What Makes a "REAL" Man? Does It Really Matter?

by Joshua Shane


When I was young, I liked to play with my sister's Bratz dolls. 

Even more clear in my memory than playing with the dolls, though, was the reaction my parents and other family members had to me expressing my interest in female-assigned activities. I was told: "Real men don’t play with dolls."

This has always confused me. Even if I stopped playing with dolls, I would always desire to play with dolls. Would that not make me something other than a real man? I remember thinking, How could I have been wrapped in a blue blanket at birth, but not be a ‘real man' now (unless I identified as a transgender woman)? If I’m not a 'real man,' and -- since I identify as male -- cannot be a 'real woman,' what am I?

The answer, I've learned is: I am not unreal, I am just different. Our gender identity, or the gender we define ourselves as, or who people perceive us as is completely subjective. Subjective means "it's all in the eye of the beholder," rather than a hard, factual truth

Which means, for one thing, we cannot choose how other people see masculinity and femininity. And quite frankly, I think, it should not matter.


Subjective perceptions of gender -- what we think makes something truly "masculine" or "feminine" -- are placed on almost every activity, behavior and trait. These ideas and meanings have simply been attached by society over the course of human history. However, these rules have never applied to everyone. They aren't the truth: there is not one, single truth when it comes to gender.

My advice: do not let other people control how you perceive and present yourself. You are your own agent.

It is time to look deeper into our perceived perceptions of what makes something "manly" or "womanly." Removing gender-biased tags can open up a world of new possibilities, for both men and women. 

Just because we have been told that, because we're a "boy" or a "girl," that we are not "made" to think a certain way, dress a certain way, do a specific activity, or pursue our dream jobs does not mean we need to suppress our desires. In fact, I think it means just the opposite.


Photo courtesy of Flickr.