keeps gender stereotypes alive. Thanks for joining the conversation, lady! :)

    1. Laura, would you believe I never encouraged my children to buy Mother’s Day presents? Growing up, my children heard the same thing every year on Mother’s Day: “Every day is a mother’s day.” Hence, they would write little stories, poems, and even riddles, but no store bought present, thank you very much. To this day, I welcome flowers but that’s it. As a matter of fact, the Significant Other got me flowers today! But you’re right–this is the best present! And you are just as amazing, friend! :)

    1. Mrs. Allnut, que bonito su comentario! Gracias! I am extremely proud. It makes mother’s heart happy to see that so much hard work has paid off! Besos! :)

    1. Annie, I’m loving your toot, lady! Thank you! The Son is very articulate and smart, if I say so myself! He’s been on the Dean’s List three times since he started college! Happy Mother’s Day to you as well, friend! :)

  5. Oh Bella. I can hear your mama right did raise him right! His ability to express his views is clear, defined, heartfelt. What’s fabulous to read too is his hope for the future generations. You should be extremely proud of yourself, and goodness, I can’t imagine helping a 20 year old with finals..that is a huge feat. Congratulations to you both. As we sail into celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday, I will reflect upon your son’s words. What a fine man of character you have raised, Bella. Happy Mother’s Day to you..big hugs!

    1. Shirley, your words bring such comfort! Thank you! As I type this, I’m happy to report that finals are officially over. Now all we can do is wait and see what the final grades are like. He’s worked so hard this semester. And trust me, lady, studying for finals is scary! hee hee! A big Mother’s Day hug to you! :)

    1. Jess, thank you! It’s funny but you know, I didn’t write this post with Mother’s Day in mind but it worked out beautifully, didn’t it? Don’t you love when that happens! hee hee! Happy Mother’s Day! :)

    1. Patrice, motherhood is tough but it’s times like these that make it such a gratifying experience. I respect women that are child free by choice but personally, I wouldn’t feel complete without my children. They are an extension of me and when they do something this cool, well, it’s like frosting on the cake! :)

    2. Children are a gift, this is true. Even in the pain they bring, there is so much growth and learning. They expand us, contract us, and expand us again. I agree, i would feel imcomplete without my daughter. I only regret I didn’t have more children. But I am so happy to have one! Last night while we were making dinner, my kiddo and I were talking about the differences between men and women, those we’ve observed and I told her about your son’s awesome essay and I could see it made her feel hopeful. She’s going through some heartache this week, we’ve been nursing her soul a bit (though she has commanded me “not to worry” about her). I’m proud of her for managing through her struggle, for trying to make sense of it. She is my icing, for sure!

    3. Patrice, your girls sounds like a trooper! I love resilient kids like her! She’ll get through this. It’s part of the growing up process and I’m sure she appreciates knowing you have her back. Most definitely our children are one of our reasons for living. They are what makes us feel whole. Hugs for you, lady, and Happy Mother’s Day! :)

  6. I’m so proud of you both! It’s clear that you’ve instilled wonderful values in your boy. He would not have absorbed those lessons without an honest and worthy example to follow. Bravo!

    1. Eden, you’ve made me teary eyed! Thank you for your kind words, chica. It’s been rough but we made it and now he’s all grown up! Whatever will I do when he leaves the nest? I’m afraid my heart will break into a million tiny pieces! I hope you and the rest of these lovely readers are still here to help me through what is sure to be a thermal nuclear breakdown! :)

  7. Oh, Bella…What an amazing grasp he has on what boils down to the essence of being human; a state which doesn’t require delineation or objectification. That was so heartening to read.

    Kudos to you (and your hubby) for raising him “proper,” and even more kudos to your son for taking what you offered in perspective to heart, and internalizing it.

    Happy Mother’s Day, Bella. :-) xoxo

    1. Ellen, thank you! I should tell you that I raised this little guy and his sister on my own. When the Signficant Other came on the scene they were past puberty! Nevertheless, we do make it a point to stress the importance of being human, like you mention. No chore or task should be designated to a specific gender. In our home, everyone does laundry, dishes, takes out trash, fixes the plumbing. I’m not going to say it’s always easy to get the men to do their share, but when I put my foot down, everyone scrambles! hee hee! Thank you for your well wishes, lady. I hope you have a lovely day! :)

  8. **** we should strive to place value on what makes a person valuable. Traits such as kindness, compassion, and empathy shouldn’t be associated with any specific gender****

    Bella, you’ve done fabulous, honey. You’ve done your job. Your son just said what many men do not know,, comprehend, or believe.

