All posts by walklikeaman

Is Machismo a Dirty Word?

I’ll start with the dictionary definition of machismo.  Merriman Webster’s definition, “a strong sense of masculine pride an exaggerated masculinity,”  followed by these  synonyms, “macho, manhood, manliness, masculinity, virility.”  The problem is with the two definitions. The first one, a strong sense of masculine pride, is not a negative connotation of machismo. The issue is how a man expresses his masculine pride – manhood, manliness, virility.  The shadow of masculinity is exaggerated masculinity or what has become synonymous with toxic masculinity or misogyny. Yes, there exists a backlash to the feminist movement towards gender equality that a small minority of men have used as a rationale for toxic behavior. However,  the vast majority of men are not toxic but are struggling to feel proud of being a man. The irony is that if a woman said she was proud to be a women she would not be accused of toxic femininity – if that even exists.  How then can a man be prideful of his masculinity without it being at the expense of female domination. This is especially important for boys and younger men who are clearly struggling with their identity and worth. In addition, middle aged men who have lost their way due to job losses in manufacturing with the subsequent consequences of suicide and opioid addiction have lost their pride in being a man. 

So, other than being a sperm donor, how else can a boy/man feel pride in their masculinity?  One example is fathering.  Given the grim statistics of the impact of a lack of fathering has on both boys and girls –71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. Nearly 25 million children live without their biological father. 60% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes- men need to step up fully to the responsibility of being an involved father and appreciate how valuable they are to the welfare of their children.  Another aspect of manliness that can be a source of pride is strength.  When expressed in the light a man’s strength or character is his resolve to overcome obstacles, sacrifice for the welfare of others, protect one’s family and provide for one’s family. 

For those men who have been left behind by automation, globalization and a loss of pride in blue collar work we need government and industry support in re-training and vocational education that will again offer a pathway to a middle class life for non-college educated men.  If these men can earn a decent living and regain their self respect they are less likely to fall into the cadre of men in despair.

There are numerous examples of macho men who live their lives in the best of masculinity without apologizing for being a man. Let’s recognize these men as appropriate role models for boys and men.  Again I will repeat my mantra, we do not have to be gender neutral to be gender equal. 

Men & Women In The Media

I will admit to watching the Netflix series Cobra Kai.  Any fan of the Karate Kid movies will enjoy binging the show as good escapist fare.  What I did want to highlight is that the male characters, both good guys and bad guys, occasionally cry.  I find this significant evidence that we are no longer giving boys and men the message that it is not masculine to cry.  Too many male apologists, female journalists and authors perpetuate the trope that we teach boys not to cry and they therefore wind up suppressing their emotional lives to their detriment. This stereotype of masculinity might have had merit in the past but there are countless examples of male behavior in the media with a contrary message.

Another personal irritant is the way men are generally portrayed in various television advertisements.  We are often made out to be lazy, sloppy and inept needing female intervention to clean up a mess, correct a mistake or to motivate a man to achieve a goal.  A recent example is a life insurance commercial where, after a couple found out an acquaintance had passed away, the wife inquired of her husband whether or not he had purchased life insurance.  He hemmed and hawed and admitted he had not. She then assertively told him about how to obtain life insurance that was affordable and pretty much told him to go buy it or else.  Another commercial depicted a couple on a vacation trip unloading their kayaks from the roof of the car.  She asks him for the life jackets and he responds that they do not have them.  He states that it was her responsibility to pack them.  She counters that it was his. Magically, an individual appears with a laptop showing a video replay of what occurred in their household before they started on the trip.  Sure enough, on the video he states that he will pack the life jackets.  She was correct and he blew it presumably ruining their kayaking vacation.  There are many other examples of male malfeasance or nonfeasance in the media and I ask my readers to comment on them on the blog website.

