What Is Masculinity, Exactly?

jay z ken doll

Image courtesy of Beyonce’s Instagram

I recently read an article about Jay-Z and his Blue’s choice of Halloween costume this year. He dressed up as a Ken doll, for his daughter.  With his wife, Beyoncé.

And people had the nerve to call into question HIS masculinity.

Hold up.

Let’s talk about this for a minute. What is masculinity, exactly? And who determines when and where it makes sense to question it?

First of all, masculinity is a socially constructed concept that people selectively use to describe what a man should be and how he should act. Men should be macho, brave, strong, watch football on Sundays, and never show emotion. According to most people, men shouldn’t do things that counter standardized worldviews of masculinity.

Jay-Z came under fire for wearing a costume modeled after a toy typically associated with little girls. People said things like:

It must be so emasculating to dress like a girls toy just because your wife said to do it.

I can’t believe this, how could Beyoncé make Jay-z wear something like this?

How Jay-Z go from selling crack to dressing like a toy known to not have genitals?

Seriously. All because of a costume.

What I see, is a man.

A real man.

I see a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that his little girl is happy. I see a man who is willing to make himself a little uncomfortable for the sake of creating lasting memories for his family.

I see a man.

I think people get uncomfortable when they see a man doing things outside of the norm because it’s different. A lot of people, especially in the black community, aren’t used to seeing fathers or husbands doing things that go against the grain. Traces of this line of thinking are most prevalent in family situations.

If a man stays at home to take care of his kids, the conclusion will most likely be: He is a b*tch and his wife obviously wears the pants in the family. The conversation will probably stop there and most people would agree. What if he’s just a man who sees that his wife’s career is more lucrative and has the highest earning potential? Why don’t people question women when they give up their careers to stay at home in the same way that they question men?

I’ll tell you why. Because men aren’t supposed to take care of the household duties, that’s the woman’s job.

Masculinity tells us that this is actually how the world works. Women are supposed to compromise in certain areas simply because they are women. Men are not supposed to concede in any way because that makes them weak.

I call BS. In my opinion, real masculinity is shown when a man isn’t afraid to do what it takes to make his partner or children happy, even if it puts him outside of his comfort zone. If his wife asks him to help do her hair, he shouldn’t think that his “Man Card” will be revoked soon thereafter.

Helping with Hair

Helpful husband.

If she asks him to go with her to a drag-queen show because that’s something she wants to go see, he shouldn’t be afraid that someone might think he’s gay because he’s there.

Drag Show

She paid for a picture, so I took a picture.

Real men couldn’t care any less of what people think of them. They do what they want, they do what’s necessary, and the opinions of others don’t faze them – at all.

The only opinions that matter are those of the people that they care about the most.

Masculinity, as it is currently defined, is focused on the wrong things. Men don’t have to be serious, overbearing, hard-assed, emotionless, male figures. They can and should be vulnerable, loving, emotionally intelligent, and willing to do what it takes to make their loved ones happy.

The damage starts early

The problem is that society doesn’t reinforce the notion that men can be normal human beings. From an early age, little boys learn that they are expected to be tough at all times.

“Boys don’t cry.”

“You need to man up.”

They learn that the only acceptable emotion they can show, without fear of ridicule, is anger. They learn to solve problems and express their frustration with their fists or by playing rough with other little boys. They learn, that because of their gender, they need to bottle up their emotions and just ‘deal’ with their issues.

It may seem harmless to toughen boys up when they are young, but it can be damaging to their emotional development. What happens when they grow up after spending their whole life being told that it’s not okay to tend to their emotions? Will they lash out in anger when they are frustrated with their wives? Will they spank their kids because they never developed any other problem-solving skills?

On top of that, women often complain that they can’t find a man who knows how to express himself emotionally in a relationship. How exactly is he supposed to know how to do that if he’s been taught that emotions are for girls his whole life?

I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming anyone, but I believe that this is a serious problem that only leads to other issues in the future. The good thing is that there are a few things that can be done to try to set young boys up for success when they become men.

Boys need good role models

We need more role models that understand what it actually means to be a man in society today. Times have changed significantly and so must our standards of what men should be. There is a lot of pressure placed on men to be the provider, the protector, and the strong-willed. There is not much emphasis placed on men being sensitive or emotionally intelligent.

Young boys need to see this from the men in their lives. They need to see that expressing their emotions or understanding the emotions of others is just a normal part of life. It would help if that positive role model could be their father, but this isn’t always possible. According to U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 12 million single parent families in 2015.

More than 80% of those single-families were headed by single mothers.

Is this a problem?

Not necessarily. Single mothers take a lot of pride in being strong women that have the ability to raise children by themselves. I commend that notion, but something should be done for the collective development of little boys who grow up without their dads. Especially when they don’t have any other male role models in their lives to learn from.

That goes for every ethnicity. Little boys need good male role models.


We all know that when we’re kids, we tend to imitate the behavior of the people that we admire. For young boys, that is important to know when you’re considering their development.

They are going to learn from someone, it would help if that someone was able to make a positive impact on their growth and development.

You can Prevent A Suicide

Each year, more than 42,000 people commit suicide. Men die by suicide at a rate 3.5x more than women.

Why is that? 

In my opinion, it could have something to do with the intense pressures that men face in their daily lives. Women are much more likely to seek help when they are facing issues and/or feeling suicidal. Most men believe that showing emotion is ‘un-manly’, which means they are probably less likely to confide in a friend/family member or seek professional help for their issues.

This inability to seek help can have devastating effects on their mental health when they believe that suicide is their only option. Men are typically more impulsive by nature and this could lead to more spur-of-the-moment suicides than those committed by women. If you’ve been to this blog before, then you know that I learned first hand how devastating a suicide can be for families. If there is even a slight possibility that a suicide can be prevented, we should do whatever we can to make sure that it is. In this case, it could possibly be prevented simply by helping more men understand that it’s okay to seek help.

You can prevent domestic violence

It is not lost on me that men commit many of the most egregious acts of domestic violence. In case you didn’t know, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In my opinion, something should be done to prevent domestic violence on a daily basis.

1 in 3 female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner

95% of men who physically abuse their intimate partners also psychologically abuse them.

Women who earn 65% or more of their households’ income are more likely to be psychologically abused than women who learn less than 65% of their households’ income.

More often than not, women are the victims in domestic violence incidents. I think the damaging effects of ‘masculine thinking’ play a part in these statistics. In most cases, the men who abuse their partners have issues displaying their emotions in constructive ways so they lash out physically or verbally in order to get their point across. I can especially see how a male with a very narrow-minded view of their role in a family could feel threatened when their partner earns more than they do. This can create the notion that they should assert their dominance in some other way or let their wife/girlfriend know that something else is wrong with her, just so they can feel better about themselves.

That is so stupid.

But it happens.

A lot.

We can do something about it, but it will take an effort from everyone.


I could say so much more about this, but I think you get the point I’m trying to make. I am tired of watching men try to live up to a masculinity standard that really doesn’t make any sense. I am tired of seeing that ill-thought out standard’s influence in the media, schools, and families. I am tired of seeing the damaging effects masculinity standards actually cause.

I. Am. Tired.

Men should be good men. Masculinity is not required.

This is just my opinion, though. What do you think?


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