What Does a REAL Man Mean to You?


When we think of a man, we often think of masculinity. But are all men masculine? Do they need to be masculine?

That’s the way many men think about how they should be. This is not necessarily what girls and women think.

I asked a question to several females I know, ranging from Asians to Westerners and from 15-year-old teenagers to a 30-year-old woman. The question is, “What does a real man mean to you?”

Very few of the responses claimed a man needs to be strong! In fact, many think a real man is much more than just their appearance.

“If a person identifies himself as a man, he’s a real man,” Vornsar Ses, my close friend, mentioned. Similarly, Samantha Cody, a learning facilitator at Liger wrote to me, “I would say, my idea of a ‘real man’ is: a person who wants to be called a man. Pretty simple, but that’s about my only standard–you’re a “real man” if you identify as a man, nothing more required or expected of you.” The same idea is said by Cara Shelton, another learning facilitator, “… a real man must want to identify as a man.”

Some said to be a real man, you just need to exist!

“He should physically exist!” Sreynith Sam, another friend of mine, briefly said.

Despite those simple requirements, there are some characteristics that an ideal man should have. Cara genuinely expressed, “there is not much more ‘real’ a man needs other than existing. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have certain ideas of an ideal man or “real man” in the colloquial sense.” She continued, “he sees and treats women as equals and acknowledges that the expectations and roles we all participate in are socially created and not natural because of our sex. He applies the traditions or practices of being a “gentleman” to all people and all manners of his life.”

Alice Dimitroulis, a teenage girl from Australia, eloquently said, “for me, a real man doesn’t necessarily have to do with physical appearance. I understand the term itself is sometimes used to challenge a man’s confidence, for example ‘you’re not a real man if you can’t lift those heavy weights.’” She went on to say that a real man should be honest with himself, doesn’t fall into peer pressure, doesn’t worry about being the best, and doesn’t take offense when others say he’s not a real man. Likewise, Cara remarked, “A real man is not threatened by successful, powerful women.”

A Korean teenager, Soyeon Lee, responded that there are a few aspects of an ideal man, “for me, ‘real man’ is [someone] who is good at his own area such as debate, sports or math(ability), a warm-hearted man(personality), and look nice at least to me(appearance).” Comparably, one of my friends feels that a real man is someone who “people can depend on, able to learn from his mistakes, does what is necessary, could make people around him smile [and] respectful”

Respect and appreciation are also essential ingredients of a real man. Many said they should admire others around them, especially women. Sreynith believes a real man is “a man who respects women and does not humiliate them.” Another friend of mine commented, “He’s grown up and respectful. He should be a feminist, not going against anyone. He should be a wise man to be a real man.” Cara made a few other points about different aspects of appreciation, “a real man is not homophobic. A real man tries to avoid language that is offensive and stereotypical. A real man can appreciate and admire female beauty while also controlling himself and remaining loyal (if he decided to be in a relationship).”

I’ve been communicating other women’s perspectives of men, but I haven’t revealed anything about my idea of a real man. An ideal man to me is all of the above. I know that a man can’t be all those things, so to me, the most important characteristic is that a real man is able to show his emotions when necessary. Although many people consider this expression as weak, it’s not in my opinion. I clearly remembered a statement and fell in love with it ever since. The statement was made by Arn Chorn Pond, the founder of Cambodian Living Arts, and he said, “It takes a real man to cry.”

I’m clearly aware that different people have different views of what a real man is. Our opinions on a real man might be different from those of our best friends or parents and grandparents. There is no one definition of a real man. Everyone of us needs to acknowledge this fact and encourage men to be whoever they want, regardless of whether they fit in our definition of a real man or not.


Author: Thiny Tep

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