"Gender: To Be Determined" is collaborative, interactive blog brought to you by University of Denver students in Lindsey Feitz's "Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies" class.

If you are interested in gender, sexuality, and popular culture, this is the blog for you.

There's some incredibly smart, sassy, and saavy analyses that cover a range of topics we're discussing in class. Please feel free peruse our archive and join the conversation.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

What it Takes to be a Man (I)

There are many different things that go into what society views as being a man. Be it a man must have facial hair, a large built and a few scars society expects certain things to be what dictates what it means to be a man. Testosterone is no exception to this global thought. Many believe testosterone is what makes a man what he is. While biologically it is what makes a male act the way a male does, a recent study has found that the amount a man has can make him more of a father.
In the article I examined it talked about many gender binaries. Things like the typical thought of a family. This being that a wife is programmed to care and love the child while the father is out providing food and a home for the mother and child. This study however found that what makes a father a father can be connected to the levels of testosterone a father has. It was found that a males who are fathers have lower testosterone levels then those who are not fathers. When a father becomes what his role implies his testosterone becomes lower making him more sensitive to different cues from his child and wife. It was also found that fathers who spent more time with their child had the lowest testosterone.
The way in which gender roles are defined in society are based on knowledge or the lack of true understanding. This study brought up such question of men's roles in society. Comparing what people think to the actual evidence. Most people when thinking of men would say that high testosterone makes a manly man what he is. It's thought that lower testosterone would be a negative thing to have. People associate what it is to be a man with a chemical naturally produced by males. Therefore a study finding lower testosterone immediately brings up concerns with the meaning behind such a shocking discovery.
In the reading Masculinity as Homophobia by Michael S. Kimmel much of it talks about power and males given authority. Part of what one would think when seeing a man in power is a strong gender identity. What makes him such a masculine figure would be his behavior and in part this behavior is linked to his testosterone levels. While the every day conversation doesn't utilize saying such things as "My boss has such high testosterone levels" things like that are still a part of what is in the thought process. Things such as a man being homosexual might be dismissed as "oh he can't help it, he's always been that way" viewing more effeminate behavior as something un-controllable. While this doesn't use the terminology directly the person is viewing the behavior as something biological and beyond an individuals control.
In the article Doing Time, Doing Masculinity: Sports and Prison by Don Sabo it talks exclusivity about the idea of what it means to be masculine. Things like the appearance and hardness of a man were examined in a prison situation. These observations were showing the more extremes of what it is thought of to be masculine. Even so, they help to show some of the main aspects of how society expects men to behave and appear. It helps to show a relationship between the sex of an individual and how they are pushed to focus on aspects of a gender.
What does this all mean though? Many aspects of society view and judge gender based on things like testosterone for men. This study is showing that simply being a father would change how a male should be judged if we were to continue to judged based on the principles of testosterone as what makes a manly man a man. Such little things used to define a gender can be easily broken down and explained further then what is seen on the surface. Gender being defined as it has it's inherent issues. While it is generally thought that having higher testosterone is better, as a man gets older lower overall testosterone make for a healthier life and lower chance of prostate cancer. Such information is invaluable for a man hoping to live a long healthy life.

What does it mean to be a man?


  1. After I read the article "Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings" by Susan Shaw and Janet Lee, I thought they were trying really hard to convince women that consumerism and entertainment have an effect on body image. I also thought, duh. I believe the vast majority of our society understands that ads and the media target women and make them want the ideal body.
    What a lot of people don't think about are the dudes. I don't know if this is because we just assume that's how guys are, or we just focus on the ladies. Either way, there are some huge pressures that guys face and nobody acknowledges.
    I think what it means to be a man has absolutely nothing to do with any stereotypes or pressures, similar to being a woman. It is about how good of a person you are and how well you succeed at your own definition of being a certain gender.

  2. You pose a good question. What DOES it mean to be a man? In today's society, there is a lot of pressure to be a "manly man". Everyone talks about how women have a huge load on their backs to be the "perfect woman", which is true, but there are incredible amounts of pressures for men as well. Media has definitely been the "bully" in this situation. They portray men to be tall, strong, aggressive, and rich. They must have rippling muscles which Zeus himself could not obtain, and they must have looks that could make a Victoria's Secret model melt.
    Not only do they have these "manly man" pressures, but they also have pressures coming from the woman's perspective. Women want the "manly man" exterior, but they also want a man who can show their emotional side and provide security and money.
    I know girls have it tough, but guy's don't have it too easy either.

