What is Masculinity? A Guide to Modern Manhood

Masculinity is a complex and widely studied idea. Sean Galla, with over 10 years of experience, says it’s about how men act, their roles, and features. These are linked to being male. Some traits are tied to biology. But the link between biology and masculinity is not fully understood.

The term ‘masculinity’ is not just about being male. Some women and gay men show masculine traits. What makes a man ‘traditional’ varies by time, culture, and race. Being seen as masculine often includes traits like being brave, strong, and taking charge. In 2015, the first Master’s program on masculinity was created by the Center for Study of Men and Masculinities, and Michael Kimmel, a scholar.

Key Takeaways

  • Masculinity is a complex set of behaviors, roles, and attributes associated with being a male, influenced by both social and biological factors.
  • The standards for traditional manliness vary across cultures and generations, but often include traits like independence, courage, and strength.
  • Masculinity is different from the definition of the male sex, as some females and gay men can exhibit masculine traits.
  • The Center for Study of Men and Masculinities and scholar Michael Kimmel started the first-ever Master’s program for masculinities studies in 2015.
  • Understanding the nuances of masculinity is crucial for navigating the challenges and realities of modern manhood.

Understanding Masculinity

Masculinity is not just about being male. It includes traits like independence and courage. These traits can be shown by both males and females. They may vary by culture and time. But, independence, courage, strength, and leadership are often seen as manly in many places.

Defining Masculinity

Masculinity” got its start in 1748. Its roots come from the Latin word “masculinus,” which means “male.” Masculinity is about the qualities and roles tied to being male. These include traits like strength and energy. However, being masculine is not only for men. Women and gay men can show these traits too.

Societal Expectations and Gender Roles

Our society often links masculinity with traits like courage and independence. Especially in the West. But, these traits aren’t fixed. They can change depending on where you are and in different times. For example, in some cultures, wearing a skirt is seen as masculine.

Biological Influences on Masculinity

Debates around biology’s role in masculinity continue. Recent research shows that male and female brains are more alike than we thought. Culture and biology both shape what we see as male or female. But people can still choose how they want to express themselves. This choice is influenced by how they were raised and the society they live in.

A rugged mountain range with a lone figure standing at the summit, gazing out into the vast wilderness below. His body language exudes strength and confidence, with his shoulders back and chest puffed out. He appears calm and collected, yet ready for any challenge that may come his way. The colors of the sky and landscape are bold and vibrant, hinting at the power and resilience of true masculinity.

What is Masculinity

Traditional Masculine Traits

Traditional manliness varies between people’s backgrounds and where they live. It commonly includes qualities like being brave, strong, and a leader. These characteristics are often seen as important for men to have in most societies.

But, there isn’t one strict definition of what it means to be masculine. Many cultures think men should act tough and not show feelings. This belief often affects how men interact with women and kids around them.

If a man acts differently, some might assume he’s gay. This is a big misunderstanding because being manly isn’t connected to someone’s sexual preferences.

Masculinity Across Cultures and Generations

Male gender roles change from place to place, but the essence remains similar. In some places, there’s a strong emphasis on male power. This can lead to risky behaviors and a lack of responsibility.

Many young men today face a lot of pressure. They’re expected to be aggressive and tough but also self-assured. Trying to meet these mixed expectations can have negative effects, like drug use. This problem shows how ideas of being a man change over time. We need to update our views on what being male truly means.

Traditional Masculine TraitsMasculinity Across CulturesGenerational Differences in Masculinity
Independence, courage, fearlessness, strength, assertiveness, leadershipMachismo – Masculinity emphasizing power and disregard for consequencesYoung men face conflicting societal demands, leading to aggression, low self-esteem, and drug abuse
Society pressures men to conform to these traits to be considered masculineCharacteristics of masculinity are similar across cultures, though the social construction variesYoung men experience feelings of displacement and insecurity due to changing gender norms
Behaving differently is seen as indicative of homosexuality, despite gender identity, expression, and orientation being distinctCultural beliefs and values shape the specific manifestations of masculinityNeed to redefine gender norms and expectations for modern times

Gender Roles and Male Identity

The impact of gender on our daily lives is huge, affecting both men and women. Violence related to gender and strict ideas about what it means to be a man create inequalities. These also make it hard for men to step outside of what society expects of them, affecting male identity and keeping social norms in place.

