A Few Misconceptions of Masculinity
December 27, 2019 Comments Off on A Few Misconceptions of Masculinity Health, Presence Michelle

aka Real Men Don’t ___________

A Woman’s Perspective

I was reading an article the other day where real men shared instances of the ‘unmasculine’ things they do or like and it got me thinking about what some of the misconceptions we have about what is and is not allowed for men to like.

This need we have for dividing things into categories of ‘girly’ and ‘manly’ has always been something I have struggled to understand. We say men shouldn’t like to do certain things, but then women get the “ooohhhhhh how cute” when we see a man painting his daughter’s nails, or say he is “such a good dad” when he goes to his daughter’s ballet daddy-daughter lesson days. Let’s not forget, calendars with cute men holding puppies and kittens? Talk about exploding ovaries. Yet a man liking kittens or puppies is a no-no.

This all seems rather odd to me, telling someone they can’t like something and still be masculine. Let’s examine just a few of the more absurd things real men just aren’t supposed to enjoy.

Wearing Pink

Why not? Historically, until the early 1900s, infant boys and girls were often dressed the same in white dress-like outfits for ease of changing diapers and cleaning up the inevitable bowel-movement mess. Somehow, this began to change to color selection based on the infant’s sex.  In June of 1918, a Ladies’ Home Journal article said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Why?  Because pink is a natural derivative of red – a very bold, vibrant, and historically masculine color. Other sources of information at the time stated to go by the child’s hair color and eyes, as blue was better suited for blue-eyes and/or blond hair and pink for dark-eyes and/or hair. It was the 1940’s with the Baby Boomer generation when pink became a girl color and blue a boy color, and it was influenced by fashion ads and marketing.  (If you are interested in learning more, historian Jo B. Paoletti has written a book on it).

So really, pink is not a ‘girl’ color – it is simply what has become the trend for infants thanks to the marketing of 60+ years ago.  In fact, pink is starting to make a come-back in men’s fashion because it is so versatile when it comes to matching with various complexions.  Light shades of pink look nice with darker skin tones, and dark shades of pink work well with light skin tones. So if a man wants to wear pink, and it looks good on him, why shouldn’t he?


Where did we ever get the idea that men’s nails and skin should be ignored because it isn’t a man thing to do? I admit, a man having a weekly standing appointment at the spa might be a bit much.  That said, it doesn’t mean it should never be done.

Personally, and this is just my opinion, but if women are honest a man with nicely trimmed nails and soft skin can be very appealing.  It means he takes pride in his appearance, and in the health of his body. While some calluses on his hands can feel really nice, and it leads to the visceral idea that if he works with his hands enough for them to be roughened, he is probably good with his hands, rubbing up against sandpaper is not a good feeling.  Yet finding moisturizer for the male skin (which can have slightly different chemical needs) is a challenge, let alone trying to find variety. Also, let’s be real, during intimate moments the last thing that is comfortable is a nail snagging against skin (especially some of the more delicate, tender areas). So a guy who trims and cares for his nails is good.

Again though, all good things can be too much – for both men and women – so the key to how often to moisture and get a mani/pedi would be as needed. It comes down to knowing your skin and the damage you do to it (some jobs require a more frequent need for recovery than others), and how fast your nails grow and break.

Disney Movies/Musicals/Certain Bands or Musical Artists/Read Certain Books

It’s often viewed that a real man can’t enjoy musicals.  Neither should he watch Disney movies. Or listen to certain music. Because those are all girly things. On that I call BS. The same as I would if someone said a woman can’t like Action Movies, read True Crime, listen to Heavy Metal or watch MMA fights.  We enjoy watching and listening to things that bring out an emotional response. Nothing wrong with that.

We also bring our own experiences to whatever we are reading and listening to or watching.  So while a woman might see chasing/going after, even sacrificing for, her dreams (which is true love with the prince) in The Little Mermaid, a man might interpret it drastically different or be drawn to other elements, like his willingness to die to protect her, or that she is not waiting around to be rescued.  In Beauty and the Beast, a woman might see finding the beauty within, or a man who cherishes her when others find her odd, a man might see something totally different.

