The Oxford English Dictionary describes masculinity as…
Just kidding. We’re not about to give you a dusty, outdated definition. Thankfully, what it means to be a man today is an ever-changing and customisable notion.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the word ‘toxic’ often precedes the noun to describe the problematic behaviour relating to archetypal displays of masculinity – including aggression, dominance and a lack of empathy for others and themselves.
Other archaic stereotypes of masculinity also encompass the societal pressure men often feel to be tough, hide their emotions and generally ‘man up’. A recent study by the Movember Foundation found that 58% of men surveyed thought society expected them to be emotionally strong, not show weakness and to be able to fix things. And even though that burden is lessening as times change (the same study found that 76% of men believed that talking had a positive impact on mental health), the pressure is still there – and it can have a damaging effect.
But a new generation of men is emerging with the aim of keeping the best elements of masculinity, ditching the negative aspects and overcoming the pressure to conform.
Dove Men+Care also shares these forward-facing values, from championing paternity leave by researching its benefits on new fathers and their families, to breaking down the stereotypes that hold men back from experiencing the positive effects of care on themselves and on others. Together, Men’s Health and Dove Men+Care have a discussion with three modern men about gender roles, mental health, fatherhood and more. Read on to find out how they’ve dispelled the myths attached to their masculinity – and how this advances the world around them.
A proud father of three, Sean Williams is the founder of the , an Instagram page on a mission to educate and end the stereotype of Black dads not being present in the lives of their children, which has been perpetuated by the media and entertainment industry.
Breaking the stereotype
“In 2020, a white woman at the supermarket paid me what she thought was a compliment when I was shopping with my kids. She said she was so happy to see a young, Black, active dad, which leans into the stereotype of the missing Black dad who’s uninvolved in raising his children.
“That was the first time someone from another ethnic group approached me, but I’d been out with my kids before this event and had gotten stares, and it had been uncomfortable. I knew they were looking at me because they don’t see this image too often. A lot of my friends who are also active dads have experienced the same thing.
“It was a little shocking, but it gave me a driving force to start The Dad Gang as a platform to celebrate Black fatherhood and change the narrative.”
Spreading the message
“Since setting up The Dad Gang, there’s been an incredible response and a global outpouring of love. I’m based in the USA, but I’ve had fathers message me from the UK, Netherlands and all over Africa. It was an ambitious mission to say I was going to change the way the world views Black dads, but thanks to partners like Dove Men+Care we’ve been able to amplify our voice and set up events like 2020’s Father’s Day March to honour George Floyd and other Black dads whose lives were taken because of racial inequality.”
“There are many more layers to fatherhood than previous generations were led to believe. We’re not just providers and protectors; we’re also nurturers and caregivers. We don’t have to be traditionally masculine – we can be homemakers.
“We’re not just providers and protectors; we’re also nurturers and caregivers”
“I think masculinity is changing in a positive way. We’re a lot more in tune with self-care now and more people are realising that dads need a break. The dad doesn’t always have to be the disciplinarian, either. We’re really starting to scratch the surface of what those different nuances are.”
Doing it your own way
“Do fatherhood your way. Social media has a way of telling us how to do something, but when it comes to your children you have to do it your way, because if you feel uncomfortable your kids will feel it, your family will feel it and you will feel it. Fatherhood is your journey.”
For Chris Magee, starting yoga was a way to cope with a plethora of rugby injuries, but what started as a ‘quick fix’ soon gave him a completely new outlook on life, leading him to become a with a goal of introducing its benefits to the everyman.
Altering your outlook
“When I first started yoga, I had a sportsman mentality. If someone in class was bending their arm, I had to do it too – but I had to do it better. By being competitive, I was preventing myself from reaping the full benefits of the classes.
“After about six months, something clicked. I thought, ‘It doesn’t matter if I fall over, it doesn’t matter if anyone is watching me.’ I remember lying down in supta sukhasana (crossed-leg reclining pose) and actually falling asleep. The lack of pressure and the lack of expectation had unlocked all of yoga’s benefits.
“Through that process, I had a realisation: I wanted to distance myself from traditional fitness and move towards holistic fitness through yoga.”
Getting out of your comfort zone
“As a yoga instructor, I get a lot of lads in my class because they think, ‘Oh, he looks like me.’ If you’re out of your comfort zone just showing up, the last thing you need are these roadblocks of a language you don’t understand, someone who’s not relatable in terms of their life experience, or feeling like you’re missing out on a proper workout. I want to break down those barriers. If you come to my yoga class, you’re going to get what you want and what your body needs.”
