Just What Does it Mean to be a Man?

With an increase of awareness about the feminist movement as well as the rise of the #metoo movement, we’ve started to look at the way in which we treat the subject of gender as well as how we treat women and men alike. Thus, it’s unsurprising that along with wondering how we can improve women’s place in the world, we also take a look at the expectations we put on men and how they can be affected – something that shaving brand Harry’s new ad wants to shed light on.

Entitled “A Man Like You”, the ad isn’t just some short 30-second inspirational piece, it’s a legitimately short film, with the product itself only appearing at one small moment. Instead, the film is more focused on using what little time it has to explore the characters of the boy and Space Cadet Quinn as the two try to figure out what it means to be a man.

It’s shocking for a shaving company like Harry’s to do something like this considering shaving is something that’s considered “manly”, and they even mock it during the short film. However, the staff in charge of the short highlighted this, saying how they wanted to showcase the fact that all of the “rules” and expectations put on guys were either things that limited them or that could just be applied to everyone instead of only men.

 

Like the short showcase, there aren’t any clear rules to being a man. Unfortunately, it’s only until recently that this fact has been embraced. For decades, boys were taught from a very young age that they needed to be strong, reliable and confident and that they couldn’t be afraid of anything.

Of course, they sound like good advice on the surface, but not only can they be advice for everyone of either gender but when taken to extremes, it can lead to some pretty dark places. Overconfidence can lead to arrogance; wanting to be relied on can either lead to selfishness or stress; and always trying to be the “stronger” or “braver” one can cause one to develop violent tendencies and shut out their emotions in fear of coming off as weaker than others.

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And that’s without mentioning the effects that these stigmas have on those either affected indirectly by them or that don’t abide them. Men who don’t adhere to those clichés used to be mocked extensively or treated as if they were different, especially if it came down to their sexual orientation, which in turn led to a lot of abuse and mistreatment.

It’s improved now, but there are parts of the world where not following expectations of your gender is as seen as strange. In Hispanic countries for example, men are still expected to hide their emotions and act like nothing can break them, while giving little importance to emotional connections as possible. That goes without saying about the idea of crying by boys or men is seen as ‘weak’.

Women also suffer from this gender stereotyping of men, as the way in which men are taught to be can be damaging to women. Not only are boys taught how they should behave but also by extension – how they should be seen and treated by the opposite gender, which can, in turn, create a lot of false ideas and views of both women and how to relate and talk to them.

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Again, awareness of how damaging these “rules” can be has been increasing for a while now, stay-at-home dads aren’t a weird thing anymore, and neither is allowing men to pursue careers previously handled by women (and vice versa). But just as with feminism, it won’t be until everyone fully understands how our definition of genders and what they represent can be skewed that things won’t change.

So, what makes a good man? Well, the same things that make a right person, someone that can be confident while also being aware of their limitations, someone that’s strong and reliable but can also be compassionate and allows themselves to be sensible. They’re someone that always respects others and show how much they care for those in their lives and in general, someone that always strives to be the best they can be. Of course, holding anyone to these standards is tantamount, but it’s something that we should all strive towards and that we already do in little ways in our lives.

So the next time someone insists that you should behave a certain way (regardless of gender) just remember that what matters at the end of the day is that you remain a good person that holds onto their ideals. We hope that as time goes by that can become the new norm for everyone.


Photo Credits: Hitched, AdWeek

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