If you were asked what it means to be a good man, what would you say? What if you were asked what it means to be a real man? The contradictions between the answers to those two questions drive much of the confusion that men find themselves in today, according to sociologist and leading expert on masculinity, Dr. Michael Kimmel.
Most people will say that a good man respects women, is a leader, is courageous, and helps others. Then they’ll say that a real man doesn’t show emotion, is all-powerful, always wins whatever the cost, isn’t gay, and doesn’t act like a girl. So, is it ever possible to be both a good man and real man at the same time? If The Man Rules say we can’t be vulnerable and the only way to break out of the constricting pain of the Man Box is to find vulnerability – what is a man supposed to do? There is no easy answer but it has to start with men finding communities of other men with whom they can share their truth.
Dr. Kimmel says we need to take our lead from the work that women have been doing for years. He unapologetically is a feminist who believes that men’s studies needed to grow out of women’s studies if it was going to accurately understand how patriarchy HURTS and HELPS men. What is clear is that men are not the problem, per se. The real problem is that there is a longstanding system in place that benefits men (particularly white men) and has for centuries. As that system crumbles, many men feel like they have been cheated and are looking for someone to blame. Some are enraged. Some are apathetic. Lately, Kimmel has been particularly focused on helping younger men better understand, cope with, and even thrive in the changing terrain of masculinity in the 21st century.
After almost four decades of studying masculinity, Dr. Kimmel is hopeful. The conversation is just beginning and men, slowly but surely are finally being given the opportunity to make being a “real man” and a “good man” one in the same.