What a damn skewed view of masculinity we continue to have when it comes to muscles and daughters and manliness.
Dads and tea parties and dads and ballet. Dads doing pretty much anything traditionally deemed feminine with their daughters or god forbid with their sons or children challenging gender norms. Over and over again I see the pictures play out of The Rock (or other equally muscle-clad man) sitting at a tea party with his daughter and pages claiming to be pro-dad screaming “it doesn’t matter if you’re The Rock, if your daughter pours you a cup of tea, you sit down at that table and drink it!” as if having muscles might in any way prevent you from wanting to be a parent to your child.
Guys, these messages are shit and harmful and we have to understand this better. We just have to. We have to. I know I’m really bad at being the roll with the joke guy, I get that, but it’s for good reason, I promise. It’s guys like me and other dads who wipe snot from noses and turn on She-Ra with their kids early in the morning when they want to get another few minutes of sleep who are responsible for creating change for the next generations.
Passing on these little things like this to future generations is us failing at making life better for not just other guys around us but for our kids too.
We cannot continue to calculate how manly or unmanly one is based on characteristics like beards or muscles or tattoos or how well one can change brake pads on a car. The term manly itself is the obvious problem. It is irrelevant and outdated and dangerous. How manly one is cannot be quantified no matter how much some seem to want this to be the case.
A man does not lose points as a man the second he puts on a dress. That is not how being a human works. We try to set people up with a number of masculinity points they need to maintain in order to “stay manly.” These numbers are imaginary and these numbers lead to mental and physical harm for those of us who have to hide ourselves because we have no interest in performing in the way that earns us the highest ranking in the point system and is also harmful for those who do feel the need to get and keep their imaginary points. We don’t earn points for wearing makeup or dresses even though as men that’s what we like to do.
This style of masculinity monitoring is still so harmful to the way we let men navigate the way they parent their children and it is still so dangerous to the way children pick up on cues for how they are expected to perform gender. It is homophobic, it is transphobic, it leads to death of men and non-binary folks.
For me, so much of these messages come down to exactly that---how will kids pick up on these? And there’s just no question that when we share these kinds of messages that daddy is putting up with your tea parties even though you’re making him feel silly and not much like a man to do so.
I understand that when we share these we see these as progressive movements towards dads spending better time with their daughters. But it’s not progressive, it’s still promoting really regressive pictures of what a man can be. It’s still showing kids and other men what is right and what is wrong when it comes to being men and being dads.
If we want to be progressive in how we support men, promote ways they can express their gender without removing their manliness. Let them wear dresses without suggesting that is any less manly than when they are changing the oil in their car. Let them style their hair the way they want or drink a martini instead of a beer.
And beyond doing this with your friends and other men and non-binary pals you see on the internet, you need to be extending this to the kids around you too.
Stop sharing the idea that men are bending their masculinity out of love to do things like drink tea or paint nails with their kids. Being a man doesn't hinge on having muscles and throwing footballs. These aren't these great acts of counter-manhood, they're just drinking tea.