In a traditional household in the past, every member of the nuclear family knew their gender roles. The role of a man was to go out to hunt, provide food and protect his family, while the woman was to cook, clean and raise the children to the society’s moral standard. The collaboration worked well those days because both genders loved and respected each other’s roles. Everyone was happy with it.
Then World War II happened. Men went to war and women were expected to provide and keep the house. Women started getting the jobs that were meant for the men. When the war ended, and the men returned home, women had most of their jobs. The problem with that was there was no one to take care of the house, and most of the men had no jobs to return to. The woman became the breadwinner of the home, and the so-called respect dropped. The feeling of needing each other and the collaborating spirit reduced.
Fast forward to 2019, the so-called gender role in the traditional household, where the man is the sole provider and protector of the house, does not work again. Providing and protecting was the primary responsibility of a man, and it was classified as what makes a man a man.
In my culture, a man is seen as someone who brings home the bread, provides a roof over his family’s head, is strong, pays the children’s fees. All this contributed to his masculinity and defined him as a man.
So the question is what makes a man a man in today’s society, if those obligations are now being taken care of by or shared with women? Which leads to some men showing traits of toxic masculinity—a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly feminine traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual—are the means by which your status as a man can be taken away (Colleen Clemens, 2017). According to Dr. Myles Monroe, when a man does not know how to be a man anymore in his home, he turns to domestic violence, because he does not understand what manhood is anymore.
I spoke to a couple of friends, colleagues, parents (including mine), and strangers about what it takes to be a man in today’s society. Here are some responses I got below, I classified them into two views:
- Tan: What makes a man a man is the acceptance of a woman’s place in today’s dispensation, supporting the home whether she decides to be a stay-at-home woman or career woman, that is, accepting that changes have taken place and recognizing the woman’s contribution. According to the biblical beliefs, men should still be head of the home, meaning being the leader and leading by example, but not in a bossy way. What makes a man a man is he being a partner and not the boss. Lastly, I would say the man valuing fidelity contributes to what makes a man.
- Dad: In the past generations, the typical traits of some fathers was them not contributing to child rearing. Most men were absent in the life of their children. Being present in the upbringing and being a role model contributes to being a man. Also getting rid of what adds to toxic masculinity: men should be allowed to show emotions if they want to, and it should not reduce you to not being a man.
- Derrick: Accepting women are equal to men, period!
- Julia: Respect the woman.
- Tina and Uncle Fuad: Finances and protection do not contribute to being a man alone, but being emotionally available for your family is important, too.
- Ryan: Men, in the past, have been the breadwinners; yet, as the society changes as we can see a shift in political views. In the current society, men and women both are accountable for their actions, and we should be able to treat each other with respect. A man should respect a woman. On the other hand, a woman should also respect a man. In a progressive society, women and men are both equal as both women and men are the breadwinners of their home. It is all about sharing responsibility, such as both man and woman taking care of the kids.
- Rafiu: Women should learn how to respect men; getting rid of gender roles in society is impossible. Even if a woman is working or earning above whatever, she still performs her tasks. (At this point I am rolling my eyes—please answer the question. He concluded that nothing has changed over the years, and the definition of a man still stands.)
Do you agree with the views above or not? Moreover, what is your definition of being a man?