“Yoga shines a spotlight on the thing you suck at. It’s a very confrontational process, especially if you’re from a traditional sports background, because you’re used to the idea of linear success. Yoga is not success or failure, win or lose, pass or fail. We steer away from any negative self-talk. Whether something is ‘wrong’ or ‘a failure’, which is something men are quick to jump on, is the first thing to go.”
Embracing the best of both worlds
“It’s all about balance. How can you have strength and flexibility? Work the body and mind? Be focused and relaxed? It’s about yin and yang, the balance of all things. Yin is female energy and yang is male energy, and the feminine lives within the masculine, and the masculine within the feminine.
“There’s nothing wrong with embracing masculinity. I’m still very much a man and I still have moments of aggression and bravado, but equally I have moments of softness and sensitivity. You don’t have to pick a side of the fence. There is no fence.”
Elliot J Powell
When the first lockdown hit, former professional dancer turned Elliot J Powell set up an online community called with the aim of creating a safe, non-intrusive space for men who have never felt comfortable sharing their feelings.
“I started Men2Health during the first lockdown. I had nothing on, I was self-employed and the gyms were closed, so I set up this community to connect to people. I had no guestbook, nothing to sort it out. I just wanted to do it, to be courageous and put myself out there.
“I’m just a normal bloke. I’m not a therapist, I’m not a psychiatrist. I may look a bit manly – I’ve got a Northern accent and a beard – but I feel blessed that I’m comfortable enough to speak openly about how I feel. I felt like it was my responsibility to set an example because I didn’t find that kind of thing hard. On Men2Health, it’s not me trying to tell you how to live your life; it’s more about discovering together.”
Showing your emotions
“People who are ready to go to therapy and speak to someone are on the right track. But a lot of men aren’t used to sharing and being open, so the thought of speaking to a professional can be a very intimidating scenario. My followers have told me that Men2Health has definitely helped them feel comfortable and open up to their families and friends.
“It’s not always positive things that get you to a good place”
“As men, there’s a pressure not to show weakness, and a misunderstanding of what weakness is. Having emotions – and showing them – is not a weakness. Making mistakes or failing doesn’t always feel good, but you don’t need to deny those emotions. You just need to find the mindset to see it as growth. It’s not always positive things that get you to a good place.”
“Even as a fitness professional, I do struggle with motivation sometimes. I’ve found it hard to stay positive during lockdowns, and it’s important to be honest about that.
“Social media can knock your confidence. It’s nice to put the best parts of yourself on your highlight reel, but are you making it clear that this isn’t always you? Do you have an element of authenticity within your captions? You have to be aware of what that will do to someone. Then again, we also have a responsibility in how we digest social media.”
Taking care of yourself
“I start to feel bad if I don’t take care of myself – trim my nails, wash my beard. It’s weird to think that people used to use the term ‘metrosexual’. Why did men looking after their appearance need to be labelled? Looking after or feeling good about yourself doesn’t make you any less of a man. Grooming helps with self-confidence. Confidence is self-acceptance. Being comfortable in your own skin is something I try to encourage in every man, because there’s no set definition of masculinity.”
There will be times when society, the media and maybe even those close to you will try to tell you what masculinity is or should be, but if you take just one thing away from these men's personal stories it should be this: as long as you are bettering yourself and the lives of those around you, masculinity can look however you want it to.
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What are the modern ideals of masculinity? ›
Traits like integrity, authenticity, and how he cares for himself and those around him are integral to how a man perceives his own masculinity today — versus physical strength, power, and affluence that prior generations may have prioritized.”What is the modern definition of masculinity? ›
Masculinity = social expectations of being a man: The term 'masculinity' refers to the roles, behaviors and attributes that are considered appropriate for boys and men in a given society. Masculinity is constructed and defined socially, historically and politically, rather than being biologically driven.What are the 4 types of masculinity? ›
identified four different types of masculinity: hegemonic, subordinate, complacent and marginal.What is the image of man the creation of modern masculinity about? ›
In this book, noted historian George L. Mosse provides the first historical account of the masculine stereotype in modern Western culture, tracing the evolution of the idea of manliness to reveal how it came to embody physical beauty, courage, moral restraint, and a strong will.What are 5 examples of masculinity? ›
Traits traditionally viewed as masculine in Western society include strength, courage, independence, leadership, and assertiveness.What is male masculinity in society? ›
What is masculinity? Masculinity is a set of social norms and rules that tells men how they should behave in society. It dictates men to be always self-sufficient, brave, tough, and emotionally strong in order to maintain their status and respect as men.What is masculinity in gender equality? ›
It involves questioning the masculine values and norms that society places on men's behaviour, identifying and addressing issues confronting men and boys in the world of work, and promoting the positive roles that men and boys can play in attaining gender equality.What is proper masculinity? ›
What Is Healthy Masculinity? Healthy or positive masculinity is the idea that men can be emotionally expressive, have female friends or mentors, and express their emotions without feeling emasculated.What are the 5 traits of masculinity? ›
Themes of masculinity such as misogyny, sex, coolness, toughness, material status, and social status depicted in images and videos posted on SNSs are ubiquitous, however, they have yet to be examined.