On the other extreme I have also noticed men in roles that appear to portray men that just doesn’t seem realistic.   An example is a commercial with a man with a baby in his front pack singing and dancing around the kitchen praising a product.  Give me a break.   I have no issue with a man carrying his child in a front back but dancing around in domestic ecstasy just doesn’t fit.  Other examples of men praising a particular brand of laundry detergent while smelling clothes with a blissful smile is a ridiculous portrayal of a man doing household shores and frankly is also insulting to a women who gets her rocks off by smelling clothes coming out of the dryer.

I would really appreciate seeing men and women portrayed in a more realistic fashion that respects the best of masculinity and also respects women. A great example would be a commercial where a man and a women are having a discussion over a needed decision or disagreement with both parties listening to each other with respect and with the couple coming up with a compromise that both can agree with little resentment.

Global Boyhood Initiative

When I saw the headline “Global Boyhood Initiative” on an online article I got excited.  My thought was that some of the issues raised in my last blog about lost boys was being addressed by some international organization.  My excitement quickly dissipated as I read the article.  Apparently, Prince Harry and his wife Megan have decided to support the organization based on Harry’s perception of how toxic masculinity affected his life.  Not being a particular fan of the prince I tried to put that bias behind and learn about the initiative’s goals and platform. They believe that toxic masculinity is a major problem and can only be eliminated by a curriculum to make boys less toxic. In previous blogs I have discussed toxic masculinity and its impact on the perception of masculinity. It is defined by misogyny and patriarchy and fortunately is an attribute of a minority sub culture that uses social media to exaggerate its presence as a threat to gender equality. Frankly, it is an insufficient threat to warrant a global program to reeducate boys considering the gains made by women as a result of the feminist and “me too” movements. 

I found the following phrase in the initiative’s platform particularly ridiculous.  It states that “gendering our children even before birth” is a problem.  I guess the fact that mother nature or God, depending upon your belief system, didn’t create XX or XY chromosomes which dictate gender and its subsequent hormonal and anatomical differences among human beings. Gendering is not a social construct.

Their platform also states that “sex segregated sports systematically strengthens traditional gender binaries and legitimizes biological differences.”  There are biological differences that result in gender separated sports being competitive for both men and women.  Title 9, which revolutionized women’s sports, has profoundly increased participation in sports for females and any homogenizing of sports with a non-binary approach would return female athletes to the dark ages.  

I am fairly certain that Prince Harry might be seeking to explain his troubled youth on how he defined his masculinity.  However, there were far more traumatic events that shaped his personality than toxic masculinity.  I would hope that Harry and Megan would look at the data about how boys are struggling and support a more rational approach to dealing with the serious issues of lost boys. 

Falling Behind: What’s the matter with men?

A lengthy New Yorker article (1/30) containing a  review of a new book by Richard V. Reeves entitled “Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It” highlights the many areas where boys and men are failing.  The data is overwhelming and leads one to conclude that men have become the second sex. In academic performance, boys are well behind girls in elementary school, high school and college where the gender ratio is close to two female undergraduates for every one male.  In addition, women are currenly the majority of medical and law students. Men are increasingly dropping out of work during their prime working years, overdosing, drinking themselves to death and generally dying earlier – including suicide.  Even an egalitarian country like Sweden has observed the decline in male performance compared to their female population.  They even have a word, pojkkrisen ,  (boy crisis), that Swedish researchers use to define the situation.

Reeves posits that the rapid liberation of women and the labor market shifts toward brains and away from brawn have left men facing cultural redundancy and boys floundering.   Reeves feels that things have become so bad, especially for black men and white men without a college degrees. that emergency social repairs are needed.  Reeves writes. “It is like the needles on magnetic compass reversing their polarity. Suddenly working for gender equality means focusing on boys rather than girls.”

Some progressives have little sympathy for the plight of men and boys. They argue that the detoxification of masculinity is a messy and necessary process and sore losers of underserved privilege don’t merit much sympathy.  However, the social cost of ignoring the new gender gap is too great to ignore.  One unfortunate  result is a resurgence of toxic masculinity.  The “manosphere” is replete with “Incel” misogyny and comments from some on the right that America has become weak because of the loss of traditional manliness. 

