What Little Boys Hear When Adults Tell Them To “Be A Man”

Is there more to manliness than “being strong?” What does it mean to “be a man?” These are simple questions, but ones that yield complex and thought-provoking answers. Boys and men ranging from 5 to 50 years of age are asked to do word associations in response to the phrase “be a man.”  

The youngest participants, respond with words like “tough,” “courage,” “strong,” and “insult.” But as the men in the video get older, some of their responses become more nuanced.

“[It’s] misleading,” one 21-year-old says. “I’ve learned that being a man doesn’t mean to shut out your feelings, it means to embrace them.”  A 15-year-old adds, “I feel like that’s kind of sexist when someone just says ‘be a man.’ There are strong women as well.”

But amazingly, amidst thoughtful responses questioning the implications of a phrase like “be a man,” many of the participants in the video, even up to the age of 50, still use words like “provider,” “strong,” and “unafraid.”

What does it mean to you when someone says, “be a man?”

 

 

 

Leave A Reply