    So, we must pass the message on….

    Xxxxxx Love this post. Looooooooooooooove and Kisses.

    1. Kim, thank you, love. Your words gladden my heart. They truly do. I can only hope that this is the message that the Son will bring to his own children and they to theirs and so on. Like you say, the message must be passed on. I’m sure this is the first step to changing many things that are wrong in society. I’m tickled pink you like the post! Love and kisses for you! :)

    1. Jody, that’s right! Gender is the topic of your WP! How fantastic,friend! And I totally agree–the sacrifice has been totally worth it. It’s only when we see end products like these that we can see just how worth it was! Thank you for your sweet words, lady! :)

    1. Imelda, I am touched and honored. I truly hope that this means that young people are willing to change society’s views and make a difference! I have passed on your message to the Son and he says, “Thank you very much!” :)

  9. Bella, first of all, congrats on getting your life back, now that you’re able to use the computer at a decent hour again. As for your son, you must be such a proud mama. I know I would be. Happy Mother’s Day, my friend. Hugs to Roxy!

    1. Monica, just think, soon I’ll be able to write frequently! ha! I am a proud mama. Who says single mothers can’t raise wonderful sons? I dare anyone to tell us differently, eh, amiga? Happy Mother’s Day to you too, lady! Hugs from Roxy to you and Sir Henry! :)

  10. Bella–Wow! What a fine young man you have. And his sharing the essay on your blog is the perfect Mom’s Day gift. Bravo, Son!

    1. Jann, the Son takes a bow at your lovely words! Grazie! It wasn’t till the comments on this post started coming through that I realized how fitting it was with Mother’s Day on Sunday. Sometimes things just work out perfectly! :)

  11. WOW Bella!!! Thank you for sharing. You have ALL the rights to be proud and so proud of your son, but also proud of yourself. You did perfect. You are a perfect Mother. Happy Mother’s Day!

    1. Nikky, your comments always make my day! Thank you so much! You make me blush with so much lovely praise, but I’ll take it! hee hee! I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! :)

  12. Bella, the acorn doesn’t fall too far from the oak, does it? What a wise mom you are to have raised such an articulate, precise son! He gives his reasoning most logically and that alone should earn him high marks on his essay. Thank you for sharing it with us. Well done, Bella’s son!

    1. Debbie, thank goodness for proof that all those years of expensive private schooling didn’t go to waste! hee hee! Seriously though, he’s very articulate and verbose. Or I should say, when he wants to be cause he can also tune me out with his iPod! ha! He did very well on this assignment! The Son expresses says, “Thank you!” :)

    1. Corinne, your hug has been given! Thank you for making me smile as I did this. I also said, “This hug is from my friend Corinne!” hee hee! :)

    1. Lisa, thank you for your encouragement. If only more young men were this open minded and open to changing the structure of society, right? Thankfully, I think many young men are starting to come around and see how change has to take place so that this world will be a better place to live in. Hugs to you! :)

  13. Bella, I’m so glad your son agreed to let you share this! Fantastic!

    My husband was raised by a mother who gave him a doll carriage and doll when his little sister was born. I’m convinced that the reason he is so nurturing and loving is that his mother raised him that way…he’s still a “guy” in many ways, but without all the crazy macho stuff. He was bullied and even beat up for that doll carriage, but became a loving father and all-around sweet guy. Sounds like you’ve done a great job with your son, and he will go on to treat women with respect.

    Heck, just the idea that he was taking such a class is exciting! Brava to you for the job you’ve done!