Reeves response to the gender gap is to advocate for fostering a “prosocial masculinity for a post feminist world.”  Specifically his major recommendation is to red shirt boys in Kindergarten.  Since boys develop slower, providing an extra year of Kindergarten will level the playing field in the subsequent grades.  Unfortunately, the data he provides for advocating red shirting is not overwhelming and in fact contradicts studies that show that boys who are left back suffer higher rates of academic dropouts.

As I have blogged in the past the answer to the ever growing gender achievement gap is to redefine masculinity in a way that fosters a pride in masculine energy that is not based on the subjugation of women. Teaching boys in a style that specifically works for them will help close the achievement gap in schnooks.  Adult men can benefit from joining and regularly participating in men’s groups.  We cannot abandon the contributions of half of the population without enormous social and financial consequences.

Real Men Do Cry – II

I was watching Monday Night Football last week and witnessed, along with millions of others, Damar Hamlin’s fall to the ground.  It was obvious that this was not a routine injury as he lay lifeless  on his back.  As the athletic trainers hovered over him many of his teammates formed a wall around the medical personnel to try to protect Damar’s privacy as life support measures were being applied.   What caught my attention while the television announcers were trying to fill the time was the reaction of the players on both teams.  Many of them were openly and unashamedly shedding tears for their fallen comrade.  Additionally, the players on both teams were in agreement that the game should not continue and the NFL agreed.  I doubt that anyone would deny that professional football players fit the label “Real Men.”  The takeaway is that contrary to the outdated stereotype that boys are taught that men don’t cry and don’t express their emotions millions of young men and boys witnessed the emotional response of their heroes.   The manner in which the players reacted to Damar’s condition is further proof that it is time to abandon the real men don’t cry stereotype.

Real Men Do Cry

I think we can all agree that Richard Fierro, the man who attacked and stopped the Q nightclub shooter, is a hero.  Without regard to his own safety he tackled the shooter and prevented the further carnage that the gunman was prepared to inflict on the club patrons.  His action clearly exemplified the best of masculinity.  He quickly assessed the situation, came up with a plan and executed the plan disregarding the risk to his personal safety.  Fierro is a retired Army officer who served four deployments to combat areas where he earned 2 bronze stars for bravery.   Simply put be is a real man by anyone’s standards.

In the hours and days post incident his behavior was noteworthy.  He was besieged by the media and responded with poise and dignity.  He also openly and without apology shed tears.  He saw his daughter’s boyfriend’s dead body in addition to be surrounded by dead, wounded and terrified  patrons.  He was filled with emotion and made no effort to suppress his sadness and anger to anyone who listened to his interviews.   He also expressed a positive message of the importance of caring for one another and the destructiveness of hate.  He spoke of the need for love and caring regardless of sexual and gender orientation.  It is a message which he modeled in his attendance at the club that night even though he self identified as a straight male.

By his behavior Fierro sent a message that a man can on one hand act with incredible bravery and then can openly acknowledge the emotional impact of what he had done and seen during the shooting incident.  A brave real man did cry in public without shame.  Let’s abandon the myth that a real man whose actions exemplify the best of masculinity cannot have a healthy emotional life.   

For The Love of Men

The following appeared on Amazon describing a new book:

“In 2019, traditional masculinity is both rewarded and sanctioned. Men grow up being told that boys don’t cry and dolls are for girls (a newer phenomenon than you might realize—gendered toys came back in vogue as recently as the 80s). They learn they must hide their feelings and anxieties, that their masculinity must constantly be proven. They must be the breadwinners, they must be the romantic pursuers. This hasn’t been good for the culture at large: 99% of school shooters are male; men in fraternities are 300% (!) more likely to commit rape; a woman serving in uniform has a higher likelihood of being assaulted by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire.

