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Garth Rattray | Who is a real man?

Published:Monday | June 20, 2016 | 12:51 AMGarth Rattray

According to the CIA World Factbook, Jamaica has an estimated total population of 2,950,210. And, between the ages of 25 to 64 (the so-called productive years), we have 619,424 males. An indeterminate number of our males are not real (stand-up) men. They often use their masculinity selfishly and irresponsibly.

Being male and being a real man are not the same thing. Masculinity becomes manifest from inside the womb, where hormones stimulate changes on genetically male foetuses. Without the appropriate hormonal interference, males would not have the familiar external genitalia (of a penis and scrotum). We men would all be stuck, looking like females on the outside. Perish the thought!

The hormone-driven changes continue up to and after birth, when our testicles descend and take over the slow climb up the ladder of masculinisation, until the surge of puberty launches us into the stratosphere of maleness.

Many men believe that having physical male characteristics and behaving rough and tough defines their masculinity. But a real man is one who has the basic genetic coding to be male and who exhibits such characteristics that are responsible and have a positive effect upon society. Real men ought to be leaders in their own right and role models.

Many males are instinctively very aware of their significant shortcomings as men. These are the ones who compensate by putting down others, indulging in self aggrandisement, misogynistic behaviour, promiscuity and their greatest sin of all, the irresponsible fathering of children in an unending but futile quest to prove their manhood.

Sadly, some are coerced and others are lured into a life of violence. Those mistakenly believe that toting a gun, committing violent and even deadly acts equate with masculinity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only cowards need weapons and badness to feel like men; real men don’t need guns and violence to be powerful. The power of real men comes from the positive changes that they make in the lives of others. Real men are constructive citizens, not destructive miscreants.

People have blamed our slavery heritage for destroying the social construct of the family nucleus. Estate owners viewed slaves as chattel. They traded them, sold them and bred them as they saw fit – as they would with the lower animals. Others cite slavery but also blame itinerant labour practices for the lack of a family unit (consisting of both parents and the children). Finding work across the island and as far away as England, Panama, Cuba and, more recently, the North American Farm Work Program, causes fathers to be away from their children for extended periods of time. They end up seeing themselves only as breadwinners and they leave all the parenting to the women (mothers, grandmothers, big sisters and aunts).


Between negative peer socialisation, unnecessary paternal absenteeism, misconstruing manliness to the point of equating it with stoicism and violence, and the endemic reluctance of most single mothers to go through the courts in order to ensure that the father or fathers of their children live up to their responsibility, a great many of our men are sadly lacking in manliness.

The really awful and scary fallout of this is an undisciplined and violent society. It has been found that, at all levels of society and in families from all income brackets, the single most significant cause of male criminality is the absence of a father figure.

Another facet of manliness was evident and relevant aeons ago when males had to be risk-takers, aggressive and physically strong to attract the best mate, to protect her and his progeny and to hunt for food. Although many things about our societies have undergone dramatic changes, many males retain that obsolete psychological programming and, with necessary hunting and risk-taking eliminated from our culture, those kinds of males are now only volatile and irresponsible human beings.

Being a real man means being cognisant of the rights and needs of others. It means being peaceful, responsible and, perhaps most of all, it means being a good father if ever he produces children.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and