When I was in middle school, my favorite comic book character was The Mighty Thor. He was the muscular, hammer-wielding embodiment of strength, fertility and healing. He was a protector of mankind and a rescuer of underdogs, and I always found that concept attractive. But there was also a measure of rebellion in choosing this particular mythological hero.
It may seem silly, but I thought his most impressive feature was his long, golden hair. I’d been taught that boys and men should not have long hair. For the first time in my young life, I found myself in opposition to a masculine myth.
Mythology is a collection of myths that usually come from cultural or sacred traditions and stories. Like mythology, modern masculinity is a compilation of learned cultural behaviors and stereotypes rather than the result of God-intended individuality.
I felt conflicted as a young man because I thought my deep feelings and flowing tears, and my desire to wear a bracelet and have a close male friend, were taboo and not welcome in the kingdom of godly manhood.
The television shows I watched, Christian books I read and the world I lived in told me I wasn’t manly.
I’ve struggled against the myth that masculinity is defined by athleticism, brawn, hunting, toughness and love of cars.
What if you love art, tenderness, creativity or a “song in the color pink”? What if you don’t fit the narrow cultural parameters of manhood? Is there something wrong with your masculinity?
These oversimplified generalizations of gender attributes and differences are called gender stereotypes. These stereotypes can be positive or negative, but they often fail to communicate accurate information.
Even with evidence to the contrary, we are often guilty of applying these gender assumptions to others.
Here are just a few of the culture-driven masculinity myths that prompted me to ask, “Hey God, did you mess up when you made me?”