Inside the Trojan Horse of Realmannspracht

Realmannspracht (translated loosely as “real man talk”) is the term I use to describe any discourse which suggests manhood is dependent on complying with someone’s stated or implied expectations.  The thing about realmannspracht is that often serves as a Trojan Horse for a speaker’s agenda.  When a speaker says, “Real men do <xyz>,” what they really mean is “I want men to do <xyz>.”  They simply have couched their demands in such a way that a debate about their demands is preempted and precluded from the discussion.

It’s simply a rhetorical stratagem to shut down honest dialogue about what manhood is.  Sure, someone can claim, “You’re not a real man if you don’t do <xyz> or don’t have <xyz> qualities.”  However, a three-year old could probably do a much better job of telling you who is and who is not a man by pointing to illustrations in a picture book.  Adults, all too enslaved to their particular ideologies (traditional, feminist, or otherwise), could learn a lot from children who have an appreciation for the obvious.

Both feminists and traditionalists approach manhood from the social construct angle.  They are mirror image of each other in their error.  The feminists want to say there is no such thing as manhood because it is a learned behavior.  The traditionalists want to say there is manhood, but then equate it with learned behavior.  They’re both wrong.  Manhood is a biological reality, but this fact doesn’t seem to stop the realmannspracht crowd (left, right, feminist, conservative, whatever) from making some debatable claims about manhood.  Let’s look at a few of them …

[unordered_list style=”green-dot”]

  •  Men are physically strong.  Really? Are we going to argue that the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is not a man because he is severely disabled?
  • Men are emotionally reserved.  Really?  So, if someone rapes your girlfriend, do you repress any signs of being upset?
  • Men are brave.  Really?  That’s the absence of fear, right? So, I should be completely unconcerned about my safety and celebrate the 4th of July in Waziristan?
  • Men are loyal.  So if the President is a lawless, big-government crackpot, I shouldn’t say anything about because, after all, he is the “Commander-In-Chief”?
  • Men are selfless.  If you are always selfless, then why don’t you sell your house and give the proceeds to finance the habits of meth addicts?
  • Men take pain.  Okay, go ahead and stick your hand on the front burner of your stove.  This should be no problem for you, because, well, you are “man” and you should be able to do this.


I could go on and on, but the above examples should suffice for the point I am making.  In each of the examples, I admittedly used some extremes cases to falsify some assertions made about manhood.  But I had to do it. Why?  Because those who use realmannpracht continually fail to acknowledge that the broad array of men’s experiences are usually more complicated than the shallow metrics we force on them.

In actuality, many of things we often list as attributes of manhood are really forms of deprivation that we ask men to embrace.  Men don’t embrace them naturally, for if they did, we wouldn’t have to shame them with epithets like “sissy,” “wimp,” “loser,” “beta,” “creep,” “jerk” and the such like. What men really do in a lot of cases is sacrifice, and they do this because others find it useful.  Reframing these sacrifices as mere attributes of manhood allows people to overlook the social costs men pay to be recognized qua men.  When you think about it, a Masculinity Tax is what it all really boils down to.

[quote float=”left”]Many of the things we ask of men are not always appropriate, ethical, or humane. [/quote] Let’s take some examples from the list I mentioned earlier.  Who is to say that as a man, I am unable to break down and cry when life gets hard?  Our bodies are designed to demonstrate signs of mental anguish.  Since I have this capacity as a human being, I feel free to exercise it.  But someone says I can’t do this.  Why?  Why am I being asked to sacrifice something I want to do?  For whose good is it, really?  Let’s take another example: It is said that men are brave.  However, as a human being, I find the innate drive of self-preservation to be quite a useful thing.  Someone may say, “Don’t be so concerned about your welfare.”  But this also represents a sacrifice.  Why I am being asked to make it?  Again, for whose good am I making it? On what ethical or moral basis is this demand being made?

You see, when you move beyond the rhetorical sleight of hand about “who is a man” and you move beyond the shaming language, you get into a serious debate about just how appropriate it is to ask men to do certain things.  But a lot of people don’t want to have this kind of debate.  They want to couch their demands and their agenda in shallow sound bites (“You’re not a real man if you don’t do <xyz>”).  They want to give critical thinking the runaround and make men docile sheeple who don’t ask hard questions about what is demanded of them.

Here’s the bottom line:  Many of the things we ask of men are not always appropriate, ethical, or humane.  Loyalty from a men can keep a workplace together, but it can also keep a dictator in power.  Selflessness from men can make for a charitable society, but it can also lead to codependency and enablement for users and abusers.  Being emotionally reserved may help a man be calm-headed and clear in thought during a time of crises, but it can leave him out of touch with his own feelings and ultimately out of touch with the feelings of others close to him.

For those who write on manhood, I am sad to say that many of them are lacking in intellectual honesty and integrity.  Why don’t they just be straightforward and tell us that the qualities they attribute to “manhood” are really just things they want men to do or be?  Why don’t they admit that every time they quip, “You are not a real man,” they are just voicing their frustration that some men are not complying with their desires?  In fact, this whole nonsense about who is and is who is not a “real man” is nothing more than a badly dubbed remix of the “No True Scotsman” Fallacy.

Maybe the sacrifices we ask men to make are appropriate from time to time.  But let’s be genuinely open to a discussion about these things.   Someone may say that realmannspracht is useful in some cases.  Indeed, I am certain that taking the easy way out and being manipulative is quite “useful” for the ethically challenged, but for the rest us? As it is, I would like to take a cue from the realmannspracht crowd and ask them to cut the chase and “MAN UP” about what they really are doing.

Recommended Content

%d bloggers like this: