This Is Us

What Does It Mean to Be a Man?

Why redefining masculinity has become an urgent necessity

Y.L. Wolfe
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readAug 15, 2020

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Multiple exposure shot of a man moving around.
Photo: Tara Moore/Getty Images

I am often shocked by how often I hear people — woke, feminist women, in fact — use the language of toxic masculinity. We say we want to topple the patriarchy, and yet we are sometimes quick to weaponize it against men.

From these women, I still hear expressions like, “Grow a pair!” or “Nut up!” When a man crosses a boundary, he’s often met with a dig about his penis size, instead of a firm, “That’s inappropriate — now get the fuck away from me.”

As a woman, I do have to throw a little mercy at my sisters who say these things. We have endured some serious shit over the years, and it gets tiring. You get yet another dick pic and are so sick of the constant violations that responding, “I hope you and your micro-dick fuck off,” really doesn’t seem that bad.

And as for the men who speak that way to other men… what can I even say or do about that?

But I try to look at this from a higher perspective. We want change, right? We want systemic, far-reaching, earth-shattering change.

I believe that if we want that level of change, that depth of change, we have to be willing to make serious shifts in our own lives and behaviors. We have to be willing to shake our foundations. We have to be willing to strive for what we want with a precision and intentionality that would intimidate Michelle Kwan going into a triple toe-triple toe combination.

In short, we have to do way better.

Is edifying masculinity helpful?

In my youth, I was taught one central message about men: It was my duty to always build up their masculinity. Don’t tear them down. Don’t say hurtful things. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t question them.

Though this certainly isn’t the lesson all Gen X women were taught, it seems like a very common theme among my female contemporaries.

This created all kinds of problems, as you can imagine. Because you know what? Everything threatened a man’s masculinity, as it was defined to me. If I had doubts about the choices being made in a particular situation, I couldn’t bring…

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Y.L. Wolfe
Human Parts

Gender-curious, solosexual, perimenopausal, childless crone-in-training. | Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gleDcD | Email: welcome@yaelwolfe.com