Healthy Masculinities

Healthy Masculinities

At youth and into adulthood, boys and men are often challenged for behaviors that don't match society’s definition of a "real man" or manhood. This includes name calling (“sissy,” “punk,” “wuss”), to being told that they're gay or “throw like a girl,” or aggressive acts toward them or others such as hitting, bullying, or even sexual assault.

This forces them to make a choice. Either:

  1. Adhere to stereotypical male roles, even if they don’t agree with them; or
  2. Push back against the rules and feel like they’re “going against the grain.”

Adhere to Male Stereotypes:

Allow Range of Emotions & Behaviors:

Avoid seeking help (medical attention, emotional support)

Ask for help when needed

Don't show weakness, present as tough, expect other men and boys to be tough(er)

Show vulnerability

Restrict emotions to “acceptable” ones for men (anger, happiness, jealousy, lust)

Express wide range of emotions (sadness, fear, shame, kindness, tenderness)

Family decision maker, be the “breadwinner,” avoid expressing emotions that could be seen as "weak"

Develop healthy relationship skills (active listening, communication, nonjudgmental support, ask for and give consent). Feel comfortable in emotionally nurturing roles

Pressure other men to behave in stereotypically masculine ways

Hold other men accountable who engage in behaviors that are disrespectful or aggressive

These can lead to men not taking care of themselves, not recognizing that others need help, and in some cases actually hurting other people.

These allow men to take care of themselves, recognize when others need help, care for others, and contribute to a more respectful culture for all genders.


Research shows that MOST men don't agree with “real men” stereotypes. Unfortunately, many go along with the expected attitudes and behaviors because they think most other men endorse them. What that means is most men support a fuller range of human emotions and behaviors.

How to encourage men to be their true selves, instead of being confined to stereotypes:

  • Address disrespect by calling people in/out for their behavior/attitudes
  • Allow men to express a wide range of emotions
  • Encourage men to demonstrate nurturing, compassion, and caring behavior toward themselves and others
  • Create openings for men to share their experiences and feelings, especially if you sense there's a problem
  • If you see a man hurting, check in with him
  • If you’re a man, ask for help when you are struggling

There are many different ways to be a man. Acknowledging this provides an opportunity for everyone (all genders) to be respected for who they are and, in turn, give respect to others.