If you had to think about it, which person would you consider more masculine? Someone who is confident, fearless, and doesn’t take shit from anyone? Or someone who submits to those deemed more powerful or of higher status? If we take our cues from media, movies, and magazines, we’d definitely choose the first option. But as Gerald teaches us, for Americans with a mixture of different cultural backgrounds, masculinity isn’t nearly as clear cut. Nor should it be.
Growing up, a man was someone who was commanding and powerful. He had a really deep voice. He was a provider ad always made sure the his family and loved ones were taken care of, although he might not necessarily be the most hands-on with raising the kids. He was expected to be very confident, and he never cried.
My father and older brother were the ones that most fit that definition. For example, when they would walk, they lumbered along, filling the space–very directed and filled with purpose. They had really deep voices and there was always a lot of tension that came from them. There was always the boys don’t cry thing going on. I don’t know if I intentionally adjusted to that or not, but I’ve never been much of a cryer.
Even though I don’t have the deep voice or the walk my father and older brother has, I am athletic and pretty tall, comparatively, so I naturally take up more space, which in its own way commands attention.
When it comes to masculinity, there is a point of tension between American and Asian culture when it comes to submitting to people of higher authority. In Asian culture, you are taught to always offer the proper respect for people of higher authority or elders–you defer to them. For example, the Filipino custom of mano, in which the younger person brings to their forehead the hand of the elder, more respected, as a sign of respect.
When it comes to masculinity, there is a point of tension between American and Asian culture when it comes to submitting to people of higher authority…and that’s affected how I interact with those around me.
So, even though I would consider my father very strong and masculine, I remember he would always be more calm and docile to people he perceived as being at a more powerful level. Growing up, I can’t necessarily remember exactly whom he showed deference, just that I noticed the change in his demeanor.
But when he interacted with other people he considered to be on the same level or lower, he would be more in command and take charge, which is what I’ve learned is closer to American masculinity, which isn’t about submitting or bowing down to anyone.
In a way, this cultural difference when it comes to submission has affected how I interact with those around me. Because of my upbringing, I still have that deference in me for those in higher authority or considered more powerful.
As a result, I have let some opportunities slip away because I wasn’t assertive enough and, instead, gave individuals more respect or space. For example, if I were at a networking event or in a professional space, instead of being straightforward and walking up to them or trying to strike up a conversation, I tend to give them their space and watch from a distance.