The official student newspaper of GWUOHS

GW Chronicle of the Yawp

The official student newspaper of GWUOHS

GW Chronicle of the Yawp

The official student newspaper of GWUOHS

GW Chronicle of the Yawp

Be a Man: A Story on Toxic Masculinity

Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels
Being forced to participate in “masculine” activities is a reality many boys combat every day. In this fictional piece, Lauren B. explores a young boy’s journey in understanding the true meaning of masculinity.

Editor’s Note: The following article is a work of fiction based on the imagination of the author and does not reflect the views of the newspaper.

I was brooding on my way to school, thinking about last night’s incident.

“Vincent, what’s wrong?” my friend Mariposa asked, snapping me out of my stupor.

“Um, nothing,” I replied.

Mariposa raised an eyebrow. “It’s your dad again, isn’t it?”


“What happened?”

“He saw me drawing again last night and blew up at me. I’m surprised he didn’t spontaneously combust. He actually ripped up my sketches.”

Mariposa covered her mouth in horror. “Omigosh, I’m so sorry! I can’t believe he would do that. It’s too bad your drawings were torn up. What were you drawing anyways?”

“Um, I don’t remember,” I lied. I had actually been drawing her, but I didn’t want to seem creepy or anything. She’s a good subject, alright? She’s got long, silky hair and a pretty face and her eyes… they’re gorgeous. What? No, I don’t have a crush on her! Fine, maybe I do. But it’s just a small one, okay?

“Why does your dad dislike the fact that you draw anyways?” Mariposa’s friend, Artemis, questioned.

“He doesn’t think it’s ‘manly’,” I replied.

Mariposa scoffed. “Plenty of men have been artists! Why does he not understand that your manliness doesn’t depend on things like that?”

“I know, it’s stupid. He’s obsessed with making sure I don’t turn out ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’ or whatever. I tried to grow out my hair a bit, so it covered my ears, and my dad said no because it made me look like a girl.”

Mariposa frowned. “First of all, there are plenty of boys with hair that long, or even longer, and they’re not any less of a boy. Secondly, looking like a girl is cool!” She flipped her hair over her shoulder and posed like a model.

I snorted in spite of my bad mood. Mariposa could always make me laugh.


When I got home from school, I felt a strange sense of foreboding. I tried to ignore it as I pulled out my sketchpad and pencils. As I began drawing, I found myself, as I often did, tracing the familiar lines of Mariposa’s face. Soon, my crush smiled up at me from the paper. I held the portrait up to the light. It didn’t quite do her justice, but I knew I had a long way to go before my art could truly represent her.

My bedroom door banged open.

Crap, I thought to myself. In my drawing daze, I hadn’t heard my dad come home.

“What are you doing, Vincent?!” my dad thundered.

“Um, I’m sketching,” I replied meekly.

“I can see that,” he said sternly. “Why are you drawing?”

“Uh, for art class.”

My father rubbed his forehead. “Of course, it’s always for art class. Vincent, you spend too much time on these feminine activities. Every time I come home, you’re always in your room, drawing.”

I looked at my feet, a pit growing in my stomach.

“Look son, I just don’t want you to waste your life on art and become weak and womanly. Do you understand?”

I nodded, pretending to agree.

My father breathed a sigh of relief. “We’ll forget about this incident if you drop art classes and join the football team this September, alright?”

I nodded again, pretending like I wasn’t scared for my life. I’m not exactly the athletic type; I’m short, skinny, and weak. If I wanted to survive (or at least not end up in the hospital with a concussion), I’d have to act fast. I texted the person I knew could definitely save my skin.


Mariposa’s bike screeched to a halt, stopping underneath the oak tree beside my house.

“What is it you want to talk about?” she asked.

“My dad wants me to stop art and start football.”


“He thinks that he’s saving me from becoming ‘weak and womanly’.”

Mariposa’s face grew angry. “What! That’s really, totally, positively unhinged. I can’t believe he thinks that drawing is an activity that, somehow, only girls are allowed to do. And you are not ‘wasting your time’. You’re great at it, and you’ll be the best artist one day.”

I blushed scarlet. “Um, thanks, Mariposa.”

She smiled slightly. “I mean, it’s the truth!”

Before I could reply, Mariposa changed the subject. “What should we do? No offence, but you’re not exactly cut out for football, and you definitely can’t quit art. That’s not happening on my watch.”

“I have no idea. I was hoping you’d have a plan.”

“It’s not fully formed yet, but I have a couple of thoughts.”

“I’ll take whatever you’ve got.”

“So, if your dad is trying to do what he thinks is ‘best for you’, you need to convince him that doing art is the best plan, not football.”

“That makes sense… I guess you’re right. I’ll do it when he gets home.”

“Okay, good luck!” Mariposa pulled me in for a tight hug, then hopped onto her bike. “Text me on how it goes!” she yelled over her shoulder.


I sat on the couch for what seemed like hours, waiting for my dad to get home, my stomach in knots all the while.

The front door opened suddenly, making me jump. It was my dad.