In For the Love of Men, Liz offers a smart, insightful, and deeply-researched guide for what we’re all going to do about toxic masculinity. For both women looking to guide the men in their lives and men who want to do better and just don’t know how, For the Love of Men will lead the conversation on men’s issues in a society where so much is changing, but gender roles have remained strangely stagnant.

What are we going to do about men? Liz Plank has the answer. And it has the possibility to change the world for men and women alike.”

Probably not fair to critique a book solely based on its content pitch.   However, there are a multitude of so called facts or opinions that I find highly objectionable in the summary of the book.  To begin with the book’s author is a women. Not to say that a women should not be able to write about masculinity but it is problematic to assume that she is able to truly understand the inner life of a man. 

The opening phrase that “men grow up being told that boys don’t cry and dolls are for girls” is a cliché that does not reflect how most boys are currently being raised nor does it reflect how men – particularly media and sports stars – behave.  In previous blogs I have addressed this with greater depth and noted that this is often the language that female writers use to describe the message they assume that boys are getting from parents and the media but are hard pressed to come up with specific examples other than from the John Wayne era of rugged masculinity.

 Another statement by the author is based on the prevalence of toxic masculinity.  “What we’re all going to do about toxic masculinity” assumes that toxic masculinity is a major issue in our society.  Yes, there are a small minority of men who behave badly and use social media to debase women but for the most part the “Me Too” movement and the prosecution of high profile individuals has made men far more aware of behaviors that could be considered toxic.  In addition, the data on mass murders represents a small sample of men and has more to do with mental health than toxic masculinity.

The statement that “gender roles have remained strangely stagnant” demonstrates a lack of understanding of why gender roles are somewhat rigid.  Women, despite the gains made by the feminist movement and Title IX, tend to gravitate to pink jobs while men continue to seek blue jobs.  I believe this is more than cultural.  Female energy leads many women to seek jobs that are designed to help others and stress interpersonal relationships while male energy favors jobs that are physically demanding and technically oriented.  It is certainly true that women’s roles are probably somewhat less stagnant given the inroads women have made in medicine, law and research.  However, men are still avoiding teaching, nursing and social work despite the demand for these professions.  

Frankly, contrary to the book summary Liz does not have the answer.

Man Pourri – II


I have been on a quest to define what aspects of masculinity are worthy of pride that are not patriarchical or anti feminine.   A recent article referenced a politician who said that many men have lost their self-confidence and no longer represent “the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage, and independence and assertiveness.”  The irony is that the article was about Liz Cheney.  Again, the dilemma. If traditional masculine virtues can be attributed to a women are they no longer traditional masculine virtues?   What about the willingness to defy convention, and stand up to a crowd and refuse to go with the flow when faced with a core question of right vs. wrong.  Are men more likely to value the aforementioned virtues than women?  Can a man respond to the question, “Why are you proud to be a man?”  by walking the walk and living a life of courage, independence, assertiveness and standing up to a crowd?   Notwithstanding that there are women who take pride in the “traditional” masculine virtues. I believe that men hold these virtues as a more essential part of their male identity that they can be proud of.

Both Ways

After Florence Pugh, academy award nominated actress drew criticism for wearing a gown that clearly exposed her nipples in a Rome fashion event earlier this week, she took to Instagram to defend her bold style choice.

“What’s been interesting to watch and witness is just how easy it is for men to totally destroy a woman’s body, publicly, proudly, for everyone to see,” she continued. “It isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last time a woman will hear what’s wrong with her body by a crowd of strangers, what’s worrying is just how vulgar some of you men can be.”

Instead of taking responsibility for triggering an onslaught of controversy with her trashing norms by going to a public event essentially half naked she blames men.  According to her thinking the fact that she sexualized herself with this choice of a gown she is still appalled that some men responded to her in a sexual manner by commenting on breast size.  My message to Florence is that if you do not want to  be treated as a sex object do not so overtly draw attention to your almost bare breasts in a public media covered event. 


