NPR has been working on an amazing series that explores “what it means to be a man in America today.” Today on our Friday Roundtable, Kerri builds on that series with three men from the Twin Cities and explores how we define masculinity.
To prepare for the conversation, I called some men around the region and asked: What does being a man in America mean to you?
“Ummmm… I don’t think I even have an answer to that,” says Eli Flasher, a 30 year old from Minneapolis.
This, I found, is a common response. Conversations about masculinity have become predominantly scientific, and distant from our own experiences. Beyond that, it seems that what it means to be a man really is changing, and hard to pin down.
Flasher suggested I ask his colleague Dan Finn, 63, the same question. Dan was much more sure in his response: “Being a man, you gotta be willing to compromise.” And that was that.
I reached out to several other people, looking for an array of opinions on what it means to be a man in America today.
Tom Horgen, an editor and reporter for the Star Tribune’s Variety section:
For me, being a man means rethinking traditional notions of masculinity. As a new father, I want nothing more than to protect my daughter — which sounds like a very old-school, manly-man thing to say, right? But I’m hoping to protect her from all the ill effects created by a hetero male-dominated society. She’ll grow up knowing that her self-worth will never be determined by a man. She could become an engineer or a UFC fighter or a chess grandmaster — all areas traditionally reserved for dudes. So I guess being a man in today’s America means re-evaluating what it used to mean to be a man.
Josh Le of the Minnesota Zoo:
[In] general as a nation (especially the younger generation), we are becoming more self-oriented (#SELFIE nation) and really caring about what others’ perceptions are of us. Men are still facing the question “am I manly enough?,” much like women facing the question, “am I pretty or skinny enough?” I definitely see in my day-to-day life men and women still leaning toward traditional roles and values, just in a more modern world.
Scott Artley of Patrick’s Cabaret:
Well I’m a queer man and the Performing Arts Curator here at the Cabaret… I think there are so many moments where I look to the expertise of the women in my life to help me understand what it means to be a man.
I put a call out on Twitter asking listeners to contribute their understanding of what it means to be a man:
Abdirizak Bihi, director of Somali education and social advocacy for The Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota:
[Being a man] is about a continuous balance between what I was expected to be because of my culture and ethnicity, and what is expected of me now… embracing my sensitivity and emotions.”
Bihi said he sometimes feels like two different men in one body – speaking to the complexity of modern masculinity.
Paul Raeburn, the author of “Do Fathers Matter?” and chief media critic at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, was on The Daily Circuit earlier this month to talk about the science of fatherhood:
I look forward to the day when we no longer need to ask what it means to be a man in America, or what it means to be a woman. Yes, men and women are different–but with regard to parenting, jobs, and income, they ought to be equal. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.
So, what does it mean to be a man? Tune into The Daily Circuit Friday Roundtable at 9 a.m. and leave your ideas in the comments below.