Masculinity: The Tough-guy Stereotypes Live On

“Last semester, a student in the masculinity course I teach showed a video clip she had found online of a toddler getting what appeared to be his first vaccinations. Off camera, we hear his father’s voice. I’ll hold your hand, O.K.? Then, as his son becomes increasingly agitated: Don’t cry!…Say you’re a man: ‘I’m a man! The video ends with the toddler screwing up his face in anger and pounding his chest. I’m a man! he barks through tears and gritted teeth.” A. Reiner, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image- Ben Wiseman for The New York Times

Image- Ben Wiseman for The New York Times

Excerpt:  Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest  by Andrew Reiner, NYT

“The home video was right on point, illustrating the takeaway for the course: how boys are taught, sometimes with the best of intentions, to mutate their emotional suffering into anger. More immediately, it captured, in profound concision, the earliest stirrings of a male identity at war with itself.

This is no small thing. As students discover in this course, an Honors College seminar called Real Men Smile: The Changing Face of Masculinity, what boys seem to need is the very thing they fear. Yet when they are immunized against this deeper emotional honesty, the results have far-reaching, often devastating consequences…

Ben Wiseman for The New York Times

Ben Wiseman for The New York Times

The course Real Men Smile, which examines how the perceptions of masculinity have and haven’t changed since the 18th century, grew out of a provocative lecture by Michael Kimmel, the seminal researcher and author in the growing field of masculine studies… I wanted the course to explore this hallmark of the masculine psyche — the shame over feeling any sadness, despair or strong emotion other than anger, let alone expressing it and the resulting alienation.



Research shows what early childhood teachers have always known: that from infancy through age 4 or 5, boys are more emotive than girls. One study out of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in 1999 found that 6-month-old boys were more likely to show facial expressions of anger, to fuss, to gesture to be picked up and tended to cry more than girls.”

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The Emperor and The Nightingale .

The Emperor and The Nightingale .

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The video illustrated the takeaway for the course.
  2. Boys are taught to mutate their suffering into anger.
  3. They are immunized against this deeper emotional honesty.
  4. These are tough-guy stereotypes.
  5. People take the seminar to learn.
  6. Boys get involved in extracurricular activities.
  7. But these activities are often denigrated as un-masculine.
  8. His voice quavering, the young man stammered something.
  9. Many young men are vulnerable.
  10. This leads to the erosion of male privilege.
Vocabulary Cluster By

Vocabulary Cluster By


Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Some cultural/culture critics like/link such mounting/mountain emotional vulnerability to the erosion/erosive of male privilege/privy and all that it snails/entails. This perceived threat/treat of diminishing power is exposing ugly, at times menace/menacing fault lines in the male psyche. Experts/exports point to sexual assaults on campus and even mass murders like those at a community college in Oregon and a movie theater in Colorado. These gunmen were believed to share/shove two hyper-masculine traits: feelings of profound isolate/isolation and a compulsion for viral notoriety.

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

___this assignment students needed ___explore the norms___masculinity.  I wanted the course___explore this hallmark___the masculine psyche. Even___ this point___the semester the students seemed blind___ their ideas.

II. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

  1. “So why don’t campuses have more resource centers for men? Only a precious few — the University of Massachusetts and Simon Fraser University among them — offer ways for all men to explore their shared struggles. And these don’t exist without pushback. Talk of empowering men emotionally yields eye rolling at best, furious protest at worst — as when the Simon Fraser center was proposed, in 2012, and men and women alike challenged the need for a “safe space” for members of the dominant culture.”
  2. Describe your idea of a masculine man and a feminine woman.
  3. In your opinion do  campuses need more facilities that address male issues? Explain why or why not.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


Category: Culture