It wasn’t uncommon for people to say that to me as a boy growing up in the 80/90’s (I choose to think of myself as child of both), and I usually interpreted it as a command to ‘toughen up.’ Perhaps it was said by someone to get me to stop crying, or feeling sorry for myself. Or, it might have been to rise up to an occasion that was usually reserved for someone above my age, meant to convey responsibility. It could have even have been said as a motivator of a certain behavior. That last one could be used for both positive or negative manipulation, by the way. I have heard it as a simple way to coerce drinking or smoking, an excuse to break rules, or justification of all kinds of behavior. Of all the different contexts or interpretations of what it could mean to ‘Be a man’ I think the one that frightens me the most is when the phrase or idea ‘Be a Man!’ Is used in a context to coerce or motivate silence. That in not staying silent about something, a struggle, disclosure of an event (shady or otherwise) I am not ‘being a man.’
Its a real fear I have, and I don’t know if it’s genetic, environmental, or cultural, to be thought of as ‘not a man.’ Weak. Whiny. Less than other men. These are some of the things I associate with the concept; not able to get the job done, not able to impress the girl (in my case, the boy in other people’s perhaps.), or not to be counted on or valued. These are the things I feel if someone says I am not ‘being a man.’ I feel like it’s a built in inferiority complex I can do nothing about.
Are masculine, or macho tendencies genetic?
I don’t know. What I do know is I sure don’t like being thought of as less than manly, and most of the dudes I know feel the same way. Part of that is what leads so many of us to bury things I think. To take trauma and push it down. Don’t talk about it, much less explore it in effort to release it. Instead just ‘Be a man’ and forget it. Well, I am not sure how well that is working out for us seeing so many of the stats I have seen since this ‘He Changed It’ movement has started around me.
Be a man! To what end? That war cry has led to a lot of toxic things, me thinks. Is it possible to take the phrase out of context? Use it for good or evil? Fuck yeah it can! Any phrase can. But this one, it’s a little more touchy, as it deeply affects the fragile male ego. So I choose to break down that statement when I hear it, and like I should in more situations than I currently do, explore the motivation or it’s intent. Instead of being the stereotypical male and letting the testosterone rush charge me to control my actions, I will instead, whether I hear it out loud or from that mischievous little voice inside me, explore how those three little words can be applied here, and what actions I should REALLY take. To me, nothing makes me more of a man than having the forethought, skill, and discipline to do just that.