My Don Quixote notions of masculinity

I was raised on Don Quixote and The Knights of the Round Table as a child. I was encouraged to embrace chivalry as a role model and this has undoubtedly shaped my understand/misunderstand of masculinity. Of course, my notions of masculinity and femininity have changed over time. For example, as a boy I never witnessed my father, uncles, or brothers change diapers/nappies so it was never expected of males in my sub-culture. The household duties of the boys and girls in my family was quite different. However, I married a beautiful Swedish woman who was raised in a Swedish sub-culture where the men in her life shared in diaper/nappy duty. You can easily imagine that my bride and I had different notions of what it meant to be a good husband since my notions of what it meant to be a good husband and father did not initially include changing a baby’s diapers/nappies. Over the years my wife and I have adapted both to each other’s expectations and to the expectations within the three distinct cultural contexts where we have lived. While I still hold on to the notion that there are some wonderful (even universal) distinctions between masculinity and femininity… I am less dogmatic about what those are. I am certain our cultures consistently muck-up and distort what these these distinctions should be. I don’t think any culture has it right but neither do I think the advocates of complete gender neutrality (which is in vogue here in Sweden) have it right either. I think it is more important to be dogmatic about false concepts of masculinity & femininity than it is to be dogmatic about distinctions.

I wrote this poem for one of my son’s 12th birthday. Today, all four of my children (three sons and a daughter) are adults living away from home. In this poem I tried to encourage my son to reject the brand of masculinity that is pushed by many Hollywood movies and macho sub-cultures and to redefine what is admirable. And yes, I long for my daughter (and future daughter-in-laws, and any future grand-daughters) to reject the brand of femininity that is unhealthy and demeaning to their natures. I long for them to be strong, courageous, and humble too… as these traits are admirable for both men and women. 🙂


It is not by the presence of stubble on his face,

nor by the speed he wins a race.

He may be a soldier in a hero’s tale,

but still be nothing more than male.


A man is measured by the weight he can bear,

by the courage he musters in times of despair.

A man is distinguished by what he does with his tears,

how he bears disappointments and manages fears.


When he is lost on the road and in need of advice,

he is humble enough to ask even his wife.