Gender Socialization from Birth

Early on, boys and girls are taught different ways to think, talk, and act. Even though boys and girls are very similar when they’re born, teaching them to fit into certain gender roles starts early. This defines how they show their gender and follow society’s expectations.

Patriarchy and the Gender Order

Over time, patriarchy has put men in the leading role as the standard for reason and normality. This way of thinking keeps masculinity seen more as a social idea than a natural thing. It deeply influences the way men’s identities are seen and shown in public.

Key Aspects of Gender Roles and Male IdentityDescription
Gender-based InequalitiesViolence and strict gender roles create gaps between people of different genders. This makes it hard to see men’s roles clearly beyond what society says.
Gender SocializationFrom day one, how we’re raised impacts how we see and act on our gender. This is true even though boys and girls start out very much the same.
Patriarchal InfluenceMen have often been seen as the standard for what’s normal and logical. This has put off seeing masculinity as part of nature, shaping how we see men’s identities in public.

Recognizing how gender rolesgender socialization, and the weight of patriarchy interact is key. It gives us better understanding into male identity and the difficulties tied to it in today’s world.

Healthy Masculinity vs. Toxic Masculinity

When it comes to masculinity, we must know the difference between healthy and toxic forms. Healthy masculinity is about strength, gender equality, and caring. It values things like emotional awareness, being present, self-love, and showing compassion. Very few men truly love and have compassion for themselves.

Attributes of Healthy Masculinity

Healthy masculinity means men who aren’t afraid of their feelings. They can talk about what they need and want equality for all. They focus on self-love and being aware of their feelings. This makes them happier, boosts their confidence, and lowers the chance of depression.

Defining Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is based on old ideas and social beliefs. It says men should always be strong, never show feelings, and act tough. This leads to problems like too much aggression, feeling they deserve things, behaving badly towards women, and wanting to control everything.

Consequences of Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is dangerous. It includes being against anything considered not manly, valuing power, and showing force. This thinking often leads to hurting women, crimes, and even suicide. It makes it hard for men to ask for help with their mental health.

Redefining Masculinity for Modern Times

As gender roles change, many question old ideas of being a man. Those who support healthy masculinity think we need to update our views. They believe this change is key for men’s happiness and for a better, fairer world.

Challenging Gender Norms

Taking on healthy masculinity means we have to shake up traditional gender roles. This change lets men be true to themselves in new and diverse ways. It’s about being okay with who you are, and not letting old ideas hold you back.

This also means being open about your feelings and needs. And it means talking about what it means to be a man in relationships. Letting people be true to their gender identity and gender expression, however they see these, makes the world a more welcoming place.

Embracing Emotional Intelligence

Focusing on emotional intelligence is at the heart of changing masculinity for today. It’s about knowing yourself, understanding others, and handling complicated social situations. Men learning to be open, to really listen, and to show their feelings can make a big difference.

It helps in creating deeper, more supportive relationships and boosts mental health. This approach to being a man is more balanced and caring. It’s good for individuals and for society as a whole.

Masculinity and Mental Health

The effect of toxic masculinity on men’s mental health is significant. It tells men they should be tough and always dominate. If men act in ways considered ‘not manly enough,’ they’re told to “man up.” This mindset stops many men from going to the doctor, even when they need to. They think asking for help means they are weak.

Ignoring healthcare isn’t the only issue. Toxic masculinity also makes some men think it’s okay to hurt women. It makes them avoid getting help for mental health problems like drinking too much, feeling sad all the time, or other mental issues. These problems can lead to being very alone, not feeling well, and sometimes, sadly, deciding to end their life.

Seeking Help and Support

Getting rid of toxic masculinity’s hold and focusing on men’s mental health is key. It’s important for both men and their health to be okay with needing help. This makes things better for everyone. When men feel free to talk without fear of being judged, they’re more likely to get the help they need.

It is also vital to show kids it’s okay to feel different emotions. This teaches them how to cope with their feelings. Doing so can make men and their relationships stronger. In the end, it helps build a healthier and kinder world for us all.