He eyed me, then smiled. “Glad to see you’re not drawing for once, son.”

My voice trembled as I said, “Dad, can we talk?”

“What’s on your mind, Vince? Sports? School? That girl you’re always talking about?”

I turned purple. “Oh, um, no, not Mariposa. I wanted to talk to you about, um, me doing football.”

My dad grinned broadly. “Of course! I’ve been excited for the day you joined the team since the day you were born.”

I took a deep breath. “Dad, I’m not sure that I want to try out for football.”

“Oh?” My dad arched his eyebrow. The knots in my stomach doubled.

“I want to keep doing art. I don’t want to play football.”

“What?!” my dad bellowed. “Vincent, we talked about this! You’re wasting your future on art!”

“Dad, I like art! I-”

“Now, listen here, young man. I don’t want a girl for a son. If you don’t shape up soon, I’m sending you off to military school. They’ll make you a real man there.”

With that, he stormed off, leaving me shocked, scared, and upset.


“He did WHAT?!” Mariposa shrieked.

“Shh, he might be listening,” I cautioned. We were beside the oak tree, but you can’t be too careful.

Not lowering her voice in the slightest, Mariposa continued her stormy tirade. “This is so stupid! You’re not going to become a girl just because you DRAW. And boys who play football aren’t more of a boy than you are! And threatening to send you to a military school is ABSOLUTELY INSANE.”

“I wouldn’t last a day in there,” I said gloomily.

Mariposa sighed deeply. “What are we going to do? I don’t want you to go to military school.” She looked like she was about to cry.

Almost unconsciously, I put an arm around Mariposa’s shoulders. “I’ll figure something out.” I told her. I hope.


I stayed up all night that night, pacing around my room, thinking. While I didn’t want to play football, I wanted to go to military school even less.

I wish there was a way I could avoid both, I thought.

The more I thought, the angrier I got. Dad’s stupid worldview is messing up my entire life. He wants me to be something I’m not, and quit the thing I’m best at. He’s practically choking off my potential. Aren’t dads supposed to let their sons grow?

I snapped out of my stupor. “That’s it!” I shouted to the darkness. I began texting Mariposa.


The next day, Mariposa showed up at my front door. “Vince, are you sure this will work?”

“Um, not really,” I replied, “but it’s worth a shot.”

Mariposa sighed. “You’re right.” She gave me a hug and, to my surprise, kissed me on the cheek. “For luck,” she said, blushing. Then she turned and walked away.


After I pulled myself together, I took a deep breath and walked into my dad’s office.

“Dad, we need to talk,” I said in a voice much stronger than I felt.

My dad looked at me suspiciously. “What is it this time?”

“Dad, I want to talk to you about my art.”

My dad sighed. “Son, I told you to drop it. You’re stopping art classes, and that’s final!”

“Dad, why do you want me to play football?”

“So you can finally become a man.”

“So being a man means… playing football?”

“Well, no, not really..”

“Then what does it mean?”

My dad took a long pause; I prayed he wasn’t angry. “It means being sturdy and strong. Football will toughen you up and make you more powerful.”

“So, what you’re saying is that, to be a man, I need to be sturdy and strong?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“I hear what you’re saying, Dad, and I agree.”

My dad looked surprised.

“I want to be strong, like you want me to be. But you and I have different ideas of what being strong is.”


“To me, being strong is making your own decisions and standing by them.”

“That makes sense, but what does it have to do with art classes?”

I inhaled deeply. “I’ve made a decision. I’m continuing art classes. Whether you like it or not.”


I cut my dad off. “Like you said, being a man means being strong. And I’m being strong, Dad. I’m making a decision, and I’m standing by it.”

My dad looked at me carefully. There was no turning back now. “Son, while I don’t approve of your choices, I’m proud of you.”

I was shocked. “Really?”

“You’re finally a man, one who can make strong decisions. And I’ll support these decisions you make.”

“Including my art classes?’

“Including your art classes.”

I ran and gave him a hug, the first one I’d given him in years. Then I dashed up the stairs to call Mariposa and tell her the news… and to start my latest drawing, of course!

While “Be a Man” is a work of fiction, it portrays a reality that many boys face daily. We, as a society, often talk about the effects of the patriarchy on young women, and it is a topic that needs speaking about. However, rarer are our conversations about the impact of the patriarchy on young men. The patriarchy makes them believe that there is only one way to be a man: to be a man to them is to be tough, to be strong, to never show emotion. This is a false narrative. Men come in all shapes and sizes. There is more than one way to be a man.

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About the Contributor
Lauren B
Lauren B, Journalist
Lauren lives in southeast Georgia.  She is a freshman and is particularly interested in science, specifically medicine.  She has won multiple awards for her writing, including a regional National History Day award and first place for her school in the Young Georgia Author competition.  This is Lauren’s second year in the Chronicle.  In addition to writing for the newspaper, Lauren sings in the local show choir and participates in Girl Scouts.  In her free time, Lauren enjoys any art-related activities and reading, especially fantasy books.
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