What are the three lies of masculinity? ›
Joe Ehrmann argues that there are three lies that every boy is taught in American society: that the road to successful masculinity is achieved through athletic ability, economic success, and sexual conquest.When did modern masculinity start? ›
By the end of the nineteenth century, the modern ideal of masculinity was firmly in place, characterised by 'Greek' physique, a steeling character, and nationalism.What are the features of modern men? ›
- Modern humans have an average height of about 170 centimetres.
- Modern man has an average size of about 1350 c.c. This makes-up 2.2% of the total body weight.
Results. The regression of facial shape on rated masculinity indicated that male faces with a higher masculinity attribution tended to have wider faces with a wider inter-orbital distance, a wider nose, thinner lips, and a larger, more rounded lower facial outline (Fig.What are the 11 norms of masculinity? ›
The 11 masculine norms include risk-taking, disdain for homosexuality, violence, winning, emotional control, power over women, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy of work, and pursuit of status.What is masculinity behavior? ›
Masculinity involves displaying attitudes and behaviours that signify and validate maleness, and involves being recognised in particular ways by other men and women.What are the common types of masculinity? ›
Connell suggests four types of masculinities: hegemonic, complicit, subordinate and marginalized as positions to one another.Who are examples of toxic masculinity? ›
- Homophobia. Toxic masculinity teaches men that homosexuality is a deviation from traditional masculinity and that gay men are less masculine. ...
- Need for control. ...
- Promiscuity. ...
- Refusing to help with household duties. ...
- Risk-taking. ...
- Sexual aggression toward women. ...
- Stoicism. ...
Masculinity: Strong egos – feelings of pride and importance are attributed to status. Money and achievement are important. Examples of masculinity cultures are Slovakia, Japan, Hungary, Austria, Venezuela.What are male masculinity issues? ›
Men who adhere to traditionally masculine cultural norms, such as risk-taking, violence, dominance, the primacy of work, need for emotional control, desire to win, and pursuit of social status, tend to be more likely to experience psychological problems such as depression, stress, body image problems, substance use, ...
What are male masculine roles? ›
Traditionally, for men to be masculine, they are expected to display attributes such as strength, power, and competitiveness, and less openly display emotion and affection (especially toward other men).
This “man up” attitude matures into a rejection of empathy toward others and repackages nurturing impulses as “weak.” Anxiety can also develop if children are not trained to manage their feelings appropriately. Toxic Masculinity opposes mental and physical health treatment even when injured or emotionally struggling.How toxic masculinity affects society? ›
When men actively avoid vulnerability, act on homophobic beliefs, ignore personal traumas, or exhibit prejudice behaviors against women, this contributes to many larger societal problems. Effects of toxic masculinity: Domestic abuse. Gender-based violence.What does healthy masculinity look like? ›
Address disrespect by calling people in/out for their behavior/attitudes. Allow men to express a wide range of emotions. Encourage men to demonstrate nurturing, compassion, and caring behavior toward themselves and others.What is female masculinity? ›
Female masculinity refers to a range of masculine-inflected identities and identifications. Debates over the status and meaning of female masculinity and the bodies and selves to whom the terms may be ascribed emerge in the context of analyses of sex, gender, and sexuality.What does true masculinity look like? ›
A man who is truly masculine embraces responsibility and loves, honours, protects and provides for his family and loved ones. He lives with integrity, motivated by conviction, not comfort or convenience. True masculinity is not determined by how much physical strength a man has but rather the strength of his character.What is strong masculinity? ›
A man embodying healthy masculinity knows who he is. He is physically healthy and strong. He is pursuing and developing his skills and capabilities to make him more competent and able to take action. He has a sense of agency, drive, and desire to make his mark on the world, not just have the world make its mark on him.Why is masculinity declining? ›
Due to rapid social, economic and political change, many aspects of the traditional male sex role have been rendered increasingly dysfunctional and obsolete. This has led to a period of destabilisation in traditional gender roles and relationships, prompting sex role strain and a contemporary 'crisis of masculinity'.What are the stages of masculinity? ›
- We are born MALE (it's a gender issue)
- We become BOYS (boys like toys)
- We grow to become a MAN.