An opinion piece in my local newspaper, written by a man, highlighted that historically 98% of mass shootings in the US have been committed by men.  Using this factoid he then writes a diatribe indicting all American men.  ” What’s wrong with American men?  What is it in our culture, in the things we teach them, in the way we socialize them, that so often leaves boys and men with this grotesque sense of entitlement, this ability to decide that because they are having a bad day, because they got their feelings hurt, because life hasn’t gone as they wished, they have a right to whip out a gun and make innocent strangers pay?”

Yes, the mass shooters typically are young angry men who are socially isolated who have not been able to achieve even a modicum of success in their lives.  However, indicating that their motivation is based on some sort of culturally taught male entitlement is absurd.  The evidence indicates that these shooters were often boys who were loners, bullied and raised in a dysfunctional family environment.  They have fallen through the cracks of our inadequate mental health system and the lack of empathy for those who are in  need of  our help that are culture seems to reinforce especially for boys and men.  Don’t blame men for mass shootings.  The problem is far greater than gender.  A lack of compassion and willingness to devote resources to address mental health and well being is the issue we should be talking about for both men and women. 

Man Pourri

Incidental Masculinity

I came across the phrase “incidental masculinity” in a true story about the attraction to a man from a gay women.  She was breaking up with a girlfriend and simultaneously developing a platonic love for a man she met while performing in a college play.  What intrigued me was that despite her sexual attraction to women, there was something about male energy that was so appealing to her. The fact that the attraction wasn’t sexual is of interest.  His manliness fit a need that could not be fulfilled by a women.  In the story she did not elaborate on exactly what characteristics or traits of manliness that attracted her but my guess was his projection of quiet strength, confidence and emotional protection.  Score one for positive masculinity.

Fantasy Sports

The author of the article on the attraction of a fantasy sports league answered his own question,”Why was I there?  The straightforward answer is because my friends were, and I wanted to be with them. The actual draft was secondary to the event’s social function — an excuse to stay in touch, which has become increasingly difficult since I moved to the East Coast in 2012.” A survey quoted by the author found that 81% of fantasy participants were men in the peak of so called friendship collecting years – 18 to 34.  After 34 men become more attentive to work, family and consequently do not have the time and energy necessary to maintain friendships.

This is a process that many people experience and that a body of literature gives anecdotal and statistical credence to the notion that male friendships start to evaporate. “Men Have No Friends,” reads the headline of a 2019 Harper’s Bazaar article by Melanie Hamlett,  “Last year, the Survey Center on American Life found that the number of American adults with three or fewer close friends leaped from 27 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2021, with 15%of men having no close friendships at all, a fivefold increase since 1990.  In addition, men are significantly less likely than women to discuss personal matters with the friends they do have.  Frankly, there is no shortage of data to support the myriad of health risks sustained by loneliness. 

“Loneliness can kill you,” reads one especially bleak subhead on a 2020 article from the University of Miami Health System. A November Psychology Today article claims that loneliness can shorten your life, describing side effects that include cardiovascular disease and stroke — even suicide. “Loneliness is as much of a health risk for men as smoking or being overweight,” reads a 2021 article at UCLA Health, citing Psychiatry Research. It “increases cancer risk by 10 percent, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and other risk factors.”

Fantasy sports can be a partial antidote to increasing male friendships but there is a downside.  On one hand meeting with your league partners- especially if can happen face to face – does offer a satisfying sense of camaraderie but without intimacy.   Better than loneliness but insufficient to make up for the friendships of an earlier stage of life.  Unfortunately, if the particular league goes virtual there is no chance for intimacy and in fact the online occupation with the fantasy world could easily divert men from the time and energy to form close friendships.   A better and more sustainable road to friendships is joining an on-going men’s group.

