A Man’s Gambit

J. Stokes
5 min readMar 27, 2021

Some decisions meant to gain control come with the cost of losing one’s soul.

Former President Barack Obama and American musician Bruce Springsteen on March 22nd aired the sixth episode of their podcast Renegades: Born in the USA, entitled “Wrestling with Ghosts: American Men.” In it the two discussed how American culture often promotes troublesome ideas about masculinity. Obama claimed both he and Springsteen are more attune to this issue because of the complicated relationships they had with their fathers, which he described as flawed role models both spent much of their lives coming to terms with.

A man’s world

The former president opened Episode 6 by speaking on his upbringing and how he lacked a true father figure — he only met Obama Sr. once and lived apart from both his mother and stepfather as a child. This prompted him to learn from media how to be a man.

Being a man or exhibiting male traits is often associated with masculinity, defined as the quality or character of the male sex. According to writer Keri Mangis, however, the terms masculinity and femininity are descriptors of energy rather than labels assigned to a specific sex. She furthermore argued that masculine energy is hot, quick, light, and bright, in addition to exhibiting ambition, aggressiveness, and drive.

Expressions of masculinity in both men and boys vary based on geographic location and cultural background. Further diversity is shaped by other factors, including class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. Sociologist Raewyn Connell claimed that multiple masculinities are often in competition with one another to determine which is more authentic. Therefore, the standards used to define a “real man” can vary greatly across time and place.

American society often socializes males to showcase masculinity in ways that emphasize toughness, stoicism, acquisitiveness, and self-reliance. Consequently, this may result in rejecting behaviors that appear feminine, suppressing emotions other than anger, promoting homophobia, and striving toward competition, success, and power. These ideas of manhood are often encouraged by media. Examples from…



J. Stokes

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