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Charles Blow on Black Men, Masculinity

How Should We Define Masculinity? A Q&A With Charles Blow

The book challenges static representations of what manhood should be or look like or talk like. I'm curious, what does being a man mean to you?

I believe that we have drawn masculinity in this incredibly narrow, rigid, dangerous way. We think of it as a peak, and I think of it as an ocean.

Dangerous in what sense?

Dangerous in the sense of—writing a note to a song so high only a few people are meant to hit it, and nobody is meant to hold it. And so, boys are constantly confronting this notion of failure because they cannot live up to idea of people saying to them, Man up! Be a man! And they don't know what that is because they're just trying to be human. And being human is sometimes fragile. I believe we have to redraw our collective concept of what masculinity is so that it includes the possibility of difference and variation. And once we do that we free these kids up to be kids, and to be human beings. Also, allowing them to be honest about things they are experiencing, things people don't traditionally identify with masculinity. Because there's no way to be a real man without being an honest man. So when we force these boys to lie and suppress, we're robbing them of truth and honesty and all the real things we would like an archetypical real man to be.

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