Hyper-Masculinity. Machismo. Tough Love. A Man’s Man. Alpha Male. No matter what you call it, unadulterated masculinity is on trial in this day and age. While it’s currently looked down upon to teach and mold our young boys to be “real men”, the remaining tough guys left in the world are still exalted, admired and lusted after by the masses.

How can we as men admonish the feminization of the modern man of color while simultaneously conditioning our young boys to become more emotional, sensitive, softer men? In this essay I play defense attorney, unabashedly standing up for the archetypes that made me the proud masculine man that I am today.



PictureRecently, I was in a room full of basketball fans excitedly celebrating the unbelievable moves of the athletic men on the court.  Impossible dunks, speeds and agility maintained over ninety minutes of the game. As I watched this, all I could think about was Lance Armstrong, Carl Lewis and the recently revived discussion about performance enhancing drugs.

As a society, we want our athletes to be bigger, stronger and more acrobatic with greater levels of endurance…but we want it under the assumption that it is all natural. That the human body can do all those amazing things without any help at all. We want all of the good without any of the bad.

It was this train of thought that led me to a direct comparison to the subject of masculinity, more specifically: Hyper Masculinity.

Over the last few decades we’ve slowly taught our young Black and Latino men that it’s okay to be more sensitive and open up emotionally. Coincidentally, over the last few decades, we’ve witnessed the apparent decline of modern masculinity. This is a correlation that cannot be ignored.


As a child, I was taught many things that today would be considered abusive. I was told to not only get up when knocked down but to also fight back without hesitation. This philosophy applied to more than just physical fights, it applied to verbal and interpersonal altercations as well. If something in life challenges you, stand up to the challenge without fear or sorrow. When you reveal your vulnerabilities, you reveal your weaknesses.

This lesson was never more evident than in my favorite films as a child. They were the action movies featuring tough guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, Steven Segal and other bad ass macho men kicking ass all over the screen. These men displayed the confidence of leaders. We rooted for them.

In music, my favorites were rappers like Tupac Shakur, Rakim, Nas, Mobb Deep, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube…masculinity was soaked into every one of their verses. As for singers, men like R. Kelly, D’Angelo, Babyface, Brian McKnight, Jodeci, Aaron Hall and just about any artist that worked with Teddy Riley were the top choices. These guys were singing sappy love songs yet you never thought of them as anything less than confident masculine men.

At that age, the public figures I learned about and admired in school were leaders like Huey P Newton, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver. All were unquestionably masculine, charismatic and confident leaders.

The people I looked up to in my personal life were the older male cousins and boys in the neighborhood that were brazen, confident and stoic. Lastly, my own father was never an imposing, muscular figure, yet he still carried a demeanor about him that demanded respect and he never gave me the appearance that he was not in control.

For me, all of the types mentioned above were “Real Men.” These were the guys that other men wanted to be like and that women wanted to be with. To this day I hold that same opinion when looking at others and even looking in the mirror. And I’m not alone. There are many men out there who will read this and agree that these are prime models of Black manhood and masculinity. These were the men that influenced and shaped me to be the Masculine Man I am today. Even today these archetypes are heralded and admired, mostly for their hyper-masculinity…but they also seem to represent a dying breed.
Modern young men, movie stars, musicians and public figures appear to be “softening up.” Aggressive, masculine, confident and braggadocios rapper/actors like Tupac Shakur have been replaced with the likes of sensitive, emotional artists like Drake. Outspoken public speakers like Malcolm X have been replaced with soft-spoken, professorial, Ivy Leaguers.

Young masculine acting roles once played by Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes and Laurence Fishburne are now filled in by weaker thespian equivalents that look more likely to get cucumber skin facials than into fistfights. If the powerful, all-male film “A Soldier’s Story” were to be remade and recast today, it would essentially be its soft, weaker cousin “Red Tails.” No comparison.


In watching the second season of The L.A. Complex, the CW series that features a masculine Black Gay character Kaldrick King struggling with his sexuality, my hypothesis for the cause for the aforementioned decrease in male hyper-masculinity was further crystallized.

I noticed something very glaring and disturbing when watching the series. Kaldrick’s sexuality and identity issues are essentially boiled down to a father that was too tough on him. Daddy Issues made him Gay and Closeted. This revelation leads to the character slowly being emasculated by countless discussions about his feelings, emotional outpouring and crying, catatonic moping around and even an unexplained suicide attempt. Admittedly, this was a more interesting direction than the “angry black man” Kaldrick King was portrayed as in the first season, but this level of emotion was taking it too far. To make it worse, the death of the “tough-love” father figure magically sheds all sexual discretion, leading the character to publicly come out of the closet via a blog post (à la Frank Ocean) by the season finale.


It seemed as if the writers knew they were softening up Kaldrick’s manhood as they also threw in a brief storyline about a more aggressive rapper challenging his credibility. The man in me found myself rooting more for the new aggressor, not the weepy, emotional, heartbroken shell of the man that the main character used to represent. In the end, Kaldrick King doesn’t even put up a fight. He just submissively gives in to the challenger because standing up and fighting back is portrayed as being “not the answer.”

Although this is just a fictional character on television, what I saw still represented a lot of what has changed about manhood in the last few decades. Modern men have been increasingly conditioned to become more open with their feelings and emotions; this is also colloquially referred to as “getting in touch with your feminine side.” That would not be a problem in itself if it were not also opening up the Pandora’s Box that is “Perceived Weakness.”

 But wait, there’s more…

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