Sex and Relationships

Exploring the Meaning of Manhood

“You eat, I pay.” I provide.

By: Leah Oliver 

What makes men and women different? Photo Credit: thehopeline.com

What differentiates men and women besides physicality? As a woman, I cannot validly answer what I believe is the essence of a man.

I wanted to find out from men what defines a man in a metaphysical aspect. I conducted interviews with men of different ages and ethnic groups, by doing so I sought to find commonalities among the responses.

The most common responses in the characterization of a man: provide, protect, responsible, seek solutions, doesn’t show weakness, and not soft.  Providing support, protecting others, as well as taking care of the household further explained how a man provides.

When I asked an interviewee how a man provides for his family when he is out of work or cannot work and his partner is the only one making money, he replied that a man would provide support to his partner meanwhile seeking work.

In the aspect of protection, a man protects others physically and emotionally. An essential way in which a man protects would be standing up for injustices and what he believes is right.

Handling duties, willingness to take on responsibility, as well as taking responsibility for things one has no control over further explained how responsibility connects to manhood. Seeking solutions and handling issues coincided with responsibility.

The explanations given for composure, vulnerability, and not being soft were quite related. An interviewee elaborated by saying a man keeps his composure in all situations, knows how to control his emotions, also knows when to show and not show weakness.

Someone also said, “A man is not afraid to admit his fears and show his feelings.” In connection to being soft someone said a man doesn’t cry in front of another man—-friend or no friend.

One of the uncommon responses when interviewing males was that a man believes in something higher than himself.

He further explained by telling me that in some cases when a person doesn’t believe in a higher power, he or she may have a sense of grandiosity and may fail to realize that he or she is not totally in control.

In some interviews, I asked if the characteristics given apply to the individual regardless of relationship status because some explanations pertained to a romantic relationship or a marriage.

A consistent response pertaining to weakness, vulnerability, and partners was that a male shouldn’t trouble his partner with stress that he is experiencing.

I asked: “Why not share your problems with your partner, especially if it’s your wife. You’re sharing a life together she wants to be a part of your experiences.”

Some males responded saying she may see it as weakness or that he doesn’t want to stress her if he knows that she could possibly experience discomfort for him or them.

As humans we all take a risk in vulnerability. We want to know if the person is going to protect, comfort, or exploit us upon being vulnerable.

Men want to know the same as well; some fear the risk of being vulnerable just like women.

When males mentioned not being soft and losing composure I asked: “How can a man be there for himself? How can a man emotionally support himself during challenges?”

A few replied saying self-reflection, self-evaluation, positive thinking, and faith. During some interviews I challenged people by asking more questions to evoke individualistic thoughts.  

Before ending an interview, an interviewee asked me what I associated with womanhood, before answering I responded informing him the traits are unisex.  

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