In a 2011 article, sexuality educator Charlie Glickman describes workshops on male gender socialization in which he asks participants who have spent at least some time in the US to brainstorm words that describe “real men.” He reports that “regardless of the age, gender mix, sexual orientation, or racial makeup of the group,” the responses consistently come up with words like: strong, muscular, heterosexual, dominant, cop, firefighter, mechanic, lawyer, business man, CEO, leader, or violent; and phrases such as: watches and plays sports; doesn’t show emotions other than anger or excitement; has a big penis; gets hard when he wants; stays hard; etc. Then he asks for a list of terms used for men who don’t exhibit all of those characteristics, and the responses are consistent there as well: gay, fag, girl, weak, sissy, punk, bitch, pussy, loser, wimp. Notice that he asks what terms are used for men who don’t exhibit every characteristic of a “real man”.
David J. Schwartz on impossible masculinity.
This is from a longer article about toxic geek masculinity, and is worth reading in its entirety (if you haven’t already).
What I always find interesting about toxic masculinity is that the Real Man™ archetypes espoused by men themselves are almost never anything that most women find particularly appealing. Particularly women who are looking for long-term romantic partners; a workaholic slab of beef who displays no emotion other than the occasional outburst of violent rage just isn’t, yanno. That appealing as a spouse.
And it’s not even like female-driven ideals of “perfect” masculinity are particularly difficult to find; just crack open a few romance novels (or read some fanfic). Romantic heroes vary as much as the women who write them do, but one of the things I find interesting is that emotional vulnerability is an almost universal trait; dude can be a buff and stoic firefighter or a neurotic pudgy nerd, but he is almost universally emotionally available to the story’s protagonist, even if to no-one else. (See also: the romance plotlines in any BioWare game.)
There’s probably some much bigger analysis to be done in there somewhere about this difference. Hm…