  3. I'm curious why no one brings attention to how hard guys have it. I like how Madeline mentioned that the men not only have pressure from the media but also from women. Women put a lot of pressure on men to be the stereotypical guy: big, strong, able to provide, etc. Women also want qualities in men that they may be ashamed to have such as an emotional side; some women think it is sexy to see a man cry. This goes against the stereotypical idea of a man. How are men supposed to know what to do when the expectations of women and of the media are conflicting?

  4. Thank you everyone for your feed back. To touch on a few of the things you all spoke of. First I would agree with the lack of focus on the building pressures of males. While women are quite objectified the changes in society recently have put more pressures on males. I have to say that it is difficult to say how men are supposed to act when media and expectations of women are conflicting. I think men will in general behave how the majority of society is seeing what it means to be male. That definition is most likely in the media and what we are exposed to on TV. I wouldn't say that the way in which we're exposed to things is negative but it's a different way then it was previously.

  5. Sorry for the late comment, but I just wanted to agree with many of the points made by my fellow peers. One thing that really stuck out to me was the mentioning of the study that said men who are actively involved with their children have lower testosterone. Not to be cliche, but that blew my mind! I thought that was crazy that their bodies responded to the almost "maternal duty" they were carrying on and adapted to do so. I think, personally, it's incredibly attractive for a man to be kind and nurturing towards a child and I know that I am not alone in regards to that stand point. Therefore, although I completely agree that guys have a rough time as well in terms of gender stereotypes, I think it is more objective than the stereotypes given to women. But, I also find that the stereotypes for men and women, in this day in age, are becoming less extreme. I think deviants of the norm aren't being as punished by society today as they once were. I also think our generation is becoming smarter in terms of making up our own minds and not letting the media influence it as (I would put "as" in italics if I could) much. I think progress is being made. But I think your article did a fantastic job exposing the truth behind the weight men have to carry on their shoulders all whilst trying to ultimately discover what exactly a man is. Great work, I loved your blog!

  6. I like you blog! That is a great question you are asking. Because I feel like a lot of people do think that to be a man, one must fight and grunt and be durty. lol things like that i guess. But I kind of do think that to be a man is to take responsibility for things in your life. Like if you get a girl pregnate a real man should step up and help not run away. I thought it was interesting that fathers have lower testosterone, but it makes sense because good fathers care about their children and estrogen helps with that!

  7. I found this post confusing, since I thought that the idea behind "manly" stereotypes was based on how he looked and acted, which is thought to be something any person can control. Not once have I heard from any of the jocks I have ever met, who try to get me to stop being myself and play sports nonstop just because young women in high school usually fall for a more physically built male, that testosterone has anything to do with a man being a man. Although, when testosterone is involved, I have heard from a couple of people in the past that you can increase testosterone output by doing the things that what they call the "invincible male feats of strength." Aside from the fact that I have never heard that testosterone levels matter, the entire blog is informative and factual. I think that the men who read the article that says lower testosterone makes a better father could also lead them to believe that being a caring father makes him a wuss or a suck-up. This would coincide with their overwhelming personality, as most of the people I have met who have these traits only care about getting head 5 times a week, and then getting a new girlfriend when he grows tired of her. That is the kind of person I absolutely cannot stand, and so it is my personal belief that a real man has no need for a certain amount of hormones or the ability to bench press 500 pounds. Instead, a real man is someone who is brave enough to be an honest, chivalrous, empathetic and intelligent person toward everyone he meets, regardless of who they are. Such a person would be more of a man than anyone else, because he has the courage to stand out from the other people who brag about their abs and be proud of who they are.

  8. Love your blog! Like most of the commenters have said, I really feel for guys. And after reading this I began to wonder why is it that men are not getting credit for putting up with similar pressures women feel to become the so called “manly man.” I’ve rarely heard about the biological perspective on this topic and it is actually a relief to steer away from discussing the media’s influence since it is what’s usually blamed. Your blog also made me think of how women are always wishing to find that perfect guy who is tough on the outside but a softie on the inside. So if women are feeling the pressure from men and vise versa to fulfill stereotypical gender roles, who is really to blame?!

    PS sorry for late response

  9. I really liked the article you found. It kinda goes against the things we have been learning in class. I also want to say that I feel like your blog left me a little foggy in the "so what" section. I understand needing to overcome our ideas of what it means to be a man but beyond that I feel like there might be more here that we are overlooking. I think that we need to see that being a man includes things like being apart of a family and not just in being a provider.