    1. Nadine, I was a bit surprised the day he announced, “I’ve enrolled in a women’s studies class.” I remember asking him, “Really? And why you do that?” He said, “Because I think it’s important that men know what women think.” I had to laugh at his reply! Nonetheless, he has been very committed to this class and I think it’s made him a better man. He now understands feminism better and how women struggle in a male dominated society. Kudos to your mother in law for being so avant garde in a time where I’m sure it wasn’t seen with “good eyes” for your husband to play with a doll carriage and baby doll. Indeed his mother did something wonderful which served to influence your hubby’s wonderful attitude today. I’m so sorry he got bullied but I’m sure this made him more resilient and understanding of how ignorant some people can be. Thank you for sharing this, lady! The Son thanks you for your lovely words! :)

  14. Bella, you did raise that boy right indeed! Gosh, with that attitude he must be every mother’s dream of a future son-in-law.
    (Oh, and congrats on gaining back access to the computer at reasonable hours of the day! Haha!)

    1. Sabrina, I have missed you! Isn’t it great that I have my laptop back during working hours? ha! Your comment of the Son being every mother’s dream of a future son-in-law made me chuckle! I hadn’t thought about that but I think you’re right! hee hee! Thank you for your sweet words! :)

    2. Awww, how sweet of you to miss me! I always get into these moods when I check back on all the blogs I love at once and try to read at least the three latest stories. Lately, I have been quite busy at work (and off work, too, unfortunately), so sadly I haven’t had much time left for blogging. (Also, it doesn’t help that my battery of the laptop is broken and I always have to find a socket first… :)).

    3. Sabrina, thank you for making the effort to read my blog! It is very much appreciated and I do miss you when you’re gone! I hope your work load eases up soon and that you find the laptop battery! It cannot be fun to have to be on a constant hunt for a socket! hee hee! :)

  15. I cried because I could hear my nana whispering, “Bella, you raised that boy right.”

    You needn’t cry and she needn’t have whispered!

    Congratulations. LOVED this post!

  16. Bella, this is amazing! I literally had to stop in the middle of your son’s response to do a happy dance! And then I did another one when I finished it, hehe.

    1. Rachel, I know how strongly you feel about this subject and something told me you would approve. I’m so happy that was the case! I shall pass your comment along to the Son since I’m sure it will make his day! :)

  17. Yep. You raised that boy right. Who is it who said that children raised with kindness learn to be kind? Well that is certainly true here. Thank you for raising a fine son!

  18. God Bella, I echo your nana’s words “Bella, you raised that boy right”. You did! What a sensitive and mature son you have raised. I wish more men would think like him. I must show this to Ron, my 18 year old. He is a very soft, gentle and sensitive guy and I think he would appreciate this. Beautiful. Dont mind if I copy paste this and keep it for my son to read do you?

    1. Hi Rimly! I am delighted that you would want to share this with your son! Absolutely, lady! Go ahead! I’m so pleased you liked it. I think it speaks volumes of how far some men have come. We can only hope that this isn’t just a trend and that men will continue to add to societal change! Hugs for you! :)

  19. I love your son! What a wise man and what an amazing mom you are for having raised him so well. So nice to know there are smart, kind souls out there. Bravo!

    1. Kristine, your words lighten my sombre mood tonight! Thank you! I’m thrilled you feel this way! Lets hear it for kind spirited souls, lady! :)

  20. Reading this made my heart swell & my eyes weep in gratitude. I thought I’d raised the last nice guy. I felt as though your Son wrote things my Son could have said himself. Glad to know there are other moms out there putting in the work to educate their little boys on what it REALLY means to be a man — a compassionate human is all it takes. I bow to you, ma’am.

    1. Andi, thank you for your lovely comment. There is hope for the world, lady, if we but raise kind, considerate, and respectful boys. Education is the key to change. And perseverance. Lots of it! :)

  21. Oh dear. Please read these words with the love that compels me to share them. As a man who was once like Son, I have realized denying my masculinity was keeping me from engaging in life and disabling me from my life mission. I felt guilty for being a man. I repressed my inherent masculinity, cultivating feminine characteristics to survive. I was taught masculinity is angry, masculinity is not acceptable, anger is not acceptable, feeling my true feelings is unacceptable, only feeling the feelings I am expected to feel is acceptable.

    Of course we all have our own life experiences, and I don’t know you or Son. I can only speak of myself and how I read my experience into your posting.

    I am only now learning to cultivate my masculinity and neglect the femininity I used to nurture myself. Like Son, I have a basic understanding of all people being equally deserving of being. It was a positive evolution in society, but what is next? Is post-equality society one where all are equally deserving yet still uniquely equipped?