Floral Scented Bath Items

This has to be one of my favorites, and is actually the reason I stopped to read the article I mentioned.  A man shared that his girlfriend buys a body wash for him, because the scent he likes is called ‘Snow Fairy’.  And it is pink. My response – so what?

Let’s also be honest here – men obviously like the smell of them, because they smell them on women all day long. So there must be some appeal.  Or wait a minute, maybe they don’t and women should stop using them. Yeah right, let’s be real, if men told women to stop using floral lotions and scented bath items because they would prefer us using something with a more substantial, deeper scent there would be a riot.  Yet the consumer market and society get to decide if a man uses something floral scented.

A hint of rose or certain other floral scents actually goes really nice with many of the colognes men wear.  How do I know? My husband has been known to take a bath from time to time with rose or cherry blossom bubble bath, and then he puts his cologne on afterwards.  The underlying floral mixed with the natural oils in his skin that are brought out by soaking in heated water, overlaid with a cologne designed for men’s chemistry – it actually smells nicer to me than when he takes a quicker shower and tosses on his cologne.

Keep in mind though, I said a hint.  One of the things a woman does generally like is for a man to smell, well, like a man. Men and women have naturally different smells, and a complex systems of hormones and pheromones in charge of attraction. That said, you  can enjoy a floral or light scented item in combination with deodorant and cologne and other items that are meant to draw out a man’s natural scent and enhance it. Just keep in mind, too much of anything will mask natural scents, which is why potpourri and floral candle wax work so well when placed next to trash cans.

Instead of telling guys they shouldn’t like floral scented body washes, or taking bubble baths, we should remove the stigma that comes from the floral content.  Maybe we remove stigma by not using overly girly names for the items (like Snow Fairy). Or maybe we just stop trying to tell men that some items are too girly for them to use because of the scent, and start talking about how to layer different scents without masking natural ones and how to be aware of your own nature scent.  We can discuss skin tones and what colors flatter and what clash, for both men and women. We should also be able to discuss natural scents and what flatters and what clashes with them.


On the same subject, men are not supposed to enjoy long soaks in the tub. Or to get massages.

Let’s think about why women enjoy both baths and massages – it helps with stress.  It is ‘me’ time. It is relaxing. It is soothing. Insert whatever adjective you prefer.  So where is the problem? It ties back to stigma again, and marketing.

Most bath products and massage gels are floral.  For centuries we have used petals of flowers, and oil extracts, for medicinal/healing purposes.  Something that decreases stress is certainly considered healing. As for candles along the edge of the tub, the flickering flames speaks to the primitive part of all brains, providing comfort.  If a fire is burning, we can stay warm and ward off predators. This instinctive response removes stress, even if those are not concerns a tiny candle could ever truly address.

But real men aren’t supposed to need or want something that does this. Are they immune to stress or something?  We know they are not given the heart attack and suicide rates of men. Society just tends to ignore it in men, because it isn’t ‘manly’ to admit to being stressed, leading to the aforementioned rated of heart attack and suicide in men.   If we also examine things globally and historically, long-soaks and massages were predominantly for men. Even today in many cultures, men are encouraged to seek out massage therapy and either soak in heated water or use a sauna. In addition to stress relief, it also has an obvious effect on the body, and provides time for quiet introspection without distraction.

So let’s get over that one as well.  Men should be encouraged to enjoy the occasional massage and long-soaks in the tub.

Well, that’s it.  Those are the five categories that have always been challenging for me to understand.  What are your thoughts – what ‘Real Men Don’t statements’ have never made sense to you?  Comment below.

About The Author
Michelle Michelle is a science teacher in the inner city. She strongly believes that anyone can learn new skills, and change habits, if they want to. She works with her students to develop a growth mindset about learning and life. Over the last ten years in education, she has seen both male and female students struggle to find themselves, and their way, in a society filled with mixed messages and lacking in true social interaction and strong role-models like the ones she grew up with.