What makes a man a man

When is a man a man?

What does it mean to be a man today? We asked people from Germany what constitutes masculinity for them.

From Sonja Eismann

Manhood is in crisis. At least that is how it seems, if you look at how concepts of masculinity have been reported and discussed in recent years: There was a lot of talk of outdated role models, of the man as the loser of modernization, of toxic - that is, violent, harmful - masculinity, yes even of the end of men and a departure into the "Golden Matriarchy". We wanted to know from very different people in Germany what masculinity means to them and what ideals they want for the future.

Photo (detail): © privateAfter graduating from high school in Bamberg, Max Kade (19) is currently studying art in Leipzig.

For me, the differences between male and female don't play a big role. I think it's wrong to use physical characteristics like vulva or penis to determine gender, especially since in my opinion there are more than just two genders. In my idea of ​​role models, I was certainly influenced by my parents, who tried to raise me and my younger sister beyond these gender norms, although of course they are not entirely free of it themselves. When I think of male ideals, I tend to think of negative concepts like toxic masculinity. I think it's positive when someone corresponds to an image of masculine strength, but can still be emotionally open. For the future, I suspect that binary gender roles will continue to dissolve, which I am pleased about. An abolition of patriarchy is unlikely to happen under capitalism, even if I would like it to.

Photo (detail): © privateAnas Mardikhi came to Germany from Syria a few years ago and is currently completing his license to practice medicine in Stuttgart.

The ideal man is a helpful man. He knows what his friends need and tries to always be there for them. His appearance, his body or his clothes are completely irrelevant. It depends on the inside, on the pure heart. The perfect man always thinks positively and tries to make problems smaller or to solve them instead of getting into the bad. I believe that differences between different countries or cultures play much less of a role than family and upbringing. If I ever have a son, I'll definitely tell him to think positively.

Photo (detail): © privateElke Schubert (76) was involved in the family business and in local politics. She lives with her family - three children, five grandchildren - in a village in southern Hesse.

Masculinity was not an important factor in my marriage. When bringing up my three children, however, there were situations in which only a word of power from the father restored the necessary order. A loving father who cuddles, has fun and plays with the children is more masculine in my eyes than an always rumbling and punishing father. For me, masculinity is, of course, also associated with outward appearances: If a man with a beer belly and a hanging undershirt doesn't even do a hand movement for the family, but hangs in front of the telly or the computer after work and lets himself be served, then that's unmanly. A sporty, well-built man who also values ​​a modern outfit is, in my opinion, a masculine type. I also think it's important that, as a woman, even in an equal partnership in stressful situations, you have a male shoulder to lean on.
Photo (detail): © Felix SchmittJános Erkens (35) is a press officer and freelance journalist in Frankfurt am Main.

Somebody like me should know best what masculinity is. Because unlike a native man, I first had to convince quite a few people that I really am a man. In fact, I cannot specifically name the masculine in myself - except for the certainty of being a man. My friends say that the gender reassignment has only changed me outwardly. I used to be perceived as a woman without irritation, now I was perceived as a man without irritation. Unfortunately, I don't know what that says about masculinity either.
Photo (detail): © privateRaul Krauthausen (39) is an inclusion activist, author and presenter and lives in Berlin.

I have relatively little in common with the male ideal or cliché. Not only because I am disabled, but also because I am small. And because in a wheelchair I cannot correspond to the image of the protector, but rather of the person who should be protected. In my youth I felt unmanly. It was already clear to me that I was not the first choice for the booty scheme at cuddle parties. So I was able to see the whole matter in a more nuanced way: I questioned who actually counts as strong and found that it can also be about emotional strength. Men are probably the weaker ones because they suppress it. I have moved away from the classic concept of masculinity and try to allow the feminine side of me to cry too. I would fundamentally wish from all men: to recognize privileges and to use them to make way for the non-privileged.
Photo (detail): © privateTharsana Tharmalingam (45) lives as a working, single mother with her nine-year-old daughter in Berlin.

I've always been afraid of men. Before her dominant character, before her violence. It took me a long time to even get involved in a relationship. Because I question everything that society still expects from women today: Live with a man, get married, raise children together. Because I live for myself, not for society. Even with supposedly progressive men, I see that their feminism often only exists in theory. I don't want gender to matter, but we're still a long way from that. And so I believe that it is in truth the men and not the women who need empowerment. So that they are finally no longer afraid of us - and the mentality of burning witches disappears forever.

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