Why We’re Launching Redefining Masculinity

How the changing definition of what it means to be a man affects the way we work and live.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

What does it mean to be a real man? What does it mean to be a good man? Those are the questions Stony Brook University sociologist Michael Kimmel, who pioneered the field of masculinity studies, asks his students when first broaching the subject. The responses tend to contrast: a real man is tough, maybe a little aloof, certainly brawny; a good man is dependable, takes care of his family, and definitely capable.

These differences speak to just how complicated, variable, and amorphous masculinity is right now, and how much the definitions of “becoming a man” that guys carry around are actually artifacts of their upbringing. As Kimmel, the founder of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook, explained to Thrive Global, the hopes and despairs of males trying to be men connects everything from urban violence to Donald Trump’s road to the White House, not to mention the cultural prescriptions of professional and personal success. At the same time, public life is seeing leaders revise gender norms:  Jay-ZBrad Pitt, and Prince Harry are opening up, Wonder Woman continues to rule the box office, and Michelle Obama and Angela Merkel serve as guiding lights in domestic and international politics. Meanwhile, the rise of women's rights and the decline of traditionally masculine labor have put unexamined gender roles into a bind—the robots are coming for men. And the jobs being added are traditionally thought of as "women's work," to boot.  

It is precisely because of masculinity’s many intersections with the world’s biggest social trends that Thrive Global has decided to put together an editorial initiative called Redefining Masculinity. We will show how blinkered, machismo-driven notions of masculinity imprison men in their careers and relationships and impact the workplace for women, and how a more evolved, examined, and expressive manhood can not only improve mental health, but literally save lives. Given the tremendous amount men are acculturated to finding their identities (solely) in their roles at work, changing the workplace for both men and women requires examining the connection (and disconnection) between manhood, masculinity, and machismo.  

Launching this week, the section kicks off with a profile of Becoming A Man, a mindful masculinity program in Chicago that reduces teen violence by 40 percent. We’ll also dive into why, as economists have found, so many swaths of American men are getting less marriageable. We have stars across fields taking over our Instagram, and a host of male leaders opening up in interviews about what manhood means to them, and how they seek to become good men. In 2017, it’s taken as an article of faith that gender is a spectrum, but what’s less agreed on—and what we’re going to dive into—is what it means to identify as a man. 

Stories thus far: 

• How Changing Views on Masculinity are Helping Drive Gun Ownership

• Why Men And Women Talk Past Each Other About Emotional Problems

How Men Die Differently

• Why American Men Are Getting Less Marriageable

• What Donald Trump, Frats, And Feeling Powerless Can Teach Us About Men

• How Masculinity Training Is Curbing Teen Violence In Chicago

• Rembert Browne On Manhood, Malcolm X, And ‘Being Vulnerable, But Not Soft’

• Andy Cohen on TV Dads, the Marlboro Man and Caitlyn Jenner

• What Gary Vaynerchuk Learned About Masculinity From His Mom

• PureWow CEO Ryan Harwood on What Being A Father Taught Him About Masculinity

• CrossFit Guru Kelly Starrett On Manhood, Raising Daughters And Rites Of Passage

Dylan Bowman: What It Means To Be A Man When You Run 100-Mile Races For A Living

• Ben Lerer: Masculinity Is 'All Part Of Just Being Comfortable In Your Own Skin'

• Lewis Howes: Men, It’s Time to Take Off the Masks

• Parents Now Prefer to Have Daughters Over Sons

• Stuart Fitzwilliam: How I Fell Apart as a New Father

Tony Porter: What Healthy Manhood Means to Me

Jack Cheng: Masculinity Is Pursuing Truth And Expressing The Self

• Jay Edidin: How to Be a Guy

Brad Stulberg: Masculinity Is Wisdom, Toughness, And Stability In The Midst Of Uncertainty

• Blackbird CEO Ross Martin On "Wonder Woman" and Fatherhood

• Joseph Gelfer: We Need To 'Undefine' Masculinity

Masculinity Is 'Being What You Need To Be' To Do What Needs To Get Done

• This Masculinity Camp for Boys Starts at Age 8

· What Restauranteur Adam Elzer Teaches His 3-Year-Old About Life

· How to Pursue Love and Purpose While Still Being Kind

· Eric Franchi on How Having a Child Changes Your Worldview

· Michael Katz on Leading By Example


Redefining Masculinity