What Does it Mean to be a Man in the Modern World?

The Battle Against Toxic Masculinity and Gender Assumptions

It was refreshing to speak to Lorde De Laurentiis recently on the Dads In Business video series. We spoke about many a topic but one thing that stood out to me was the perception, pressures, stigmas, shift of the expectations and stigmas of being a man (and Dad) in the modern world. What does it mean to be a man these days? How can a young man prepare better for fatherhood? What do we want to raise our kids to be and do?

Our content contributor, Ruby Phillips, dived in to this topic in this article and I really hope you find it refreshing.

The modern man is affected by social change: Stigmas, expectations, movements, technology. But how are they coping?

I discussed this with a number of men and dads. I found that some men are struggling to feel confident sharing their emotion and being a man in modern day. And this is why…

Movements Create Backlog

Feminism has helped men by removing some of the gender-based expectations. Moving towards equality means seeing people as people, not men and women in outdated roles. It means allowing men to show how they are really feeling, and thus when they are not coping. However, this has left many men and dads confused as to how they are supposed to be, and whether they will be accepted.

“Plenty of people I know I could be emotional around and it to not be perceived as a weakness. But on the other hand, there’s definitely people who would perceive it this way.”Annoymous

People fight against what they don’t understand. Outdated opinions can be tricky to budge, but being a modern man means evolving with the times. Deciding things based on morals. Letting people be whoever they want and feel how they feel.

Setting examples for others and calling each other out is the fastest route to big change. It takes real courage to speak out and be your true self regardless.

Modern Men and their Relationship to Money…

Figure 2 Notice When You are Overworking, and Take a Step Back.

Modern men are gradually moving further towards equal nonpaid work in the house and dual work parenting. This allows men to work less and spend more time with family, with less pressure in financial terms.

“My dad was a business owner and money obsessed before he passed away.”Annoymous

Despite the progress, these stereo types around masculinity that model men as tough emotionless money-making machines are clearly not dead. There is still pressure on men to take on the ‘breadwinner’ role and hold up their family.

A 2019 study from Bath found that men felt the most anxious when they were the sole breadwinner in the family, and the least stressed when their women partners were contributing 40% to the household income. But as women made more money past that point, men become “increasingly uncomfortable” and stressed. This evidence speaks about the parts of patriarchy that have affected many men’s mental health regarding money and power.

Priory’s study of 1000 men found that men put work pressures (32%) and financial pressures (31%) as the two biggest issues negatively affecting men’s mental health. 

How are People Handling the Societal Changes?

“Showing emotion isn’t a weakness but can be perceived as so. Since we live in a patriarchy, masculine traits are rewarded, and feminine traits are villainised. Since emotions are seen as feminine, they are deemed as bad / weak (preventing you from achieving your full potential in society.”Anonymous

It is a confusing time, being pulled between new change and old ways. There are people who just don’t bode well with change, and many men battle with the lingering toxic masculinity that’s left behind. This can internal or external, often an echo of older generations who hold traditional views and pass them down the line.

When people push against stereo types, like men being feminine and vulnerable, some might feel threatened. This can be seen in words and phrases such as:

  • ‘Grow some balls’
  • ‘Be a real man’
  • ‘Man up’
  • ‘Don’t be a pussy’
  • ‘Poofter’, ‘Gay boy’ – (and other homophobic references).

Toxic masculinity enforced by friends and family is damaging to the psyche. It teaches men and boys that showing emotion is a weakness, when it is the strongest thing you can do. These men may never be able to seek help or be their true self out of fear.

Some people may not even realise they are doing it, because it is so engrained and normalised. These might also be individuals who weren’t allowed to express emotions properly as a child, or be true to their sexuality, and still struggle as adults. It’s a domino effect, but we need people strong enough to break the link.

See more about the role of modern men and modern Dads over on the Dads In Business YouTube channel.

How This all Affects Modern Men…

Figure 3 You are Not Weak, Society Has Not Allowed You to Rest or Feel… Take Back Your Life!

The main repercussion of backlash against change is men not being able to reach out and get help. This can spiral and lead to mental health and life issues. Men feel like the systems fail them, and for dads this can be seen in the ways they are treated differently to mothers. Check out our talk Man Dad Media for more on this conversation.

I was told I wasn’t fit to raise my daughter by social workers for opening up about my mental health. It was just depression and anxiety. Nothing that meant I couldn’t raise her. I don’t think it should have been seen as a weakness to show emotion. We are okay now, turns out I was strong enough.”Anonymous

74% of all suicides are men related in the UK, and this can be directly linked to gender roles. The pressure of financial stability, and ‘being a man’ leaves men stressed with no way to release or express their emotions. The common phrase ‘don’t bottle it up’ really does apply here.

According to the Guardian, in more gender-equal societies men are half as likely to be depressed, less likely to commit suicide, have around a 40% smaller risk of dying a violent death and even suffer less from chronic back pain. 

The Take Away…

Despite the shift, so many men are still overworking, under sharing their emotions and living out of balance. There is still pressure on men to support their family financially and be incredibly successful in what they do. These money pressures and expectations can weigh down on anyone.

The modern man can be whoever he wants to be. The UK’s ridged gender roles, enforced on many men and women by society, are slowly breaking down. In modern day we are defined less and less by our gender, and more by our character and nature. The modern man has the flexibility to focus on his attitude towards life, his connections with his friends and family and self. At Dads in Business, we strive to open this conversation, and look at the balance between work, family and self to be the best and healthiest person you can be.

How are working Dads getting on in a changed workplace?

Our research continues to suggest that working Dads are struggling with heightened guilt, anxiety and overwhelm. Not hard to see why is it with such a changing environment. See the research in the article below.

Supporting Men & Dads in the workplace

Download our free guide to help employers create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for men and dads.

Supporting Men & Dads in the workplace

Download our free guide to help employers create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for men and dads.