Studies show that when it comes to men’s mental health, many men don’t ask for help. They don’t take care of their mental health as much as women do. Men often have fewer friends to talk to about their feelings. This is partly because society tells men to always be strong and not show when something is wrong.

But, things can change for the better. By making it easier for men to reach out for help, we help them live happier lives. This is good for everybody. It means men can have more meaningful relationships and be healthier and happier overall.

Masculinity in Relationships

We’re working to reshape what masculinity means today. This step is essential for our relationships to thrive. When we let go of toxic ideas of being a man, we open doors for healthier and more equal connections. One way we push for this change is by pushing for gender equality in our relationships.

It’s crucial for everyone, especially men, to handle emotions well. Men should talk about what they need and feel, and discuss stereotypes. Doing this helps in forming good relationships. It’s tricky, because gender-based violence can start from not understanding or wrongly using old norms. This makes it hard for some men to see themselves in any other way than how society expects.

Healthy Communication and Vulnerability

The core of being a good man in a relationship is being able to talk openly. Being ready to be open about feelings is key. Men who do this are not afraid to show how they feel, ask for help, or work closely with their partners. This adds to a safe and warm feeling at home. It’s a big shift away from the lonely life that toxic masculinity brings.

Creating room for healthy communication and finding the courage to be open is vital. These steps help men form stronger bonds with their partners. It helps in making relationships more equal and satisfying. Both people can then freely show who they truly are.

Masculinity and Violence

Toxic masculinity is a big problem with serious effects, especially on violence. It pushes the view that being straight is best, and hurts those who don’t fit this view. This often leads to harmful and violent acts. Sexual violence, for example, can be linked to toxic masculinity’s push for power and dominance.

Sexual Violence and Aggression

Research points to toxic masculinity as a key player in sexual violence. It thrives on the notion of male dominance and the desire to overpower others. Such beliefs can spark aggressive, and sometimes, criminal behavior. Additionally, men who suffer from sexual violence face specific hardships. They may delay reporting their abuse or seeking help, fearing shame and thinking they will appear weak.

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Ending the effects of toxic masculinity calls for redefining what it means to be a man. We should push for ideas that champion equality, empathy, and understanding. These new views could help men and boys thrive in non-violent settings. It would not just help them, but also make society a better place for everyone.

Role Models for Positive Masculinity

Today, redefining masculinity is very important. We need to look at men who show healthy masculinity. They lead the way, encouraging everyone to think differently about being a man. They show that being a man is about being kind, strong, and open to all.

People like Travis Stock and Chuck Thuss are making a difference. Their podcasts, “The New Masculine” and “Warriors Unmasked,” create a safe place. It’s for all who identify as men to be real, deal with their feelings, and find their true selves.

Travis Stock talks about not needing to always be right. He says staying open-minded is key to being truly free. Chuck Thuss tells men to be open too. He wants them to be brave and true to who they are. Both teach about the power of finding a group that accepts you just as you are.

These positive masculinity role models see the struggles men have in sharing their feelings. They show how important it is to find the right support to open up. They believe that talking and sharing feelings can help men be free from tough male stereotypes. It can make them happy.

Sharing stories of these masculine role models is important. It shows us a better way to understand what being a man really means. This can help us all see masculinity as kind, caring, and for everyone. We all play a part in making the world fairer and kinder by these examples.

Raising Boys to Embrace Healthy Masculinity

Raising boys to understand healthy masculinity is very important. It starts from birth, shaping how males see themselves and others. This can lead to inequality and strict ideas about being a man. To change this, we need to teach boys about emotional intelligence and the power of being open.

Helping boys manage their emotions is crucial. It makes them more compassionate and able to form strong friendships. This is different from what many are taught, which is to hide their feelings. This can cause serious problems like violence and mental health issues. Encouraging boys to express their emotions leads to better mental health outcomes and helps them avoid risky behaviors.

Parenting is key in helping boys shape their behavior. When parents show that caring for others is everyone’s duty, it creates a supportive family. This can lead to a sense of responsibility and servitude among siblings. This means older children take care of and guide the younger ones.