Aspirational Masculinity

A new way of talking to boys about being boys is being promoted as aspirational masculinity.  The idea is that we need to talk to boys about their gender without focusing on the negative qualities that men have been associated with – toxic masculinity and the rigid man code. According to former professional football player Don McPherson — who is now a writer, activist, educator and the founder of the aspirational approach – is that previous efforts in communicating about masculinity to boys has failed.  A big reason for this failure is inadequate vocabulary. Parents and caregivers to girls can rely on the word “feminism” should they want to frame girlhood as both positive and dynamic. Calling one’s daughter a “feminist” allows for change and progress without limiting girls or criticizing femininity. With boys, there was no such term.  McPherson explains the concept as follows, “We need to stop only asking boys and men to make space for others and instead ask men to make new spaces for themselves that aren’t confined to the narrow definitions of masculinity.”  Sounds good but nowhere in the description of his program does he address the notion of pride in being a boy/man that doesn’t simply mean making boys more aware of feminine needs and characteristics.  The assumption seems to be that fighting against patriarchal behaviors will automatically make better men.   What about defining for boys the virtues of being a man in the light rather than simply being an apologist for men in the shadow.

Hegemonic Masculinity

The authors of new research on masculinity have previously found that the endorsement of “hegemonic masculinity” – an idealized form of masculinity – was associated with support for Donald Trump.

They wrote,  “In collaboration with my advisor, Dr. Theresa Vescio, we found that the endorsement of hegemonic masculinity, or the belief that men should be high in power/status, should be tough, and should be nothing like women, was related to support for Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. Presidential elections.”

In addition, the participants who completed the Male Role Norms Scale and who scored high on this measure of hegemonic masculinity were more likely, in general, to vote for conservative candidates.   

I must confess that this is the first time I have come across the term “Hegemonic Masculinity.”  It seems that this descriptor is similar to “toxic masculinity and hyper masculinity” but it appears to be used exclusively with the Male Role Norms Scale (MRNS).  Another term used to validate the MRNS results is “TMI – traditional male ideology” which has been used in research articles that report an association of high scores with an adverse effect on a man’s mental health. 

I was obviously prompted to explore the MRNS items to see not only how I would score but to form my own opinion as to its validity in attempting to define masculinity.  The scale has several forms with the 21 item short form deemed most useful to mental health professionals.  Each item is to be scored from 1 – 7 with 7 meaning strong agreement.

I will share some items from the scale with my comments.

1. Success in his work has to be a man’s central goal in this life.

(Does the word work mean one’s overall purpose or occupation?  If I interpret work in the broader sense I would rate it a 7.  If strictly an occupation I might be a 4.  Could we substitute person instead of man and get the same response? If a stay at home mom saw child rearing has her work she would rate this as a 7.)

2. The best way for a young man to get the respect of other people is to get a job, take it seriously, and do it well.

( Why is doing your job, whatever it might be, seriously and with excellence a hegemonic notion?  Not taking you job seriously is a sign of weak character not non-masculine behavior.)

5. A man always deserves the respect of his wife and children.

(The ambiguity is how we interpret deserve.  If we are a good mother or father we always deserve respect.   If we are lousy parents then we don’t.  Again I do not see the link with hegemonic masculinity)

7. A man should never back down in the face of trouble.

( If one interprets back down as being physical it has an aggressive feel.  However, if back down means not dealing or not confronting trouble it is an entirely different interpretation and in my opinion equally unappealing for a man and for a women.)

13. Nobody respects a man very much who frequently talks about his worries, fears, and problems.

(Frequent whining and complaining is equally unattractive regardless of gender and has little to do with masculinity.)

I could analyze a bunch more of the questionnaire items with a similar conclusion that the items are skewed to favor a knee jerk response about masculine stereotypes.  The fact that there are higher scores among conservatives may simply mean that these men have a positive reaction to a more traditional belief system – the definition of a conservative  – rather than a true reflection of masculine behavior.