What is a Man's Man?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A man's man is a man who engages in activities that are traditionally viewed as masculine, and who earns the respect of other men. Such men may also be described as “manly,” emphasizing their masculine personality. They tend to be domineering, confident, and bold, because these character traits are reinforced by traditional gender roles.

Hunting is seen as a very masculine activity.
Hunting is seen as a very masculine activity.

Western society shifted radically in the 20th century, in no small part because of the efforts of the feminist community. A breakdown of traditional gender, race, and cultural roles occurred, leaving some people with a sense of being adrift or unclear about their roles in life. As a result, the definition of manliness and what it meant to be a man began to change, and the concept of a “man's man” acquired fresh connotations, distinguishing such men from their more feminine or gender-fluid counterparts.

A guy who enjoys working on cars is often thought of as a man's man.
A guy who enjoys working on cars is often thought of as a man's man.

Activities that a man's man might enjoy include hunting, fishing, playing or watching sports, grilling, construction projects, camping, and equipment maintenance and repair. In the traditional framework of gender roles, such tasks are viewed as extremely masculine, and indeed they continue to be dominated by men, with a smaller number of women engaging in these activities as a general rule. A man may also distinguish himself from other men by proving that he has been engaging in these activities since childhood, rather than picking them up as a hobby later in life.

Other men are often respectful of a man's man because of his skills and personality. Some men feel threatened by the shifting gender roles in many societies, so they may admire masculine men because they epitomize gender ideals. Others simply feel drawn to such men, either because they are masculine men themselves or because they have a fondness for manly men.

As a general rule, these men prides themselves on being practical, tough, sensible, and logical. They believe that they can solve any problems that might be thrown at them with aplomb, and they are prepared for a range of situations. A man's man may also prefer “roughing it” while working on projects, eschewing creature comforts for the bare essentials, and stressing self-reliance and ingenuity as valued character traits. Many also consider themselves to be gentleman, with old-fashioned manners and a complex personal code of behavior.

Some people find this masculine culture to be off-putting. People who reject strictly traditional gender roles may dislike the heavy emphasis on masculine activities, for example, while those who think that sensitivity is an important characteristic may struggle to relate. Other people point out that the man's man has been held up as a prime example of how to behave for quite a long time in literature, film, and song, and that centuries of praise for manly men can't be all wrong.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Love it! We need more men like this. Men need to be men not sissies.


I agree with the Post no. 6. Yes it is, the essence of being a man's man is not on the masculine type of job or career or anything that describes him as his but by so doing the good deeds in the sight of God and man and above all, by loving your neighbor as you love yourself.


What would a "woman's woman" be like?


Liberals seem to be most put off by a man's man type of personality. I don't know why they are so threatened. Perhaps they would like to see every man act like a stereotypical gay man in society. We need to have more men's men in society !


I have moral values. These have been taught to me by my parents. It is not my place to "judge", but I can not let evil prevail. I do have a sensitive side, and when wrong is done to the innocent, I show that side of me. I do not follow fads. I work for my wages. I pay my taxes. I love God, family and country, in that order. I respect others, no matter what lifestyle they choose, as long as that choice is not pushed on me.

My wife of 15 years knows what a "Man's Man" is and I am teaching what was taught me to my children, in hopes of providing society with my replacement when I pass.


Men like this strike me as insecure. They have to emphasize their *male traits* and dislike for all things feminine, which to me is abnormal. We all have traits of both genders. Sensitivity and strength are *not* mutually exclusive. I think much classical literature has emphasized that as well. Most logical thinkers know that traditional gender roles are a tad arbitrary, and that we should be ourselves instead of trying to conform to them.


Being a man's man myself, I have found that I have better luck relating to female friends and associates who have more conservative political leanings. Although I am generally respected by men on both sides of the political-cultural arena, I am often seen as off-putting and aloof by certain female coworkers who would seem more "feminist." I have had to work extra hard to maintain these friendships and assure these people that I care about and respect them.


If you find yourself to be stereotyped as a "man's man" it may be important to cultivate more of a sensitive side. In mainstream society today, many are put off by ultra-masculine tendencies. If, on the other hand, you live in a more bucolic or traditional group of people, cultivating these personality traits will make you appealing and charismatic by almost everyone.

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