    I am a man. I have masculine traits that are necessary for me to live my life mission. I have desire and drive and ambition and muscle and stink. My mind, body and spirit need to work to exhaustion towards the satisfaction of my ambition. Fighting myself by cultivating femininity within myself only serves to sabotage myself. I am a man, passionately loving through my masculinity, with loving anger, loving rigor, loving physicality, loving aggression. It feels weird, but I’m getting used to it.

    As a woman, you understand better than I will ever, how much you desperately want your son to live his life mission. As a woman you understand love like no man and you accept it as the nature of a woman.

    Oh yeah, your kid didn’t do the assignment! Failed! Out of love for all existence, I sincerely hope he chooses to find his masculinity and demonstrates how to be a post-equality man, because equality is boring.

    1. Greg, hello and welcome! I hope you will read my words with all the love that compels me to reply to your comment. First of all, I respect your opinion. We have the right to think differently and given you’ve taken the time to elaborate a response, I appreciate that. That said, allow me to let you in on a little secret–masculinity is overrated. It never seizes to amaze me how much work many men put in, as members of the “boys club” say, to avoid appearing “gay.” Although this doesn’t surprise me given the importance that “real” men put in exhibiting their masculine traits. Beard stubble? Check. A rejection of anything feminine? Check. Stifling any sign of being compliant or in agreement with the feminine gender for fear of appearing whipped? Check. Some men are so obsessed with embracing their masculinity that they fail to see the bigger picture and that is that we should not continue to be a society obsessed with gender. You say, ” I have desire and drive and ambition and muscle and stink. My mind, body and spirit need to work to exhaustion towards the satisfaction of my ambition.” Well, guess what, Greg? That’s not you being a man, that’s anyone, male or female who has the goal to get ahead in life. In my humble opinion, there is no “post” or “pre” masculinity stage. Why? Because we’re more alike than you give us credit for. Biologically, we both have testosterone and estrogen. Granted, it’s in different quantities depending on gender, but we both possess these. Ambition, drive, and the desire to succeed? These traits are gender free. Sorry, Greg. I’m not buying into the “I have masculine traits that are necessary for me to live my life mission,” ordeal. As far as I’m concerned, our only mission as humans is to work together to save our planet, exhibit compassion, respect and kindness to others, and strive to reach our maximum potential as people; not as men or women, but as people. I don’t know why you may have exalted your “feminine” characteristics but it might serve to ask yourself if this is where your resentment stems from. Like you mention, we don’t know each other and we each have our own life experiences. Thus, only you know why you feel this way or were made to feel this way. As a woman, and more importantly, as a mother, it pleases me to think that the Son will continue to think the way he does. In my opinion, it speaks of a well rounded individual who doesn’t think one gender is better, stronger, or smarter than the other. It speaks of an individual who values equality and who doesn’t think being a man is composed of aggression, smelling badly, or being angry. And I certainly hope he never believes that equality is boring! For nothing could be farther from the truth. Because a person who believes that we all have the same rights, that we should all have the same opportunities, and that we should never look down at others–those are signs of an enlightened individual. Sorry Greg, but if you ask me, it’s only the confused men who think they have to act out their aggression, smell like old socks, and thump their chests like Neanderthals, the ones who have truly failed.

    2. Wow! I think we’d be great friends, I love this, but there is too much for me to address. So I’ll address the core issue of equality. Yes, yes, my God yes we are all equal beings with equal rights to being, yes! That’s the most important thing and on it we agree! I only meant to express equal rights does not mean equal nature. By post-equality, I mean, we all already agree we’re all equal, its no longer an issue. We’re in a different crisis, but you’re not receptive. I didn’t mean to upset anyone. This is a lovely website filled with kind and supportive people. I’ll not bother you again. Sweet dreams.

    3. Greg, I’m afraid I don’t agree with you regarding the statement that we’ve reached what you deem “post-equality.” Women are still getting paid less than men, we don’t have the same work opportunity, and we’ve yet to see a woman in the Oval office. So no, I don’t believe that we’ve all agreed we’re equal. And as long as you are respectful of others’ opinions, you won’t upset anyone. I have a rule on my blog and that is play nice or you get kicked out of the sand box. Sweet dreams to you too. :)

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