- We get married and become a HUSBAND.
- We graduate to becoming a FATHER.
Among some of the other characteristics commonly attributed to men are ambition, pride, honor, competitiveness and a sense of adventure.
What is toxic femininity? ›
What Does Toxic Femininity Mean? Toxic femininity includes any thoughts, actions, or behaviors by women that benefit or defer others, usually males, at the expense of a woman's independence, agency, full range of emotions, and emotional and mental well-being.What are the 4 pillars of healthy masculinity? ›
- 1) Strength.
- 2) Courage.
- 3) Skill.
- 4) Honor.
We need men to lead, protect, and provide both physically and spiritually. Paul gives six virtues that men of God should pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness (1 Tim 6:11b).What is toxic masculinity in modern times? ›
In modern society, people often use the term toxic masculinity to describe exaggerated masculine traits that many cultures have widely accepted or glorified. This harmful concept of masculinity also places significant importance on 'manliness' based on: strength. lack of emotion.How do you develop masculinity? ›
- Start pursuing relationships and activities with other men. ...
- Go to the gym and practice manly hobbies.
- Take care of your body. ...
- Recognize yourself and be respectfully unapologetic. ...
- Spend 10 minutes a day practicing mediation.
Anatomically, modern humans can generally be characterized by the lighter build of their skeletons compared to earlier humans. Modern humans have very large brains, which vary in size from population to population and between males and females, but the average size is approximately 1300 cubic centimeters.How are the modern men different from the ancient? ›
Early man and modern man are two stages of human evolution. In summary, the difference between early man and modern man is that the early man emerged from ape-like ancestors while modern man emerged from Denisovan and Neanderthals. Moreover, early man lived a simple life while modern man has a complex lifestyle.What is the difference between early and modern man? ›
The main difference between early man and modern man is that early man refers to the early hominids, who are the precursors of the present form of the human race while modern man is a subspecies of Homo sapiens. Attention Humanities/Arts aspirants!What are the most attractive masculine features? ›
Male-specific factors. Women, on average, tend to be more attracted to men who have a relatively narrow waist, a V-shaped torso, and broad shoulders. Women also tend to be more attracted to men who are taller than they are, and display a high degree of facial symmetry, as well as relatively masculine facial dimorphism.What are traditionally masculine faces? ›
Typical masculine characteristics of the top half of the face: The hairline sits further back on the skull and makes the forehead appear higher– a receding hairline further enhances this effect. The forehead frontal bones protrude more and create a sense of deeper set eyes – female foreheads are more rounded or convex.
What are masculine body traits? ›
Studies show men with wide, broad shoulders, long legs, and a proportional torso and weight-to-height ratio are on par with the average person's idea of masculinity and attractiveness. Body symmetry and masculinity are linked.What is the ideology of masculinity? ›
Traditional masculinity ideology (TMI) represents men and women's gendered expectations of men and is a widely studied construct in the psychology of men and masculinities. It is often considered a stable individual difference (e.g., trait-like) quality. However, little is known about its stability over time.How does our society define masculinity? ›
Masculinity is defined as qualities and attributes regarded as characteristic of men. When we talk about masculinity, we're talking about a person's gender. Gender is a social construct, and is one of many ways we as humans make meaning and create social structures.What are toxic ideals of masculinity? ›
Toxic masculinity is a term that has been gaining traction in the past few years. This term refers to the dominant form of masculinity wherein men use dominance, violence, and control to assert their power and superiority.What are the 3 P's of masculinity? ›
The 3 P's of Manhood: A Review of Protection, Procreation, and Provision | The Art of Manliness.What are masculinity femininity values? ›
Masculinity is seen to be the trait which emphasizes ambition, acquisition of wealth, and differentiated gender roles. Femininity is seen to be the trait which stress caring and nurturing behaviors, sexuality equality, environmental awareness, and more fluid gender roles.What are the rules of masculinity? ›
- A real man is a fighter and a winner.
- A real man is a provider and a protector (of women, children and others)
- A real man retains mastery and control.
The Crowther Centre in Australia (2021) suggests that positive masculinity should be defined as: “The expression of attitudes and behaviours (character strengths and virtues which any gender might have) that have been embodied and enacted by males for the common good, both individually and for the community”