Encouraging boys to rethink gender norms and about masculinity education is powerful. It teaches them a broader, healthier view of being a man. This not only improves their lives but also helps build a fairer society for everyone.

Masculinity in the Workplace

Exploring how masculinity changes is key, especially at work. For a long time, the workplace favored manly traits like being strong-willed, competitive, and making quick decisions. But the view of what makes a good leader is changing. Companies are working hard to be more fair to everyone.

Studies reveal that men are seen as smart and good at their jobs when in charge. Women, on the other hand, are often seen as caring or joyful. This difference shows a problem with how we think about work. It means that skills and qualities linked to being male are seen as better. This can stop different kinds of people from joining in and being heard.

To make work more fair, we need to deal with these problems and shake up what we picture as successful. We must understand that there are many ways to lead. Then, work becomes a place where everyone can do well, no matter their gender.

COVID-19 changed work a lot in the last two years. It made work seem less focused on just being manly, opening the door for a new view on masculinity. This is a chance to see things differently. To welcome different styles and ways of working, no matter if they’re seen as typically male, female, or not linked to gender at all.


These articles took a deep look at masculinity. They discussed its meanings and what society expects from men. They also talked about the differences between good and bad types of masculinity. Challenging old ideas about what men should be like is a big part of this. This includes encouraging men to be more open about their feelings and not afraid to show their vulnerable side. Doing so can help change the way we think about what it means to be a man today.

They also pointed out the importance of creating a world where men can be their best selves. This means looking at the many aspects of masculinity. This includes how culture, history, and society shape it. By offering a broader definition of manhood, we can help men be happier and truer to themselves. At the same time, it can make our society fairer for everyone.

Redefining masculinity is a journey that never really ends. It needs us to think deeply, talk openly, and be ready to make some changes. By dealing with the issues about being a man directly and fairly, and by supporting male and female equality, we can do a lot. We can make the idea of being a man better for everyone. This will help build a world where people are treated more equally.


What is masculinity?

According to Sean Galla, masculinity is a set of behaviors, roles, and attributes linked to being male. It’s more about cultural norms than just biology. Some women and gay men can also show these traits.

What are the societal expectations and gender roles associated with masculinity?

Manly expectations vary by time, place, and culture. Traits such as independence and strength are usually key. But, the link between biology and masculinity isn’t clear.

Gender roles are shaped by culture. Yet, both culture and biology can influence how we act in these roles.

How does masculinity vary across different cultures and generations?

Masculinity norms change with time and place. Most cultures value traits like fearlessness and leadership. Still, not all society sees masculinity the same way.

How does gender socialization from birth influence male identity?

Gender affects us all from the start, including men. Early socialization into gender norms shapes how we think and act. This starts from when we’re very young.

What is the difference between healthy masculinity and toxic masculinity?

Healthy masculinity values things like compassion and self-understanding. Toxic masculinity, however, pushes for toughness and dominance. This can lead to harmful behavior.

Unhealthy masculinity can cause issues like violence and an unwillingness to seek help. This can negatively affect men’s health and well-being.

What are the consequences of toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity can devalue those who don’t fit its norms. It leads to behaviors like sexual violence and can deter men from health care. Men under its influence may avoid help for mental health issues.

How can we promote healthy masculinity and redefine masculinity for modern times?

Encouraging boys to understand and express their emotions is key to healthier masculinity. Discussions about gender roles are also crucial. It’s time to move past old, harmful notions of what it means to be a man.

How does toxic masculinity impact men’s mental health and well-being?

Toxic masculinity pushes men to avoid seeking help. It idolizes hard work and dominance, making men feel they must not show weakness. This can seriously harm their health.

How can we raise boys to embrace healthy masculinity?

We need to teach boys that it’s okay to not fit old gender roles. Emotional intelligence and the ability to express vulnerability are important. By starting young, we can help them develop healthier ideas of what it means to be a man.

How can we address masculinity in the workplace and challenge stereotypes and biases?

Promoting healthy ideas of masculinity at work is important for a welcoming environment. This means valuing traits like emotional intelligence. It’s about changing what society sees as ‘maleness’ in a positive way.

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