I stumbled across the poem ‘I am a Manly Man!’ written by Bradley Hathaway (see link below) on Facebook recently. Although laced with humour and irony, it does provide an interesting personal account of how men are active in the construction of their masculine identities, and that their behavior is influenced by their understanding of how their own behavior relates to hegemonic masculinity.
There are clear links between hegemonic masculinity and subordinated, marginalized, or resistant forms of masculinity (Connell 1995; Hall; 2009; Hall & Gough, submitted; Kimmel & Messner 1995) and these are evident within the text. Bradley acknowledges the existence of more than one discourse of masculinity: hegemonic masculinity (‘manly man’) and alternative masculinities. He described some of his own hegemonic masculine attributes as ‘Because I don’t flush and I leave the lid up’, ‘I drive a nineteen eighty-eight Ford Pick-up truck’ and ‘I fart, burp, spit when I want. Not caring who is nearby’. These can be contrasted to other alternative masculine attributes of Bradley’s which he describes as including a ‘sissy frame…rib laden chest’ ‘I tell my guy friends that I love them. And sometimes, I even hug them’ and ‘I watched Bambi. I cried’.
The decision to endorse and embody a particular form of alternative masculinity is not a simple choice because of the strong fundamental links to identity – behavior that is not hegemonically masculine is immediately judged to be non-masculine or feminine (e.g. ‘sissy’ ‘gay’) (McQueen and Henwood 2002). Bradley describes a manly man as embodying a masculinity characterized by being physically strong, heroic, tough, and brave. He made a clear contrast between this ideology and other aspects of his own masculinity, which he characterized by characteristics such as being loving, compassionate and caring rather than stoic and emotionally reserved. Given that the tone of the poem is about trying to justify alternative masculine characteristics as still hegemonic masculinity, suggests that although masculinity and femininity are not bipolar opposites, neither are masculinity and femininity truly orthogonal (see de Visser, 2009). This poem may therefore, give hope to young men who reject hegemonic masculinity but still desire a clear sense of being a man.
I am a Manly Man!