For this final project I wanted to look more into what exactly it meant to “be a man”. In so many different modules we have learned about gender and family and how our society views these things. I found a book called Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man by Elliot Katz and was intrigued. I wanted to see what this was all about. Upon further research I was able to learn that Katz wrote this to describe how you should be a man. In this class we learned all about how we shouldn’t stereotype people based on their gender and that there are many different ways to live your life. I planned on reading this book and try to understand how it labels men and show the many other sides to “manliness”, but the copy of the book I ordered never made it to me. Luckily I was able to find a podcast interview between Brett McKay and Elliot Katz and analyzed it instead. The podcast can be found here and its transcript can be found here.
One of the first points that Katz makes is that men aren’t taking enough responsibilities in the relationship. He thinks that because some men get too indecisive that women don’t want to be involved with them. At one point Katz says “You know as much as we talk about gender equality, people expect that a man will take responsibility.” Here Katz starts to talk about the moves we have made towards gender equality. While we have moved into a time where we should not be afraid to have women be leaders or make decisions, Katz says the people still think that men should be more of a leader.
Katz believes that men who don’t make good leaders in a relationship did not have a good male mentor when they were growing up. If they just didn’t have one growing up or lost one to divorce, Katz says that not having a father figure can affect how strong of a man you are. In their article Hegemonic Masculinities: Rethinking the Concept, Connell and Messerschmidt talk about hegemonic masculinity, which is that men should be the more dominant gender and that females should have a more subordinate social position. They write, “Hegemonic masculinities are likely to involve specific patterns of internal divi sion and emotional conflict, precisely because of their association with gendered power. Relationships with fathers are one likely focus of tension, given the gender division of labor in child care, the ‘long hours culture’ in professions and manage ment, and the preoccupation of rich fathers with managing their wealth” (852). This supports what Katz says about lacking a male role model. Because some men grow up without a father, they don’t have exposure on how a man should act in a relationship. While I agree with this in some ways, I don’t think that not having a male mentorship while growing up should have an affect on a male’s ability to be a “strong man” for a woman.
The other point Katz makes is that men show too many feelings. Because too many men are showing feelings, women are starting to think of them as friends instead of someone they would date. Because of this, they don’t take men seriously when they try and make a more personal relationship. Katz says “I don’t see you as someone I would get involved with because really it is almost like [the guy] has made himself one of the girls.” But showing your emotions isn’t something a man should be afraid of. Our society has stereotyped men as not being able to show too much emotion, but things are starting to change. As Bridges writes in his article A Very “Gay” Straight?, “Hybrid masculinities refer to gender projects that incorporate ‘bits and pieces’ of marginalized and subordinated masculinities. ‘Hybrid’ is used in the social sciences and humanities to address processes and practices of cultural integration or mixing. The fact that masculinities are changing is nothing new, but the incorporation of elements coded as ‘feminine’, ‘gay’, or ‘Black’ into white, heterosexual masculine identities and performances may be” (59-60). Bridges believes that these hybrid masculinities are becoming more accepted in our society and that men should not be afraid to show emotion.
All in all, I enjoyed listening to this podcast. While I did not agree with all of the things that McKay and Katz talked about, I think that it was an interesting view on the gender stereotype we see that men must be a leader in a relationship. The only criticism I have for it is that the two speakers don’t focus on the other viewpoint that men shouldn’t be expected to be leaders in relationships or that they cannot show emotions. As shown in this study about men and their emotions, “Men who bottled up their emotions were more likely to report depressive symptoms than those who expressed them more often.” It is important for us to understand different viewpoints and know that men don’t always have to be the “strong man” for a woman.
I would recommend that people take a listen to this podcast. It is only 17 minutes but it will keep you thinking for the rest of the day. You may learn more about how to be this “strong man” or it may open your mind to different possibilities like it did for me. Either way, listening to this podcast will definitely help you understand what it means to you to be a “strong man”.
Bridges, T. (2014). A Very “Gay” Straight?: Hybrid Masculinities, Sexual Aesthetics, and the Changing Relationship between Masculinity and Homophobia. Gender and Society, 28, 58-82.
Connell, R. W., Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender and Society, 19, 829-859.
McKay, B (Host, Producer). (2014). Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants, With Elliot Katz. The Art of Manliness [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/artofmanliness/episode-26-being-the-strong
The Benefits of Sharing Emotions (2011). The Good Men Project. Retrieved from http://goodmenproject.com/health/the-benefits-of-sharing-emotions/